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OP-ED: A reflection on anti-semitism

When I was in high school, I always thought college was a place where everyone could be themselves. Where there was a spot for everyone from all corners of the world. What I never dreamed of learning is how anti-Semitic some schools are. Shortly after I became a college student, I learned that many schools are guilty of condoning hatred and bullying, as long as the acts are directed at the Jewish population. For whatever reason, I and so many others have become the scapegoats for thousands of xenophobic attacks, both inside and outside of the classroom, all of which have pretty much never been punished. But it seems hypocritical of me to say this, as I go to a school where more than half of the student population is Jewish. Queens College has always given me the safety and protection every Jewish student needs in this modern-day era. But even still, I can’t help but empathize with my New York City-neighbors, as well as schools outside of New York.

I learned that, in some schools, such as The University of Michigan, anti-Semitism has been incorporated in academics. In 2018, the University of Michigan was called out by a Jewish student after one professor had a slideshow in which Adolf Hitler was compared to the Prime Minister of Israel, with the words “Guilty of Genocide” written across their foreheads. In the same school, another professor denied a Jewish student her letter of recommendation due to the professor’s support for the BDS Movement, an organization that calls for boycotting against Israel in support of Palestine.

In that same year, this time at George Washington University, the student senate had let down its Jewish student population by passing “The Protection of Palestinian Human Rights Act”; a BDS-inspired bill in which the university would be required to “…divest from corporations that ‘provide goods and services to Israeli military forces” used “to bomb hospitals in Gaza, bulldoze Palestinians’ homes, construct illegal Apartheid walls, and further suppress and violate Palestinian human rights.” The vote was 18-6.

At Queens College, actions as nefarious as this haven’t occurred, thus earning the reputation of being ‘Jew-friendly’. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely immune. In March 2019, former QC President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez sent out an email regarding the anti-Semitic graffiti spotted in Powdermaker and Klapper Halls: “This week we were alerted to the fact that anti-Semitic graffiti had been written on the walls of bathrooms in Powdermaker and Klapper Halls; bigoted material was also received by some departments on campus”.

Once again, this semester, in an email-chain sent to the entire school, a similar occurrence took place. The issue was brought to the attention of the authorities by a local news outlet, who circulated a picture of a swastika, an anti-Semitic symbol used by the Nazi Party during the Holocaust, carved into wood. Addressed by Interim President William Tramontano, “…the offensive symbol–which is roughly the size of a quarter–was found in a cubicle in Rosenthal Library”.

Although the incidents have thus far been minor, these could signal the beginning of an avalanche-movement. A string of minor incidents could, over time, add up and grow into something bigger. By that time, without the proper intervention and damage control, who knows what will happen?

It may be hypocritical of me to complain about the lack of Jewish safety on college campuses, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is an epidemic, and there isn’t enough effort being put into fixing it. While I was naive in high school, I still remain adamant that college should be inclusive of everyone, regardless of their differences.

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