As the United States mourns another tragedy fueled by bigotry, members of the Georgetown University community — both students and administrators — must look inward to realize the danger of enabling antisemitism on campus.
On Oct. 27, a man entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh with an AR-15-style assault rifle and three handguns. He left behind the corpses of 11 congregants who had been praying that Saturday morning, according to city authorities.
This attack is horrific, and its roots must be condemned in the strongest terms. The most effective means of combatting this form of hatred, however, is not a distant outrage, but rather an awareness of — and active opposition to — its enabling factors close to home.
The Georgetown community cannot view antisemitism as a distant problem; our campus has been plagued by hateful behavior and incidents throughout its history, particularly in the last two years.
In May 2017, a Leavey Center restroom near the Makóm Jewish Gathering Space was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. Four months later, coinciding with the Jewish High Holy Days, seven incidents of antisemitic graffiti — including swastikas — and threatening messages toward women were found on campus, prompting a university investigation. The university has not yet reported on the progress of this investigation.
These disturbing examples — which contributed to a rise in hate crimes, from four in 2016 to 15 in 2017 — are not entirely new to our campus.
At a 1966 basketball game, Georgetown students dressed as Nazi soldiers and Arabs, shouting “Sieg Heil” and impersonating the people they were dressed as. Georgetown also used quotas to limit attendance to five Jewish students per year throughout the first half of the 20th century, according to former Georgetown University Student Association historian Ari Goldstein (COL ’18).
The Georgetown community cannot forget the role our university played in perpetuating antisemitism, nor can we brush off on-campus instances of antisemitism.
The university has taken strides to clearly oppose bias.
After the shooting in Pittsburgh, the Office of Campus Ministry held an interfaith vigil at which Georgetown community members grieved for the dead but also resolved to renew their fight against antisemitism on campus.
Georgetown has also displayed an increased understanding of the danger antisemitic crimes pose to the university’s Jewish community. This recognition has resulted in “crucial initiatives and dialogue sessions to foster inclusive communities on campus, raise awareness, and prevent future incidents,” university spokesperson Matt Hill wrote in an email to The Hoya.
While institutional efforts are important, students must take responsibility in recognizing the prevalence of antisemitism on Georgetown’s campus.
Acts of solidarity and advocacy in the wake of highly public incidents are appreciated, but they are only a step toward a more deeply rooted and multifaceted solution. Antisemitism exists in jokes and acts of tokenism that must be combatted by students every day. Every member of the Georgetown community carries responsibility in supporting the Jewish community on campus.
“Call out the antisemitism of your family, your friends, your ‘groups,’” said Paige Harouse (COL ’19), who last week co-wrote an op-ed in The Hoya on this same topic, at the Campus Ministry vigil.
Georgetown’s record of antisemitism is disturbing and dangerous, but continued support and advocacy can help foster an environment of welcoming and inclusion. That work must start with students.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.