Brett Nelson is very involved on American University’s campus, but she has a lot more on her plate than you would expect from a typical college sophomore.
Nelson is a Justice, Law and Criminology major and a student leader in American University Hillel. Her responsibilities as Shabbat Intern include setting up for Shabbat, leading prayers, and cleaning up after the dinner.
With the presidential election drawing nearer, she is reflecting on a lot of our nation’s most pressing issues. Due to her involvement in the Jewish community at American, she has grown especially aware of the anti-Semitic acts that constantly occur in this country. The ADL’s Center on Extremism recorded over 2,107 anti-Semitic events in 2019, including three major deadly attacks. The events of 2019 increased 12 percent from the 1,879 recorded in 2018.
Nelson feels that there are not enough activists speaking out against these hateful events. This, she said, is the number one issue facing our country in her eyes. “They’re being labeled as just another shooting or just another act of graffiti, and not an act against Jews. It’s just not taken seriously,” she said. Nelson is not optimistic that either presidential candidate will make strides towards change on this front.
Nelson also noted that the most important issue to her personally is the lack of affordable health care. When she was in the ninth grade, Nelson was diagnosed with a very rare disease called Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (CRMO), an inflammatory bone disease that is primarily found in children. Studies show it affects only one out of a million individuals.
Nelson said that the hardest part of being sick with CRMO is all of the unknowns. “I take advantage of the days I don’t feel sick. It used to be a weakness, but now I try to use it as a reason to grow,” she said.
After being in remission for five years, two years longer than expected, Nelson said she feels like her health is a financial burden on her parents. Doctors’ appointments and medicine can cost her family up to $3,000 annually. She is also not optimistic that the current or next administration will work to resolve the lack of affordable health care in the next four years, let alone in her lifetime.
“It’s a gut feeling after years and years of trial and error,” Nelson said.