As a private university with the largest population of Jewish students in the country, Boston University may seem like an unlikely place to find instances of anti-Semitism. BU is home to over 4,000 undergraduate Jewish Students who make up 22% of the school’s student body, including BU junior, Karina Stotz. The Pittsburgh native said she sees the October 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation as a blatant act of terror on not only her neighborhood but the global Jewish community. She said her family’s home is just two doors down from the Synagogue.
“My community, Squirrel Hill, is a very inclusive place with many religions and demographics of people living together, and I have never noticed ant-Semitism here before,” Stotz said. “This mass shooting showed me that anti-Semitism still does exist in the world, and as a Jew, I have been lucky to be surrounded by so many accepting people of different faiths, but I’m am now learning that not everyone is so open-minded.”
Stotz says she said she believes this event quickly amplified awareness and sensitized acts of anti-Semitism across the United States.
In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting BU students, like Stotz, are becoming increasingly aware of small acts of Anti-Semitism on campus and in their everyday lives.
BU junior and the president of the Boston University Orthodox Minyan Group (OMG), Miriam Yifrach, said she has personally experienced anti-Semitism inside and outside of her BU classrooms. Yifrach was raised as an Orthodox Jew, and she said she ultimately chose to attend BU because of the large Jewish population, community, and resources. She said she had never experienced anti-Semitism first hand until she attended college.
“One of the students in my small discussion class was caught drawing swastikas all over his notebook in class, not only is that always an act of hate, but he was aware there were several Jewish students in this class,” Yifrach said. “A few students in my class reported him to the professor. However, when my classmates and I asked the professor about his course of action, the professor said he spoke to the student and asked him to stop, but to our knowledge, that student had no further consequences, which is the root of
Anti-Semitic incidents according to the Anti-Defamation League are any, vandalism, assault, or spoken or written forms of harassment that victimize Jews for their religious association.
Shelly Burgman, the communication and media specialist at the New England Anti-Defamation League (ADL), confirmed that in 2017, there were more than 204 reports of anti-Semitism on college campuses, resulting in an 89 percent increase from the previous year.
There was also a report done by Inside Higher Ed, where the online publication states that “Since the deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, campuses have seen a rise in displays targeting Jews.”
“I think there always has been and always will be prejudice against Jews,” said Yifrach. “But the recent mass shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue definitely reminded the country that anti-Semitism hasn’t just gone away. It is imperative for the conversation about anti-Semitism to be brought up, and I think everyone, Jewish or not, needs to be hyperaware of even the most minor micro-aggressions.”
Though some students at BU say, they have not noticed any micro-aggressions on campus. Cooper Dinowitz, a sophomore at BU, said that he had not noticed any anti-Semitism on campus.
“Being Jewish on BU’s campus is comfortable and feels very normal to me especially because I’ve made many more Jewish friends in college than I did in high school,” Dinowitz said. “The only micro-aggression I’ve heard is when people from other schools call BU, “B-Jew,” but that doesn’t bother me. Even though I am not very religious, I am proud to be Jewish and so are my all my friends at BU.”
Stotz says she believes many modern acts of anti-Semitism are deeply rooted in white supremacy.
“The narrative of white supremacy has increased in the past years and has made anti-Semitism even more of an issue,” Stotz said. “Now news stations are starting to show more and more hateful attacks on Jews.”
BU junior, Ryan Engelhardt, said she hosted a Hanukkah party for both her Jewish and non-Jewish friends with the intent to shed a positive light on the Jewish religion and to educate others about her faith.
“I believe the only way to end anti-Semitism and white-supremacy is to educate others about the religion and its values,” Engelhardt said. “I believe Judaism, as well as other religions, is so powerful and amazing because it has the ability to bring people together as a community.”
Engelhardt said that she invited BU students of all faiths including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Atheists to her eighth night of Hanukkah celebration.
“It is important for people from every faith to take a step back and learn about a different religion or culture, especially in college,” Engelhardt said.
One of the guests at Engelhardt’s Hanukkah party was Karina Chhabra, a BU senior. Chhabra is a Hindu, and she said she does not know much about Judaism or Hanukkah because she has never had the opportunity to be exposed or celebrate it, even after being a student at BU for almost four years.
“I have never celebrated any Jewish holiday before, but it’s interesting because I have been to many Christmas and Easter parties,” Chhabra said. “Like Judaism, Hinduism also is not commonly taught or shown in the media, so I think lack of exposure is part of the reason people create offensive stereotypes. I’ve learned that the only way to not form judgments or make assumptions about others is to learn about all different religions and cultures.”