“We are not welcome”: A Student’s Perspective on the Rise of Antisemitism

“We are not welcome”: A Student’s Perspective on the Rise of Antisemitism

The last week or so has seen intense conflict and rising tensions in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Hamas. As a Jewish student who cares deeply about Israel and my family who live there, it was quite an anxious time. Hearing how often my family had to run to bomb shelters and seeing videos of rocket barrages and the Iron Dome intercepting them was both scary and awe-inspiring. 

Unfortunately, this recent round of violence has also led to a barrage of antisemitism worldwide, including on social media. At first, fellow high school alumni posted their support for Palestinians, but their version of support included delegitimizing the Jewish state and defending Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Despite my attempted conversations with these individuals, trying to explain to them why supporting terrorism and genocide is wrong, I was met with insults, unfollows, and blocks. Later on, I was sent a TikTok of a fellow Laurier student who posted a video encouraging the stabbing of Israelis, burning the Israel flag and vomiting on it. Thankfully, Wilfrid Laurier University caught wind of this and took appropriate action. Unfortunately, once this news got onto the Laurier subreddit (a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit), there was quite a lot of antisemitism. It ranged from people misunderstanding the conflict (calling Israel an occupying and apartheid state), to blatant antisemitism (commenting that this further proves Jews control the media and the world at large), I was quite horrified. When Laurier posted these news on their Twitter, there was even more hate, with comments such as “maybe Netanyahu and his RW government should stop trying to commit genocide.” Of course this is a blatant lie, but this didn’t stop people from commenting. Furthermore, the Laurier/Waterloo Diveristy, Equity and Inclusion office made a post on Instagram with statements such as “we stand against settler colonialism, apartheid” and more, all terms direcly targeted towards Israel and its supporters. The inclusion office successfully managed to exclude the vast majority of Laurier’s Jewish population. Thankfully, a group of Jewish students, including myself, explained why their post was inaccurate and it was taken down. 

The most recent Israel-Gaza conflict has caused a 438% increase (Jewish News) in antisemitism, and videos of protesters physically hurting Jews across the globe are abundant. As a Jewish student who will be on campus in September, I no longer feel safe supporting my homeland or wearing my Magen David in public. I hope that the Laurier administration will put more effort into dispelling anti-Israel lies and combating antisemitism and choose to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which it has historically rejected. 

Until now, the message to Laurier’s Jewish students from their peers, the student union, the administration at large or the diversity, equity and inclusion office, could not be clearer: we are not welcome. And so, I can only hope for change and full inclusion of Jewish students at Laurier and for my Jewish peers at universities across Ontario.

David B.
Hillel Laurier

 

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaborating with other student organizations allows us to diversify the students at our events, build coalitions, establish good rapport with other student groups and broaden the topics of the content that we deliver. 

This past month, we had the privilege of working with the Waterloo and Laurier chapters of Menstruation Redefined, which is committed to helping with the “institutional and social barriers surrounding menstruation that risk the health, well-being, and daily lives of many.” This mission resonated with us at Hillel because we understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for all. These are values that we hold as Jews, and want to embody at Hillel. 

We joined forces to produce a fun evening of trivia and learning. The event allowed us to reach new students, educate others on Jewish practice for those who menstruate, and learn more about Menstruation Redefined’s mission. Collaborative events like this allow us to understand key issues and causes that other student-run campus groups advocate for and to build strong allyships and ensure that we propel Hillel’s values forward, such as inclusion and equity.

Jessica Bloom, HIllel Waterloo Student President
Veronica Grad, Hillel Laurier Student President

Weekly Dvar Torah

Weekly Dvar Torah

Ki Tavo: In this week’s parsha, Ki Tavo, Moshe reminds the Jews that we are עם סגולה – am segulah typically translated as “The Chosen People.” Standing alone, the Hebrew word סגולה – segulah translates to “virtue,” defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a behaviour showing high moral standard.”.

What do being the Chosen People and “virtue” have to do with one another? We were chosen, but acting with virtue is a choice one makes. The two seem quite different in definitive qualities, but despite their semantic differences, virtue can be seen as either a responsibility or quality of being the Chosen People.

Jews have seen themselves  as the Chosen People, and in accordance with the Peter Parker principle, great power comes with great responsibility. We have a responsibility to act as the Chosen People, to act with virtue, to act in accordance with integrity and high moral standard. We often speak of this as a קידוש השם – kiddush ha-shem an action or showing of behaviour exemplifying our expectations acting with high morality.

This summer, I had the opportunity to work at a summer camp in Peterborough, a place in which the concept of a Jew is quite foreign. Prior to every trip we took our campers on, we discussed with them the importance of making a kiddush ha-shem. While these conversations varied with each age group, the youngest of our campers appeared to be the most moved and inspired. While sitting at an ice cream store after a day of mini golf, an 8-year old camper approached me and stated that we should be careful to pick up all of our garbage before we leave “to make a kiddush ha-shem because we are am segulah!”

I wish for us all that we may find the same pride in being am segulah as the 8-year old camper, and we may always act in a virtuous manner.

– Jessica Gelbard

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