Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Anti-Semitism on campus: We can be the teachers

 


Dear Editor:

My name is Rachel Huss, and I grew up in a Jewish community. Having gone to a Jewish school and having been surrounded by Jews my entire life, I never experienced any form of anti-Semitism firsthand.

My name is Tamara Zishuk and I grew up in a secular town, but I was constantly involved in Jewish life. Even so, my town has always been very welcoming, and I was never targeted on the account of being Jewish.

Now, the two of us are a part of a separate community, the University of Central Florida. It’s a place where we live and learn—full of limitless opportunities and a diverse population. It’s a place where 10 percent of the campus identifies as Jewish.

On Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, students all over campus woke up to anti-Semitic propaganda strategically placed around the dorms. We heard in the news about increasing anti-Semitic sentiment taking place on campuses across the United States, but we never thought this would take place in our home.

The Jewish men on campus proudly wear their kippot to class, while the women adorn themselves with Jewish memorabilia. We do not fear repercussions for attending Jewish events or taking pictures with an Israeli flag outside of the Student Union.

But last week, 6,000 students attending UCF were marginalized just because they identified as Jewish. The biggest issue wasn’t the fact that someone vandalized a place that we call home, but determining the best course of action to alleviate the situation and ensure our safety on campus.

There’s a fine line between reacting to the stickers that were posted, and overreacting to them. On one hand, we have to take the vandalisms seriously and understand that anti-Semitism isn’t okay by any means. However, we have to be careful not to escalate the situation. As seen on other campuses and even within the Orlando community, anti-Semitism can be so much worse. The perpetrators just want to spread fear, and if we aggravate the situation due to fear, they will win.

Unfortunately, ignorance fuels anti-Semitism today. But the beauty of being college students is that we are living in an academic sanctuary, where we have the resources to combat this ignorance with education. We can’t play the victim, but we can be the teachers. The best thing we can do is educate others, shed light onto the issue, and continue to promote the Jewish ideals of tolerance, acceptance and G’milut Chasidim (acts of loving kindness).

This shouldn’t happen in any community, let alone ours. And it is our responsibility not only as Jews, but as members of the UCF community to make sure this does not happen again.

Rachel Huss and Tamara Zishuk, UCF students

 

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