Flames of the Torch


The Torch Staff

The Jewish Students Association (JSA) invited keynote speaker and Holocaust survivor Lena Goren to speak to the St. John’s community about her experience that dates back nearly eight decades. One of our contributors, Alana Loren Bethea, covered the story for the Torch. Goren discussed jumping from shelter to shelter in Greece during WWII to escape the Germans, gave insight to listeners on how she looks at life following her experiences and expressed her gratitude for moving to a place where she could live free from persecution — the United States.

Bethea’s story displays Goren’s lasting optimism and faith in humanity, even after experiencing what was arguably one of the lowest points in history.

Following the event, JSA told the Torch that their long-awaited prayer room would open on Thursday, Feb. 28 on the ground floor of Tobin — almost in a symbolic way, proving Goren’s infectious way of looking at the bright side.

St. John’s Catholic and Vincentian values make service an important aspect of what we represent as an institution. However, the University’s obligation to inclusivity does not end with the Catholic community.

More and more, we have seen that students, administration and faculty from all walks of life are holding the University accountable. And the University has responded in various ways, such as appointing Rev. William Barber to be this year’s Vincentian Chair. Barber is a progressive Protestant minister and political activist.  

Some students were moved by Barber’s recent discussion on voter rights and suppression and his points on the importance of coalition building and unity in the face of injustice, further emphasizing the push for an inclusive community on campus as opposed to a divided one.  

The University recently hosted an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training program in which students were able to learn how to support their peers that live with mental illnesses and how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness.  This includes depression, psychosis, panic attacks and substance abuse disorders. This program was intended to help destigmatize these issues on college campuses.

Mental health is a prominent issue on college campuses, as an extensive New York Times article released this past week described. Cited in the article, a 2018 report from the American College Health Association found that more than 40 percent of college students felt so depressed in the past year that they had difficulty functioning. It falls on St. John’s to continue to offer students the necessary resources for healthy lives on and off of campus.