The top 10 BrandeisNow stories of 2021

From the Class of 2025 arriving on campus to faculty analysis of the insurrection at the Capitol, these are the top 10 BrandeisNOW stories of the year from 2021:

10. The numbers behind the Class of 2025

The Class of 2025 had their scheduled Move-In shaken up by Hurricane Henri, but eventually made it to campus for Orientation in August. With 953 students, it was one of the largest classes in Brandeis' history. Read the story.

9. 100 years later, the Appalachian Trail remains an escape from modern life

A sign for the Appalachian Trail in Baxter State Park, Maine.

Charles C. Chester, a lecturer in Environmental studies, explains how the Appalachian Trail has become a national icon on a par with conservation touchstones like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser and the Florida Everglades. Read the story.

8. Brandeis Phi Beta Kappa chapter elects 87 new members

Image of statue "The Thinker" with Phi Beta Kappa logo in the background

A total of 87 new members were selected to Brandeis' chapter of the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honor society in the country in 2021. Selection for membership is based on the quality of the candidates’ academic record and the breadth of their scholarly interests beyond their concentration. Read the story.

7. What's next for Israel after Netanyahu?

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted as Israel’s Prime Minister after a no-confidence vote in June. His historic and often controversial 12-year political reign made him the longest serving Premier in Israel’s history. Brandeis professor Yehudah Mirsky, a former U.S. State Department official and an expert on Israeli politics, spoke to BrandeisNOW about Netanyahu’s departure and what it means for all levels of Israeli society. Read the story. 

6. Carl J. Shapiro, H’03, philanthropist, dies at 108

The Shapiros

Carl J. Shapiro, H’03 was Brandeis’ most generous benefactor, a giant in the history of the university he had supported since its earliest days. Shapiro and his late wife, Ruth, made their first gift to Brandeis – $10 – in 1950, just two years after the university’s founding. They, along with their family, went on to become the university's largest donors, giving more than $72 million over the years. Read the story.

5. What is Wicca? An expert on modern witchcraft explains.

A Wiccan priest stands in front of an alter in a candlelit room. His back is to the camera.

Wicca and witchcraft are popping up in pop culture these days, from teenage witches on TikTok to a Marvel comic superhero called Wiccan. It has even led The New York Times to ask: “When did everyone become a witch?”

Helen A. Berger, a resident Scholar at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center, sheds light on the alternative minority religion whose adherents, regardless of gender, call themselves witches. Read the story.

4. Tsurigasaki Beach is the right spot for Olympic surfing in Japan - here's why

Jeremy Flores of Team France surfs during his men's round 3 heat with Owen Wright of Team Australia on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 26, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan

Oceanographer Sally Warner explains how far-off storms and underwater sandbars come together to create the beautiful waves found at the beach used for surfing competition at the Tokyo Olympics. Read the story.

3. Rosenstiel Award given to pioneering scientists behind COVID-19 vaccines

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman

The 50th annual Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research was awarded by Brandeis to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman ’81, MA ’81, P’15, for their groundbreaking work in the modification of nucleic acids to develop RNA therapeutics and vaccines.

By engineering a modified version of the messenger RNA (mRNA) inside human cells and then developing a system to deliver it to its target, the two researchers laid the groundwork for the vaccines brought to fruition by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Read the story.

2. Trump and the language of insurrection

A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a gas mask and holds a bust of him outside the Capitol building on January 6

Before a crowd of thousands marched to the Capitol and violently breached the building, they listened to a speech from President Donald Trump outside the White House for more than an hour. It was a culmination of communication for Trump and his most fanatical supporters since the presidential election on Nov. 6.

What had they been saying? Why are these words important? Janet McIntosh, professor of linguistic anthropology, and co-editor of the book “Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies,” discussed these questions with BrandeisNow. Read the story.

1. The symbols of antisemitism in the Capitol riot

A Q sign at the capitol.

One of the many horrifying images from the Jan. 6 rampage on the U.S. Capitol shows a long-haired, long-bearded man wearing a black “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, and under it the phrase “work brings freedom” – an English translation of the Auschwitz concentration camp motto: “Arbeit macht frei.”

University Professor Jonathan Sarna explains that these and related images, captured on television and retweeted on social media, demonstrate that some of those who traveled to Washington to support President Donald Trump were engaged in much more than just a doomed effort to maintain their hero in power. Read the story.

Read more: The top 10 Brandeis alumni stories of 2021

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