Majors: International and Global Studies; African American and African Studies
Minors: Theater; Peace and Coexistence Studies
Year of Graduation: 2011
Home region/country: Neve Shalom~Wahat Al Salam (Oasis of Peace), Israel
Previous Education: Primary school in Neveshalom, High school in Israel; New York Film Academy program in filmmaking
Clubs/Organizations on Campus: Slifka Coexistence Scholar, Sorensen Fellow, Social Justice WOW Fellow, Davis Project for Peace Fellow
“I really believe that we still have the power to change things, and really do things differently, and I’m really happy that Rwanda has been one of the teachers to help me go back and do things better.”
As a Slifka Coexistence Scholar hailing from an Israeli-Palestinian peace community in Israel, Noam Shuster has certainly taken advantage of the opportunities presented at Brandeis. For two summers, as a Sorensen Fellow and then a World-of-Work recipient, Noam has been involved with youth groups in Rwanda, particularly developing strong ties with Women’s Equity in Access to Care & Treatment, an organization that works to both empower and help treat women with HIV. Noam has worked to bolster summer youth programs, and with the Davis Peace funds she has received she plans on continuing that work in the summer to come, and possibly for even longer.
She eloquently explains, “HIV in Rwanda plays as this kind of legacy of genocide, because it was used against women, and with the stigma around it it’s very sensitive. In our program, we don’t only have children of women who were raped, we have children of perpetrators, and we have children who were born out of the rapes. It’s really healing on different dimensions. On the one hand we have this platform for them, so they have a place to express themselves, a place to play, a place to know that they are not alone, and have a place to know what their abilities are, and on the other hand there’s the post-genocide issue of kids of perpetrators, survivors, and this really reminds me of my work in Israel trying to bring the children of those that were hurt in a very real way.”
Having visited Brandeis in her sophomore year of high school with an Israeli-Palestinian peace delegation, she describes her experience both at Brandeis and in Rwanda as a voyage, saying that “this experience was really a journey for me, coming here as a sophomore with the Israeli-Palestinian delegation and hearing about the scholarship, and then becoming a scholar myself, and then through Brandeis resources like Sorensen and Davis to do this [work] in Rwanda. Sometimes its hard for me to digest, because it has been a journey in so many narratives.”
Healing from conflict is her passion, beginning with her work with youth in her home of Neveshalom. This ardor is what prompted her involvement in Rwanda: in fact, “Rwanda’s healing narrative from the genocide was something that I was very interested in, because I come from the Israeli narrative where we remember the Holocaust very, very differently from what I’ve seen in Kigali, Rwanda in general. Rwanda really opened a door to me to my home, and the way we deal with trauma back at home.”
Taking a very strong stance of mutual reciprocity in work, Noam describes how “it is a process, it is a long-term commitment I’ve made to Rwanda,” at the same time as “this work is only teaching me more and more what can be done in my home and in Rwanda.”
She believes strongly in her work towards future change for the better, saying “I am an example of a young generation that was educated differently, and was able to see that your homeland can actually have a different future with the other side that is called your enemy where we both can live in as two people.” She says, “I really believe that we still have the power to change things, and really do things differently, and I’m really happy that Rwanda has been one of the teachers to help me go back and do things better.”
This passion is part of who she is, and her plans for the future are to simply “keep on doing this advocacy work that will bridge between people, and really never stop doing that.” She emphasized the possibilities for students, both at Brandeis and in the world, saying “if students read this and are at the beginning of their Brandeis career, know that there is so much you can do … once you go out there you find out so many things about yourself, and what your abilities are.”
Update 10/18/2011: Read the Justice article about Noam’s presentation on 10/11/2011.