Rotem David

What it is like being Jewish at Berkeley

Its not a secret Berkeley university has a high rate of anti-Semitism, to understand better the situation I interviewed one of the  Jewish students from Berkeley university to explain us what is going on.

What is the actual policy in Berkeley against hate?

Every public university should have clear rules against hate. I know that Berkley puts significant time and effort into protecting many of its minority student groups, unfortunately it seems that Jewish students aren’t protected in the same way as others.

UC Berkeley is a public university and, like most major universities, it receives substantial federal and state taxpayer funding which means it is required by law to protect all students. Unfortunately, combatting antisemitism either isn’t included in their policies or isn’t enforced to protect Jewish students.

Can you tell me about antisemitic incidents that happen in Berkeley?

Last year, UC Berkeley was in the news because many of the student groups at its law school banned all Zionist and pro-Israel speakers from their public spaces. Anti-Zionist students began aggressively protesting against Israel.

At least 2 students have been assaulted since the Oct 7th massacre.

Jeiwsh students have been excluded from certain spaces on campus because they are Jewish and support Israel.


Do you know any students who are afraid to go to college because of antisemitism?

Many Jewish students are now afraid to publicly say they support Israel for fear that they will be boycotted by their friends. Most Jewish students now hide their Jewish symbols like Magan David necklaces.


At UC Berkeley, there is a group called “Bears for Palestine ” (because UC Berkeley’s mascot is called bears for Berkeley) . This anti-Israel group had 2 large rallies where two Jewish students were attacked physically. At one of the BFP rallies, a different student has an Israeli flag ripped from his shoulders .


Bears for Palestine uses fakes security guards


What also hurts Jewish students on campus is that the school authorities and school security tend to ignore the problem and the campus police don’t call the attacks against Jews by pro-Palestinian students a hate crime. The police seem to be afraid that the pro-Palestinian students will go after them as they claim the motives are “unclear”.  The school administration even sent an email that gave the impression that Jewish students  were attacking the pro-palestinian students and never mentioned that Jewish students were attacked.

If the university wants to protect its reputation and not be a hot-bed of anti-Semitism, it must do much more to protect its Jewish students.


What are the opinions of the neutral environment?

From what I see, they think it is a two-sided issue. When observers see and hear the aggressive behavior and shouting of groups like ”Bears for Palestine”, they can tell that those groups are violent. However, when you the Jews hold a rally for Israel, observers can see and hear that their protests are peaceful.

On the internet, you can see a subjects like “Zionists attacked by pro-Palestinians”.  It makes neutral third parties think it is a 2 sided issue, and some conclude that it is ok to support Hamas, even though they are a terrorist organization, just like it is ok to support Israel.  The fake postings on the internet unfortunately normalizes antisemitism.


What solutions the Jewish students give?

The Jewish students regularly try to meet with school administrators to either change their policies or enforce their existing anti-discrimination policies evenly to include fighting antisemitism. Many Jewish groups are working to try to get the University of California, and other universities, to change.  Jews from across the country are trying to help change the antisemitic climate on campus from the outside.

However, we  have been frustrated by the  lack of help from the school’s administration.

Do you have any message for Jewish students who want to learn at Berkeley

American universities need more, not fewer Jewish students. Jewish students, faculty, and staff have contributed tremendously over the last century to enhancing campus life. The top universities will be worse if Jews choose not to enroll because of antisemtism. I have high school friends who are considering applying to UC Berkeley but are afraid to go. This must change now. Universities need more proud Jewish students. We need to remind schools that the Jewish community is here to stay

About the Author
By the age of 16, I created a project on social media called "Teens for Israel" to educate the younger generation on how to use their social media skills to improve Israel's image online. 2 years later I filed a position as a spokeswoman of a political youth headquarters, I manage a team of 30 ambitious teenagers and lead online social projects. In addition, I wrote columns for youth news websites about social issues in Israeli society and impacted youth with my articles by creating conversations about the topics I wrote about. Today I am a released IDF combat soldier who is soon to fly with a delegation to the USA to educate youth about Israel and is passionate about using media as a way to educate and raise awareness.