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Friday, August 7, 2020

Students share stories of anti-Semitism

By Joshua DeJong

Anti-Semitic speech on Western’s campus has prompted three student-led meetings fighting against the rising number of incidents.

Responding to anti-Semitism, the Fairhaven Hall Council addressed anti-Semitism harassment felt on campus at a meeting Monday, Feb. 27.

Photo by Harrison Amelang

Freshman Chaja Levy said her own experiences with anti-Semitism on campus, primarily in the residence halls, has made her feel like nowhere on campus is safe.

“People in my dorm have chanted ‘Hitler youth’ at me and told me they style their hair off of Nazi propaganda,” Levy said. “They have also asked me to research Neo-Nazis with them.”

Scott Leppla, assistant director for student life, talked about specific anti-Semitic events that have happened on campus in the past.

A “death to Jews” note was attached to a doll head and was discovered in Beta-Gamma, Leppla said. It was found to be a running joke between two non-Jewish students passing it back and forth as a gag gift, leaving it out in the open.

“Folks who come upon these things, whatever these running jokes are, no one has any context,” Leppla said. “This is hateful, hurtful and threatening.”

“Growing up in Brooklyn, I got snowballs thrown at me because I was Jewish, people saying ‘Dirty Jew’ to me, […] people tried to kick us [and] fight with us. This is unfortunately an experience that many Jews in America in a regular high school go through.”

Rabbi Avremi Yarmush

Madeleine Zeiler said she had experienced a lot of anti-Semitism while growing up. She said people would say things like “You’re only ugly because you’re Jewish,” and “Your nose isn’t that big.”

Zeiler said she would see swastikas all over, but the first time she reported something on campus was when a Halloween skeleton decoration was posed in a Nazi salute with the word “reich” written in big red letters underneath it.

Zeiler said she would see swastikas all over, but the first time she reported something on campus was when a Halloween skeleton decoration was posed in a Nazi salute with the word “reich” written in big red letters underneath it.

Photo by Harrison Amelang

Zeiler and other students expressed their hopes for more documentation and reporting of incidents to help reduce anti-Semitism on campus.

“I would like to see less coverups, I would like to see less immediate erasing of whatever it is and more documenting and sharing with the community that [anti-Semitism] happens,” Zeiler said.

Rabbi Avremi Yarmush, the co-director of the Rohr Center for Jewish Life and Chabad Jewish Student Organization, spoke on the prevalence of anti-Semitism.

The 2015 FBI statistics for hate crimes based on religious bias found 52.1 percent of all the crimes committed were anti-Jewish, Yarmush said.

Yarmush said the percentage of anti-Semitic attacks has gone down overall, but not because there are less attacks. Instead, the drop can be accounted for by an increase in the overall number of hate crimes based on religion.

Photo by Harrison Amelang

“Growing up in Brooklyn, I got snowballs thrown at me because I was Jewish, people saying ‘Dirty Jew’ to me, […] people tried to kick us [and] fight with us,” Yarmush said. “This is unfortunately an experience that many Jews in America in a regular high school go through.”

Yarmush said the Western community needs to work together to make sure there are no anti-Semitic jokes or any sort of hate crimes.

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