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Task force sheds light on anti-Semitism on college campuses

Rabbi Michael Ragozin, left, moderated the Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott.

NOVEMBER 2, 2017 – SWAMPSCOTT – Last Sunday, a crowd of 70 attended “What’s Up at College: How Anti-Semitism is Affecting College Life,” a panel discussion at Congregation Shirat Hayam. The event was sponsored by the nonprofit Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force of the North Shore in order to raise awareness among area high school teenagers in light of increased anti-Semitism on college campuses across the country.

The panel featured current and recent college students – Dylann Cooper, a senior at Roger Williams University; Rachel Wolff and Madeline Bondy, sophomores at Tufts University; Zachary Shwartz, class of 2016, Boston University, and Arinne Braverman, former Hillel director at Northeastern University. Moderated by Shirat Hayam’s Rabbi Michael Ragozin – who serves as president of the Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force – the event featured discussions of the panelists’ most meaningful Jewish moment in college before tackling their experience with anti-Semitism on campus.

Bondy, who grew up as one of a few Jews in her Colorado community, found that while she enjoyed connecting with Tufts’ large community of Jewish students, she was not prepared for “the subtleties and small things that contribute to whether you feel comfortable being Jewish on campus.”

Her classmate, Wolff, added, “Just because there are lots of Jews on campus doesn’t always protect you from anti-Semitism,” referring to political groups on campus like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). These groups have endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose founders seek to isolate Israel.

Shwartz said he “wasn’t aware of SJP” when he first encountered them at BU’s student activities fair, where first-year students get an opportunity to check out the hundreds of campus groups. “I had gone to Jewish day schools (Epstein Hillel School and Gann Academy) but was not aware of what SJP was and what they really stand for. I didn’t know how to react to students who are part of SJP. I was educated on Israel but not on these groups.”

Braverman’s advice to students is to report incidents of anti-Semitism. “It’s super important to report it (incidents of anti-Semitism). Reporting can be confusing because there may be a different process, depending if an incident happens in a dorm room or a classroom or off campus. If it’s not reported, the school can’t do anything. There was a swastika in an elevator that wasn’t reported and stayed for weeks but once reported, it was quickly removed,” she said.

Cooper agreed about the importance of reporting. As a sophomore, Cooper said there was a giant swastika drawn in a shower on campus. Once photos of it circulated on Snapchat, it was removed quickly. “We received overwhelming support from the administration.”

The panel had an impact on the teens in the audience. “It’s more than just swastikas painted on the walls. There are more forms of anti-Semitism than I realized,” said Lily Gregory, a junior at Marblehead High School.

The next planning meeting for the Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force will be held 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 at Congregation Shirat Hayam.

For more information about upcoming events, including about volunteering, email Rabbi Ragozin at RabbiRagozin@shirathayam.org.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Wendy Leibowitz November 4, 2017, 8:25 am

    This sounds like a thoughtful, pragmatic, and helpful discussion. Is there a transcript or film or summary of more of what was said?

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