Yeshiva University: Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?

By: Shayna Herszage  |  May 12, 2020

By Shayna Herszage, Opinion Editor

When I first heard the song “Imagine” by John Lennon in middle school, something felt horribly wrong about the lyrics, but I did not have the words to describe the problem. Years later, this problem has stayed in my mind, and now I can pinpoint the issue. My problem begins with the first verse: “Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion, too.”

The idea being conveyed here is that making everyone the same — removing countries, cultures, religions, and other aspects of what makes people different — would remove conflict from the world and bring about a global community of peaceful people. However, it is worth considering what really brings about conflict, and if a world without diversity is really what we want.

When faced with conflict, it is easy to name difference as the root of the problem. It is easy to state that because someone is of a different nationality, religion, religious denomination, gender, sexual orientation, or economic class, they are the core of a conflict or a problem. That is not to say it is always pointing fingers at someone else — sometimes, the statement is more that “we are too different from each other to coexist in peace.”

However, the root of conflict is not, in fact, difference. Rather, conflict comes from a resistance to difference — be it in the world on a wide scale, or in a community on a small scale. 

On the scale of the Yeshiva University community, we have been faced with countless opportunities for conflict over the past few years regarding a growing presence of diversity. 

For example, in the debate about whether or not male students should be required to wear a head covering on campus, the community of Yeshiva University has been faced with the choice of whether we wish to embrace our university’s state of having students of various denominations and religious lifestyles, or to blend the diversity to match what is familiar to the image of the university.

An example from this year is the heavily debated topic of the Yeshiva University Pride Alliance. Students, faculty, and general community members alike face the reality of minorities, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, being present, but denied and underrepresented. As a community, we could choose to grant newfound visibility to a community of minorities, or we could choose to maintain the status quo and maintain a heteronormative tableau for our community, no matter if it is authentic or a façade.

The question I pose to the Yeshiva University community is: Do we want a melting pot, or do we want a salad bowl?

In a melting pot, many different ingredients enter the pot, but they soon merge and become one. They blend smoothly, but they also lose their individuality — there is no distinguishing one ingredient from another. Meanwhile, in a salad bowl, many ingredients are mixed together, but they are still distinct. A cucumber is distinct from a tomato, and they can be separated. They maintain their individuality, but they are not irreversibly united like the contents of the melting pot.

So, too, in Yeshiva University, we must consider what we want in this potential transitional time of increasing diversity. Do we want to embrace the salad-bowl diversity of our fellow community members, or do we want, like John Lennon, to imagine that nothing makes any of us distinct from our peers?