By Mitzpeh staff
A man attacked Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this weekend, shouting anti-Semitic slurs and shooting congregants who were innocently praying on Shabbat. The attack killed 11 people, and six others were hospitalized.
Just two months into the semester, three incidents involving swastikas have already been recorded in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s hate bias log at this university, according to a recent Diamondback article. These anti-Semitic symbols have appeared both on and off-campus and are included in the nine hate bias incidents that have occurred at this university this semester.
The national and local rise in anti-Semitism against Jews forces us to ask the question: Should we, as a Jewish community, be concerned?
This university has one of the largest Jewish student populations in comparison with other universities. According to hillel.org, this university ranks number four in the country in Jewish population for public universities in the U.S.
This university has been supportive and inclusive when it comes to Jewish students, and there is no reason that this shouldn’t continue. This university has many school-sponsored Jewish organizations, such as the Jewish Student Union, Hillel, Chabad and MEOR. There is also a birthright program which provides Jewish students a free trip to Israel through Hillel. During Passover, the school even puts Matzah in the dining halls, and during Hanukkah, there is a candle lighting in McKeldin Library.
Just this semester, when the First Look Fair was rescheduled to take place on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, it was rescheduled again to accommodate this university’s Jewish population. Jewish students are not just free to practice on campus and at this university; Jewish practice is actually often welcomed.
Obviously, a few swastikas on campus do not equate to the tragedy of a devastating and violent attack on the Jewish people. Still, the shooting causes us to reflect. It’s unclear where the swastikas on campus came from. Perhaps it was a silly joke and certainly it was a minority opinion given that the Jewish community and infrastructure far exceeds the dwindling number of anti-Semites. But Saturday’s shooting has demonstrated to Jews at this university and across the country that anti-Semitism is real, it’s alive and it’s evil.
While we have personally experienced nothing but friendliness and consideration from non-Jewish students towards Jewish students at this university, there are clearly a few exceptions.
The swastikas mustn’t be ignored. To prevent the spread and use of swastikas and other forms of anti-Semitism, students should be educated on the history of the symbol and why it is seen as hate speech. Students should learn how this symbol can have a serious, deadly impact, because it has and it continues to do so.
The Holocaust is an extremely tragic event in history and a painful memory for the Jewish people. While some may see it as a trigger warning, we see it as something people need to learn from and remember so that it never happens again. The emphasis is on education.
Hopefully, the strength of the Jewish community will continue to trump a few hateful symbols. Jews at this university should not have to fear practicing their religion, and certainly not for their lives. We should feel safe attending Hillel, Chabad and MEOR, and we should feel safe being seen on campus with yarmulkes and Star of David necklaces.
Sometimes, jokes can have consequences. We hope that this university continues to be a place without these ill-meaning jokes and without these consequences: a hate-free place for Jewish students to thrive.