Gedalia Gillis

What I Witnessed When I Returned to Wharton Campus

October 7th will be a date that I will forever remember. Like many, it is a day where I witnessed what happens when the Palestinian jihadist movement gets a chance.

After Oct. 7, I returned to Israel for reserve duty and firsthand witnessed the scale of the massacre: the systematic seeking, killing, and raping of civilians. Some of them American citizens (admittedly, Jewish-American civilians)

But when I returned to Wharton to complete the semester, I witnessed things that will change my perceptions forever and that not everyone witnessed:

I witnessed fellow students who think that the Hamas acts can be justified. Let me repeat that: there are students at the Wharton School who, as the massacre was still unfolding, found the audacity to post and voice their justification of purposely slaughtering civilians. If only they were not cowards as well as terrorist sympathizers, they should have tried to murder me themselves on Oct 7.

When I got back to Wharton, I witnessed a WGA leadership (Wharton Graduate Association), the student body leadership that could not find the moral courage (or worse — did not have the moral compass) to condemn the intentional mass killing and rape of civilians. While the weak-on-antisemitism Upenn leadership realized the natural need to condemn clear terrorism, it seems the future leaders of our society do not.

When I got back to Wharton, I witnessed people posting posts (some false and some not) criticizing Israel and mourning Palestinian casualties, while those very same people had not found the moral need to post anything about the targeted mass killing and rape of Israelis.

When I got back to Wharton, I witnessed a scared Jewish community that felt alone and harassed.

When I got back to Wharton, I witnessed antisemitic sentiments being stated by people who I thought were my friends.

Back at Wharton, I witnessed how students of all backgrounds are holding the torch up high and continuing the long-lasting tradition of demonizing Jews by accusing them of the biggest evils of society. In the religious Middle Ages, we were Christ-killers, during big financial crises Jews were capitalist globalists, and as the world fights the aftermath of colonialism, Jews are white colonialists. Each adjective used to legitimize violence against Jews in the time period where that was the moral justification for violence. Students on campus are now continuing that “great” tradition.

When I got back to Wharton, I understood that although there are many people on campus that still have a moral compass and the bravery to say the obvious, Jews were mostly alone. Being on campus is also a rude awakening for some and a stark reminder for others that Jews cannot rely on anyone but themselves.

Though we are not totally alone, I learned that we do not have the luxury of depending on others to oppose the purposeful killing of our people. To my fellow Jewish peers – do not let your friends hold antisemitic views unchecked. Not only because you deserve better friends but also because I guarantee that you will enable them to make the “some of my best friends are Jewish” excuse as they deny their antisemitic sentiments.

I want to emphasize that within this darkness I found many sources of light — the Jewish community coming together, and there were many peers who showed me support and unequivocally stated the clear line between right and wrong, but overall the darkness far overshadows the light. We cannot rely on all friends, cannot rely on leadership, and cannot rely on anyone’s moral compass. Jewish students and all Jews must hold their heads up high, defend themselves, and take their destiny into their own hands. Just like our people did when they reinstated Jewish autonomy in the land of our ancestors in 1948.

About the Author
Gedalia is currently completing his MBA at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. He served for 7 years in the IDF, his last role as a company commander and received his bachelor's degree in PPE (a program combining philosophy, political science, economics, and law) from Tel Aviv University.
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