As we close our semester, move through the holiday season, and look toward the new year, it feels like this year more than most we may need to remind ourselves to look back in gratitude on a year of remarkable strides that the Rutgers-Newark community and our many partners have made together. We owe it to ourselves not to forget the many good news stories of 2023 that speak to our shared progress in expanding educational access and opportunity, cultivating and elevating diverse voices through the arts and culture, striving for racial equity and equitable growth, innovating to build safer, stronger, healthier, and more sustainable neighborhoods, and the myriad ways that our work locally resonates globally.

We need such reminders because recent weeks have brought a tide of overwhelming emotions with image after image and story after story of human suffering. The subjection to sexual violence and murder of civilians, the peril of hostages and anguish of their families, the obliteration of cities and towns and mass destruction of their residents, refugees clinging to life in the most inhumane conditions without food, medical care, utilities, and shelter leave us asking: Who are we? How can this possibly be? How can we allow this to happen? How can we once again allow pain, fear, and anger to rupture our fundamental bonds as members of one, human family?

As our own Distinguished Professor Alex Hinton has reminded us, it is extremely difficult to find the words to describe a conflict like we are seeing today in Israel and Gaza, but it is part of a long history of conflicts globally that implicate identity-based discrimination, including in the United States. Beyond labels, we must recognize that moments like this show that we are broken not just collectively, but individually, and the only hope we have of repair is each other.

As we gather with loved ones over the holidays, let’s hold each other close. Let’s open up our minds and hearts to our siblings in the human family across our communities and around the world to recenter our humanity. Let’s focus on our common needs as human beings—to exist in peace, to have food, shelter, and health care, to worship as we choose, to love whom we choose, to have autonomy and live in freedom.

After a decade here at Rutgers-Newark, I am utterly convinced that there is no better place in all the world to start.

With hope and love, now and in the new year,


Nancy Cantor