By: Samantha Cooper
Since President Donald Trump took the oath of office, vandalism of and threats towards Jewish sites, mostly cemeteries and Jewish Community Centers. In the month of February, at least two Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia were vandalized and over 100 headstones were overturned or broken. In March, a Jewish cemetery in Rochester was also vandalized. Around the same time, Jewish Community Centers (JCC’s) around the country received bomb threats, forcing them to close down. While nobody has been harmed by these attacks, the increase has caused some concern among the Jewish population on Goucher’s campus.
Rabbi Josh Snyder commented on this. I think it’s a really concerning trend to be obvious I think these are clearly random…totally random acts. They seem at least the threats on the JCC’s appear to be coordinated.” He also said, “I think were still in the early stages of Jewish community figuring out how to respond and what to about these types of things.” While Hillel has not planned anything for the Goucher community, that does not mean students should do nothing or should not feel free to discuss it. Snyder discussed the importance of having the Jewish community stand together to support one another after the attacks.
Goucher students also have strong feelings on the issues at hand. Max Adelstein ’17 discussed his feelings about the acts of vandalism. “I think they’re being used as weird political talking point in a way… They’re definitely being put on the alt-right and I think they probably doing these terrible thing because they are anti-Semitic,” he said. However, Adelstein will not put the entirety of the blame on the alt-right until the true vandals and their motives are discovered.
Like Rabbi Snyder, Adelstein called for Jewish students and allies to unite together. “But what I will say is that for Jewish people, it’s important for other communities to finally exhibit some sort of solidarity with us. Because, often times were the ones that reach out were the ones that are really trying to bridge these gaps and it’s not really reciprocated…I think that’s become a big problem,” he said.
Adelstein also discussed how on campus, despite Goucher’s rather large Jewish population, there have still been cases of students exhibiting anti-Semitic behavior. He relayed two events he had experienced; one occurred during his first year when a student hung up a swastika flag in their dorm room. The student was not punished, according to Adelstein and the flag was defended as the student having a love for history. The second incident occurred when students protested a gay Israeli speaker, Asi Azar, arguing that his discussion about being a gay Jewish man in Israel took away from the discussion of the mistreatment of Palestinian refugees. He said it, “stepped out of the realm of anti-Israel sentiment into the realm of anti Semitism…Just some of the charges that were made about genocide, apartheid…That’s when it superseded the criticism of Israeli government goes into hard anti-Semitic propaganda.”
While Hillel is present as “safe space” for Jewish students on campus, other centers and organizations have not commented on the issues at hand. CREI, the Center for Race, Equity, and Identity on campus failed to mention the Jewish population when sending out an e-mail to marginalized communities on campus, according to Adelstein. He wrote back to them, though it does not appear that CREI has responded back.
“I think that students of color and LGBTQ students definitely face more systemic barriers and kind of overt hatred. But, I will say there are undertones of it [anti-Semitism] and it’s an interesting situation because sometimes its hidden under the veneer of being anti-Israel but sometimes it manifests itself very blatantly,” he said.
Noah Kahan ’17 shared very similar feelings. Kahan is in charge of Hillel’s Israel committee. “I think there’s a lot of shit going on in this country as far as Trump is concerned… I feel like in a way, Jews aren’t a protected community on Goucher’s campus cause like CREI has said that the Jews are not their problem.” He expanded on this; since Jews have Hillel, CREI has commented that the population does not need their support or resources, which he believes is an issue now more than ever because of the increasing attacks on Jewish communities in the country. “But, I feel like to be jeiwsh in this country right now with this going on is scary,” he said.
Not everything though, was negative. Rabbi Snyder said he found the most heartening was the Muslim community choosing to stand up and help rebuild and fix the cemeteries that had been destroyed. When the interview occurred, Snyder had just returned from meetings discussing interfaith relations at the college in which student leaders of the organizations were connected with each other. Similarly, Kahan commented that the interactions between religious groups were “calm.”
Image Credit: DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images