Barbara Schiffer
Barbara Schiffer

I Asked If They Stood With Me: Confronting Antisemitism at DePaul University

The Author on campus at DePaul University, Chicago
The Author at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel

I am a proud American Israeli Jewish woman and a junior at DePaul University in Chicago. Recently, I have been grappling with how to show up in liberal social justice spaces while also being a proud Israeli. While I marched over the summer and show up the best I can for other causes, I am also confused by how to be a part of those causes while knowing that they do not support me back. Given the 500% rise in antisemitic attacks worldwide, my friends and I have found ourselves more scared than usual. We have also waited for our universities and organizations to put out statements about the sharp rise in antisemitism, only to be disappointed and left on our own.

DePaul University itself put out a statement that asked for prayers for peace and unity. In it Reverend Guillermo Campuzano wrote “Following the words of Cardinal Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, we reaffirm the Palestinians’ right to statehood, unviolated territorial integrity, and safety; Israel’s right to a secure existence; and Jews’, Christians’, and Muslims’ fundamental religious right to access safely the holy sites of their respective traditions in Jerusalem, the City of Peace.” . It included quotations from the Archbishop of Chicago and the Pope [1]. However, he did not include words from religious figures outside of the church, such as a rabbi.

The Student Government Association (SGA), whose proudly Students for Justice in Palestine involved President is the student liaison to the board of trustees, the administration, and media, put out a very different statement. The SGA statement calls for the university to denounce the actions of the Israeli government [2] while failing to mention the over 5,000 rockets that were fired at Israeli civilian centers by Hamas from Gaza or the international tidal wave of antisemitic violence. Importantly, however, SGA states that it stands with the DePaul chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine – the explicitly anti-Zionist group with chapters internationally, whose founders call for the isolation and destruction of Israel [4].

On the SGA statement I commented asking if SGA represents me too, as an Israeli Jew. Within minutes the replies poured in. “You … are trash.” “Do you support genocide?” Despite a robust social media policy, as of publication there has been no moderation of the harassment and bullying I have faced for simply asking SGA if they represent me. The post remains, and SGA has gone on to advocate for the BDS movement. If my own student government is so  committed to anti-Zionist activism then where is my place at my own University? How can I feel safe at DePaul?

Subsequently, I met with senior members of the administration about my fears for my safety on campus and my ability to equally access the services and support of the University. While we agree on students’ right to free speech, no one is free from consequences and DePaul has an obligation to enforce its own policies around social media use and individual harassment. Further, the University has its own right to free speech which it should use to condemn antisemitism and express its solidarity with Jewish students, just as it has done for other targeted communities.  All students deserve to feel heard and safe on their college campus.

So, as I asked the VP of Student Affairs:

Does DePaul University care about me too?

I guess we’ll find out.

 

[1] https://resources.depaul.edu/newsline/sections/campus-and-community/Pages/Palestine.aspx?utm_campaign=Daily_05172021_SDNT&utm_medium=email&utm_source=EOACLK

[2] https://www.instagram.com/p/CPJUoziBt8P/

[3] https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/students-for-justice-in-palestine-sjp

[4] https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/1591087456-zionist-regime-downfall-is-bds-endgame-movement-founder

[5] https://canarymission.org/individual/Watfae_Zayed

 

 

About the Author
Barbara is an eating disorder and addiction recovery advocate who writes on these topics for various online publications. She’s a student at DePaul University and can be found on her Instagram @being_fearlessly_me
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