CW: This article discusses antisemitism and violence against Jewish communities. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
On Jan. 23, a student found antisemitic graffiti in Darnall Hall, a first-year dorm at Georgetown University. Being located in the heart of our nation — the metropolis of Washington, D.C. — makes this all the more shocking given the assumed acceptance of diversity. Nevertheless, as a result of the graffiti, Jewish first-year students who arrived on campus less than half a year ago have been left feeling unsafe in their supposed new home.
This antisemitism in the 21st century — especially for an institution that has come so far from its founding in terms of its admission of Jewish students — seems unreal and impossible.
Nevertheless, it did happen. And in a world that aspires to be more just and tolerant, it is alarming to witness the resurgence of this historic hatred.
The question now lies in how to even begin addressing the rise of antisemitism on our campus. In the face of this renewed discrimination, Jewish students at Georgetown need to stand stronger together and embrace their Judaism, rather than leave it behind in fear.
Unfortunately, the prejudice and discrimination directed toward the Jewish people has once again reared its ugly head on college campuses across the United States. Amidst the ivy-covered brick buildings and hallowed halls of learning at several other universities, one would expect to find a haven of intellectual curiosity and openness. Yet, the reality is that Jewish students are increasingly facing hostility and discrimination in the form of hate speech, physical attacks and the vandalization of religious symbols on their campuses.
To start, Jewish Hoyas in Darnall need more security presence to ensure their safety. For example, even at neighboring George Washington University, Jewish students were recently targeted by their professors, who demeaned and reduced students’ Jewish identities publicly in class. Across campuses nationwide, Jewish students are increasingly questioning whether they can celebrate their Jewish identity publicly because they are scared of the potential consequences. They constantly have to wrestle with questions that should never have to be entertained, including whether or not they should wear kippahs or put their Mezuzahs on their doorposts. Even as Jewish leaders on campus, we sometimes question whether or not we should wear our Jewish Student Association (JSA) sweaters or Star of David pendants. Yet, we still wear our kippahs and our Star of David necklaces.
This may seem counterintuitive: Why would someone want to become closer to a part of their identity that makes them seemingly more vulnerable, as further demonstrated with the Swastika found nearly a week ago?
But the larger question that looms: should we even tell people that we are Jewish?
The answer could not be more clear: yes.
As Jewish seniors who are both extensively involved in Jewish Life, Chabad Georgetown, the JSA and Georgetown Israel Alliance, our days left on campus are sadly dwindling. We have dedicated a large portion of our time here toward creating a more tolerant and accepting campus for our heritage and religion. Consequently, we were struck by how the incident in Darnall seemed to wipe away all of our hard work. Furthermore, the events of this past week in other parts of the world — including the targeted attack on Jews in a Jerusalem synagogue during Shabbat services — have made us realize just how much more work there is to be done.
Nevertheless, even with this loss of progress, we have persisted. Alongside the rest of our JSA Board, as well as Jewish Life and Chabad, we organized a public Havdalah service on the steps of Healy Hall behind the John Carroll statue on Jan. 28. Havdalah marks the conclusion of Shabbat, the weekly day of rest for Jewish people. In organizing the event, we also invited university chaplains and staff of other religions, Georgetown administrators and the general student body. We were thrilled to see such a large turnout of Jews and non-Jews alike. This was important to show the university’s unity in its rejection of antisemitism. We were further overjoyed that the Havdalah service publicly brought together Rabbi Daniel Schaefer and Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, a further image of solidarity.
During the uplifting ceremony, we recited a blessing upon the fire, which symbolizes light and darkness and our capability to distinguish between the moral and immoral, the holy and mundane. Just as the fire of the candle brings light and warmth to the darkness, the Havdalah manifests inspiration and hope in the face of adversity — something that Jewish students at Georgetown need now more than ever.
Fearing for one’s safety because of antisemitism is real. However, if we allow this pain, despair and confusion to paralyze current Jewish students from raising the next generation with a strong commitment to their Jewish identity — whether religiously and/or culturally — the antisemites will have won. Jewish students need to be proud of and committed to their Jewish identity to create a sense of resilience and prove that we are still here.
That is how we triumph. Protests and confrontation can work, but as our public Havdalah showed, unity, solidarity and the celebration of our Jewish identity are far greater solutions.
So, this is a call to action to all of our fellow Jewish Hoyas: Wear your Star of David, wear your JSA sweatshirt, come to Jewish community events, put that Mezuzah on your door and, most importantly, do not be afraid to tell others that you are Jewish.
We implore you to not only speak out and promote your identity but also to celebrate it. Collectively, we must show that Judaism is hard to hate, and that antisemitism has no place at Georgetown University.
Joseph Abergel is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. Max Paley is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (202-687-7080); to report an incident of hate or bias on campus, refer to the Georgetown University Bias Reporting website. Off-campus resources include the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). In the event of an emergency, dial 911. To report a hate crime, contact the MPD Hate Crimes Voicemail (202) 727-0500 or the Hate Crimes Coordinator ([email protected]).
Very well written and on point article, but what has security done to find and punish those that did this? I see very little follow up on this story from the University, Public Safety or MPD?