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Safe On Campus -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 10/26/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

October 26, 2023 11 Cheshvan 5784 Lech LechaImagine a group of LGBTQ students sitting in a library on their college campus when a group of homophobic protesters started banging the library windows and holding up anti-LGBTQ signs. The library staff lock the doors to protect the students and encourage them to sneak out the back door of the library in order to leave safely. What would the university leadership do? Imagine a college professor hearing the news that a group of Latino migrants were raped and murdered, while 30 of their children were kidnapped, and giving a speech at a rally calling it “exhilarating.” What would the university leadership do? Imagine a university instructor offering students—including students of color—the opportunity to earn extra credit for watching a film about the oppression of white people or attending a Unite the Right rally. What would the university leadership do? I suspect that in each of these instances, the responses would be immediate. The universities would quickly support the minority students, and the faculty or students responsible for the offensive behavior would be punished in some way. Well, none of those things happened to the LGBTQ community, the Latino community, or the African-American community. However, Jewish students were subjected to equivalent acts of antisemitism on campuses across the country and the response has been underwhelming. At Cooper Union college in New York City, the doors to the library were locked to prevent pro-Palestinian protesters from getting in where the Jewish students were. The official university statement said, “Some students who were previously in the library remained during this time.... All students have now dispersed.” Click here for more info. At Cal-Berkeley, a TA offered extra credit to students for watching a film on the history of Palestine and/or participating in a pro-Palestine walkout from classes. The instructor was not penalized. The assignment was simply modified to include more possible activities. No mention of antisemitism. No support for the Jewish students. Click here for more info. And at Cornell, on the day of Hamas’s vicious attack on Israel, a professor participated in an on-campus rally and called it “exhilarating.” He went on to say that anyone who was not feeling the same exhilaration “would not be human.” After defending his comments, he ultimately apologized. He is now on paid leave. Click here for more info. I am not surprised by the existence of antisemitism. I know that it exists on both the political right and the political left. College campuses have a been toxic for pro-Israel Jewish students since I was a student at the University of Michigan. What is shocking is the lack of response by these universities and their unwillingness to protect their Jewish students the same way they protect other minority groups. It has gotten so bad that even our Congress—which can’t seem to do much—is doing something about it. There is currently a bipartisan resolution working its way through the Senate condemning antisemitism on campus. You can use this link to reach out to your senators to encourage them to vote for this important resolution. Jewish students deserve to feel safe on campus. Shalom, RAF.

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