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Bartram sees the world differently after trip to Israel

Barry McNamara
02/13/2020
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Soon after landing in Israel for a 10-day trip, the world changed for Monmouth College student Quentin Bartram ’22.

“The first couple hours I was there, my whole worldview changed, and it kept changing as I kept learning,” said Bartram, a mathematics and data science major from Dublin, Ohio.

Bartram’s trip was sponsored through his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, and the Anti-Defamation League. And the opportunities for such change were plentiful, as Bartram said each of the days was packed with activities, with he and his group of 70 ZBT brothers waking up as early as 5 a.m. and staying busy until as late as midnight.

“One of the really eye-opening experiences was meeting with Lt. Col. Eyal Dror, who is founder and manager of Operation Good Neighbor,” said Bartram. “Their organization helps Syrian victims. He talked to us about what they’d seen and what they’d helped with. They could’ve said, ‘It’s not our problem,’ but they risked their lives to help other people. That, to me, was eye-opening, that we’re all human at the end of the day. We all want things to end well. We all want peace. We all want a better way.”

There are times in Israel when that peace seems far away. Bartram remembered one of those moments, when he and his group were instructed that if they heard a specific siren, they had 15 seconds to find cover.

“And if we couldn’t find cover, we were told to drop our head and pray,” said Bartram. “There was one little girl, and when the siren sound went off, she just instinctively raised her arms so that someone could pick her up and carry her.”

Zeta Beta Tau was founded in 1898 as the first Jewish fraternity, and some chapters remain predominantly Jewish to this day. Bartram learned about the opportunity to travel to Israel while attending ZBT’s annual Israel Advocacy Summit, which was held last April in Chicago.

“Brothers from all over the country were there, and I learned as much as I possibly could,” he said of his experience in Chicago.

‘Cousins in religion’

During the trip, Bartram’s worldview was further changed by the group’s guide, Amir.

“Amir was firm in his religious beliefs, but he said that even though we may have different views, that just makes us cousins in religion,” said Bartram.

Perhaps the most profound moment for the Monmouth student came at a visit to Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. In the center’s Hall of Names, visitors can peer into water and see faces of Holocaust victims along with their own image.

“They tell you, ‘You’re part of the story now. You have the ability to say this won’t happen again,’” said Bartram. “When I looked in that well and saw the faces of victims of the Holocaust, along with the reflection of my own face, it just really hit me. That’s definitely going to change your view.”

It also helped Bartram definitively answer a question posed by the title of a Global Perspectives class he’s taking at Monmouth – “Can the Dead Speak?”

“I haven’t got my research project figured out just yet, but I want to relate it to something I experienced in Israel,” he said.

Bartram’s brothers

Bartram’s experiences leading up to the trip and the trip itself are just further proof to him that he made the right decision to become part of Zeta Beta Tau.

“Coming into college, I was not going to go Greek, just because of the way you often see the Greek community portrayed,” he said. “A lot of it is not good stuff. But one of my teammates on the water polo team told me, ‘I think you might like ZBT.’ There was no hazing, and I learned that within 24 hours, you become a full brother with all the rights that everyone else has. They greeted me with open arms. I told my mom about it. She was Greek, and she was all over it. Since I’ve joined, it’s just been amazing.”

Bartram said his experiences with ZBT have also brought to life the networking aspect that is often mentioned as a positive with Greek life.

“I’ve made some lifelong friends,” he said. “I have friends now in Memphis, in California, in Texas, in New York. They’re all people I can call my friend, my brother.”

Now Bartram’s network has expanded to Israel, and his understanding of the world has expanded, as well.