Opinion: AU’s Jewish community needs support
The recent antisemitism on campus was disappointing, but not surprising
On Sept. 7, antisemitic graffiti was found carved into the wall of a communal bathroom in Anderson Hall. When I first heard of this, my initial reaction was not fear, but exhaustion.
Antisemitism occurs regularly around the United States. And yet, whenever something goes viral enough for non-Jewish people to see, all the reposts seem shocked. When the graffiti was found, an overwhelming number of students expressed their surprise at antisemitism on campus. However, I was not surprised.
In the time since the antisemitic graffiti was found in Anderson, 30 Jewish graves were desecrated in Missouri, a Georiga high school’s bathroom was vandalized with swastikas and the words “Hail Hitler” and a Minnesota temple was forced to close its daycare and cancel Sabbath services due to physical threats against the congregation, just to name a few examples.
Not all antisemitism on campus is as blatant as the carvings — the majority exists as microaggressions. Microaggressions, such as heads turning to me — the only Jewish student at the table in conversations about the Israel-Palestine conflict; the use of the word “Jew” instead of “Jewish person;” the refusal of American University’s administration to call out swastika carvings and SS bolts for what they are: antisemitism. AU has yet to apologize for its lackluster email, where it referred to the incident as “possible” antisemitism, not blatant antisemitism. In President Burwell’s most recent biweekly email, there was no mention of antisemitism on campus. Her most recent tweets confusing Rosh Hashanah with Yom Kippur indicate to me that the AU administration has not taken the time to research Jewish holidays or history.
If the AU administration won’t step up to educate students or themselves, the burden falls on the Jewish community. Jewish students at AU should have the opportunity to process privately and not be tasked with this. As soon as the carvings were found, AU should have immediately sent an email letting students know their safety resources. AU should have explicitly used the word “antisemitism” rather than dancing around it. AU should have provided resources for Jewish students without putting the entire weight on AU Hillel.
I’m tired of talking about this. I’m tired of constantly reminding people that antisemitism did not end after World War II. I’m tired, but I know I can’t stop talking about it. What other option do I have? Hatred gone unopposed only breeds more hatred. The antisemite on campus chose to stay anonymous, but I will raise my voice.
In a few days, social media will move on from this incident. Many students will forget it ever happened. When the next discriminatory action happens on campus, I will be expecting the same “I can’t believe this is still happening” posts like this past week.
Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, occurred just a few days ago. Many of your Jewish peers, including me, reflected on the wrongs we’ve committed this year. I encourage the entire AU community to do the same.
Alexis Bernstein is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a staff columnist for The Eagle.