A SOCIAL PETRI DISH: Senior Elie Peltz is a firm believer in the power that comes from reframing personal, political, social, and religious narratives. Because of those strong convictions, he knew he wanted to study in a place as diverse yet tight-knit as Penn. “Penn is a microcosm of sorts—we have maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience when we’re in such close proximity to people of different political viewpoints, different religious and ethnic backgrounds,” Peltz says. “Here there’s an opportunity for self-growth—to hear and engage with others.”
MELDING OF MINDS: Peltz honed his passion for civil dialogue—as well as a personal interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—by double majoring in psychology and political science, with a unique concentration on conflict resolution. “I became involved with Penn’s Jewish community and a variety of interfaith groups, and found a lot of inspiration in the work of helping people deal with tension and conflict in productive ways. I discovered there was a strong root of conflict resolution within the field of psychology, as well as political science, so I was able to combine the two.”
EYE-OPENER: During his freshman year, Peltz embarked on an alternative spring break trip to Georgia and Alabama through the Alliance and Understanding Program, which brings together Jewish and black students to explore the links between the two communities during the Civil Rights Movement. “That trip crystallized for me the incredible opportunity I had here to learn and become friends with a diverse group of students, and to use these relationships as a means of activism moving forward—and the incredible resources Penn provides to make these things happen.”
IN THE FIELD: Grants from the Jewish Studies Program and an undergraduate fellowship from the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism have enabled Peltz to study theory in action through trips to Northern Ireland and the Middle East. He recently completed a study about grassroots groups overcoming political obstacles within conflict regions, and embarked on a new study about intergroup apologies within civil society peace-building organizations.
‘A HOME-AWAY-FROM-HOME’: Peltz has emerged as a leader among Penn’s vibrant Jewish community. In addition to founding two student groups—Shira Chadasha, a group that focuses on fostering gender equality within traditional religious frameworks, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Dialogue Group, an organization that brings together individuals from multiple perspectives to engage in civil conversation about the conflict—Peltz is an active member of Penn Hillel. “The Hillel community here has a way of becoming a home-away-from-home for me and a lot of my friends. It’s almost entirely student-run, with a variety of ways of engaging people’s Jewish identity. What I found to be really special here is that it’s a self-sustaining community with multiple avenues of entry—that’s unparalleled.”
Originally published on May 8, 2014