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  • Jacob Gelman '25

Antisemitism At Brown Is Real: Stop Gaslighting Jewish Students

When I lived in the South, antisemitism was a norm of daily life—it was built into the culture. Coming from a predominantly Catholic area, it was my reality to exist in a society that seemed to feel not only that my culture shouldn’t exist but that I would burn in hell for following my faith and embracing my identity. I remember in fourth grade, at the town’s holiday parade (read: Christmas parade) one of my peers handed me a pamphlet which described Judaism as a “perversion” and Christianity as “the only truth.” I remember being the only Jewish student in every one of my classes until I attended high school. I remember being made to feel ashamed of who I was, and being embarrassed just for being Jewish. 


This is what led me to Brown. The promise of an accepting North and liberal atmosphere led me to believe that I would be free of judgment for who I was. And it was like that for a while; there was a certain illusion of acceptance. Unfortunately, though, that is all it was—an illusion. An illusion that came crashing down following October 7th. Dozens of student groups have signed onto a statement describing what happened on October 7th as “resistance.” They have wholly blamed Israel for the attack, removing any and all moral agency from the terrorists who perpetrated it. October 7th, an attack that saw over 1,100 innocent people dead in the streets of Israel, the desert sand, their cars, or in their own homes. That saw Israeli women raped. 


Student groups have praised the Houthis, an Islamist rebel group in Yemen, as they chanted “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud—turn another ship around!” The Houthis, a group that has in its slogan “curse upon the Jews.” They have more recently chanted for intifada. Intifadas, periods of time which saw innocent Jews killed on the bus, at the Seder table, or in a pizza shop. 


Never before have I felt so unsafe in my Jewish identity. Not in the South, not in a church, not anywhere. Here is the thing: when someone tells me I’ll go to hell for being Jewish, that is not real. I know it’s a fairy tale, and I know the hell they’re speaking of does not exist. However, when you praise Jewish death as it happens, that is real, tangible. Actual people died, and no amount of intellectualizing can remove us from that reality. 


But G-d forbid a Jew on campus tries to call out this simple reality: the reality that dozens of prominent clubs on campus have glorified our death as “resistance.” When we do, we are told we are weaponizing antisemitism, that it is criticism of Israel and Zionism—not hatred toward Jews. Shockingly, we are even sometimes told this from fellow Jews. But I have heard this before. When confronting my Christian peers, they tell me they hate the sin not the sinner. They tell me they’ll pray for me, because they still love me. At least these people have some level of plausible deniability, but it is a joke to say the same for the “well-meaning” leftists who glorify the violence of Hamas. How could you love me, and my people, while actively romanticizing our violent end? 


Since initially writing this article, an encampment had been set up on the main green to protest the war against Hamas and call for a ceasefire. It is a valiant cause, and a worthy end goal. I myself would like to see an end to the violence and bloodshed. I dream of days where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side, in peace. However, this cannot come through the destruction of Israel. It cannot come without a release of the hostages. These are the facts. Yet there was no mention of the hostages at the encampment. In the artwork sprawling across the grass, there existed the map of Israel-Palestine with the Palestinian flag painted within it—artwork that seems to symbolize the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. How can I align myself with these values? In a world in which states don’t peacefully disappear, these are not calls for peace—they are the calls of a warmonger. At Columbia we have seen Jewish students intimidated and harassed on the mere suspicion they may be a “Zionist” (read: a bad Jew). The existence of Brown’s encampment not only was inspired by, but is in solidarity with Columbia’s protest. Despite this, there has yet to be condemnation from the Brown Divest Coalition. This silence speaks volumes. It speaks volumes because without condemnation, there is a tacit endorsement. The reality is while many (even the vast majority) in the pro-Palestinian movement may have good intentions, may genuinely care about the conditions of Palestine and the Palestinian right to self-determination, the movement itself has been hijacked as a means for Jew-hatred. 


As Jews, we are yelling into a void trying to fight this perverse trend of antisemitism. But because there is a small minority of Jews who disagree, students on campus listen to them since it is more comfortable than confronting the reality of Jew-hatred. When Jonathan Greenblatt comes to speak on campus, they decide to listen to the Jews who walked out instead of those who stayed: Why? Would these students feel so comfortable tokenizing a member of any other minority group in the same way they tokenize Jewish people? We are screaming for this campus to wake up, and it is due time people take the energy they would put toward gaslighting us into actually listening to what we have to say.

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