OP-ED: Anti-Semitism is alive and well at Hofstra
Before coming to college, I heard stories of Jewish students being harassed on campus. Most of these stories revolved around the Israel-Palestine conflict, with debates turning nasty between Israel advocacy groups, whose members are predominantly Jewish, and pro-Palestinian groups. As an Orthodox Jew who is deeply concerned about human rights, I was ready to join campus discourse and shut down those who used anti-Semitic tropes in their arguments.
What I discovered was that anti-Semitism is alive and more insidious than I had expected.
My first experience with anti-Semitism at Hofstra happened before I had even arrived on campus. I was planning to room with a friend of mine who is also a religious Jew. We had been assigned to a suite with two other girls. At first it seemed great – until I mentioned that my roommate and I are both religious Jews.
Six hours later, both girls suddenly decided to find an alternate living situation.
After telling a professor I would need to miss class for the Jewish high holidays, I was told I needed to re-evaluate my religious beliefs. That same professor told the class to imagine a world without Jews in it.
Later, a student compared the Jewish tradition of marrying within the religion to Nazi eugenics. When I approached the aforementioned professor after class to tell her how uncomfortable the comments had me feel, I was essentially told to be less sensitive.
Then, just three days after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in which 11 Jews were shot attending services, another professor asked the class to discuss whether the shooter was “truly evil.” Many students expressed the belief that the shooter, who murdered 11 innocent Jewish people, could not be considered evil as he did what he believed was right.
I confronted this professor too, and while he did apologize to me personally, he never brought the issue up with the class. Students left thinking they had said nothing wrong.
On another occasion, a classmate told me it was no longer important to learn about the Holocaust since everyone knows about it already. I disagreed, citing a statistic stating that over a third of people in major European cities do not know about Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp in Nazi Germany. She replied, “Of course Europeans wouldn’t know about that, the Holocaust is American history.”
Yet another anti-Semitic incident occurred halfway through that semester. A new student was assigned to live in my dorm. After moving her stuff into the room, she asked me if her boyfriend could sleep over. I explained that I was not in fact okay with that due to my religious beliefs, but also because I was simply uncomfortable sleeping in the same room as a man I barely knew. Soon after, I received a text from this student informing me she would be moving out, as she believed our differences were insurmountable.
This issue left a bad taste in my mouth, but I let it go. Months later I found out from my suitemate that this girl had been telling people about “the crazy Jewish girl she almost had to live with. And can you believe she only wears skirts in front of guys? How ridiculous!”
In addition to speaking with the professors who witnessed or committed these incidents, I also took up the issue with key members of the Hofstra administration and clergy. While these administrators were sympathetic, they told me there was nothing to be done as the incidents had already occurred and no university rules had been broken.
These are a few of the most significant and jarring of incidents which happened to me in my freshman year of college. Anti-Semitism at Hofstra may be more subtle than a swastika spray-painted onto a Jewish professor’s office door, which happened at Columbia University last year. However, it is just as dangerous, if not more so, in a time when Jews are the most targeted minority in the state of New York, Jewish men are attacked in broad daylight on the streets of Brooklyn and Jewish children are targeted during holiday services at their synagogue.
I am sick and tired of being ignored by the administration and told by professors and students alike that anti-Semitism isn’t a real problem, or that it’s not as bad as other forms of racism and bigotry plaguing this nation. We as a community must confront this issue now to curb the rise of anti-Semitism, before it’s too late.