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A note on Anti-semitism at AU



American University


A note on Anti-semitism at AU

One Jew's encounters with anti-semitism on our campus

Mady Frischer


I imagine the conversation started off like any other debate in an Anderson lounge with a group of freshmen. A few people sat in a circle heatedly discussing the First Amendment while some inane ABC Family TV show played. I was washing three day old Easy Mac off my Corningware mug when some kid stood up and shouted, "Mein Kampf!" I was uncomfortable at first, but I thought it was a one time outburst. His friends' giggling and half-hearted "stop its" seemed to keep him going, making my skin crawl, and I knew I had to say something.

"Hi, could you stop?" I asked.

"No. I'm not doing anything wrong." His friends started laughing and mumbled comments about the first amendment.

"I'm Jewish and I find that really offensive."

He looked at me and snickered, "You're Jewish? Your nose is so normal. You don't even look Jewish."

No one in the lounge said anything. To be fair, after that, neither did I.

I'd never been around antisemitism before. Growing up, I could count my non-Jewish friends on one hand. I began assuming people were Jewish unless they told me otherwise. When it came time to look for colleges, it was a priority for me to find a school with a large Jewish community. American University, with a student body made up of 21% Jews, became a front runner. I didn't think antisemitism was something I would ever have to deal with it.

A couple months later, I was sitting in a study lounge with a group of my sorority sisters. As I was packing up to leave, I noticed a Swastika carved into the table under my textbook. My friend called the RA on duty immediately, she warned that Public Safety won't do anything unless someone was 'really offended.' We scoffed and naively told her that everyone should be offended, but...she was right.

The first thing the public safety guy asked when he got there was whether anyone "really cared." After I did everything but recite my Bat Mitzvah Haftorah portion to convince him I was Jewish, he tried to talk us out of filing a real complaint. He emphasized the hassle to remove and replace the table, the expense to the people who lived on that floor, and how it would inconvenience a bunch of people. To her credit, the RA on duty stepped in and made sure he followed through.

When I told one of my friends about this the next day, she said Jews weren't a real minority and we shouldn't get to play the victim.

I'm only one of 1600 Jewish undergraduates, and these are just a few of my experiences.

I'm white, and I am afforded a lot of opportunities because of that. However, not every Jew is. The Jewish people are an inter-sectional and diverse community. Many AU students have never met a Jew before coming to college, and the main examples of Jews in the media make us seem homogenous. The argument that antisemitism is a white person problem is, in and of itself, antisemitic and is used all the time by AU students.

But, Jews have a lot of privilege in this world just for being Jews. We have a social and cultural network that provides us with so much. We have our own community centers, aid foundations, schools, hospitals, grocery stores, summer camps, youth groups -- you name it and there's a Jewish version. Why? Because there were times where we were denied access from the mainstream versions of these, so we made our own. Our privilege has grown from our prejudice. Jews are, and will continue to be, resilient.

There are those that will still stand up and say that we are the most oppressed people of all time. WE ARE NOT.

Right now, there are identities that are far more at risk than being Jewish. A black trans Jewish woman will still be able to practice Judaism when these hateful actions subside, but policies restricting her other rights are far more dangerous to her future. However, this rhetoric DOES NOT validate the bomb threats, the vandalism, or the hate speech; it merely points out that Jews toe an awkward line of privilege and prejudice.

No matter what privilege we have, do not dismiss the hateful actions happening. It's terrifying when I see articles about headstones toppled over in a Jewish cemetery or a Jewish Community Center (JCC) where preschoolers were forced out of their swimming lesson because of a bomb threat. I worked in my synagogue's office answering phones in high school. If such a threat were made there, I would have been the one picking up the phone. These aren't government organizations with teams of security scanning calls; they are staffed by grandparents, high school students, and volunteers.

We can't stand for this hatred to grow on our own campus. I’m a Jew that proudly says that Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, refugee lives matter, Muslim lives matters, any-person-that-faces-adversity’s life matters because the values I subscribe to say that they do. I'm going to continue to fight hate at American University, because we all belong here and we all deserve better.

“Do not scorn any person and do not disdain any thing; for there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing that does not have its place” Pirkei Avot 4:3.