Antisemitism on college campuses has become virtually inescapable, but the experience varies from school to school and student to student. Whether directly from the administration, a discrete delivery from peers or even professors, to student organizations mobilizing against the Jewish community, these encounters have shaped students and the conversation surrounding collegiate antisemitism.
On November 3, we spoke with two students about their experiences on campus and the antisemitism they’ve confronted. Both shared that they first got involved in fighting antisemitism when they noticed the gravity of the issue and felt they needed to do something about it. Yet, each was faced with entirely different circumstances.
Avi Zatz, who recently transferred out of the University of Vermont primarily due to antisemitism, told us about the institutional levels antisemitism at UVM has reached. From clubs banning Jews to teachers’ assistants threatening to dock points from Zionists, the rise of the problem is deeply concerning to the UVM Jewish community.
Even worse, Zatz described that the administrators brush these issues under the rug, allowing them to exacerbate. It came to a head when the president of the university responded in an email to the UVM community about the Title VI case filed against the university, saying that the narrative was harmful to their Jewish students and took no accountability for the university’s antisemitic actions.
In the face of the issue, Zatz and his peers did not relent in their effort to make a change for their community via small actions and several meetings with university administrators. Although Zatz decided it would be best to leave such a hostile environment, he continues to fight antisemitism and stand with his friends still attending Vermont. He expressed his gratitude to Jewish on Campus for supporting them and to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for their resources and guidance through the Title VI case.
Judith Rosenbluth, a junior at the University of Maryland, regarded her experiences encountering antisemitism on a lower profile. As she recalled isolated incidents of antisemitism at her university, she noted each event was largely dealt with by the administration in a satisfactory manner.
Maryland Hillel, in tandem with the administration, hosted an event to bring the community together in spite of antisemitism after an incident where antisemitic flyers were spread around Greek life housing. Rosenbluth recalled the event made the Jewish community feel supported on campus.
“There is a way to get accountability, and there is a way to get change,” Rosenbluth said. She feels strongly about fighting antisemitism and making campus a safer place.
Our discussion was hosted by Jewish on Campus CEO Julia Jassey, a senior at the University of Chicago. Her own experience with antisemitism drove her to co-found JOC in the summer of 2020. At her start, she was not so sure of when the right time to call out antisemitism was, or what even constituted antisemitism. She, as many students have, quickly learned how to empower herself, speak up, and not let antisemitism go unaddressed.
These individual stories shape the conversation; they do not exist in a vacuum. Each story from a Jewish student, from the most mundane to the most extreme, shapes the narrative of the contemporary collective Jewish student experience. When a Jewish student feels empowered to fight antisemitism and stand up when they face hate, they show the Jewish community around them that it is possible and that we are toughest together.
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