Opinion | Antisemitism is not a progressive value: A Jewish student's view on a college campus - World Jewish Congress

Opinion | Antisemitism is not a progressive value: A Jewish student's view on a college campus

Nechama Huba
Nechama Huba
Ronald S. Lauder Fellow
Opinion | Antisemitism is not a progressive value: A Jewish student's view on a college campus

Being Jewish on a college campus has been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve faced. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in North Carolina, which is not exactly known for being full of Jews. While I’ve found an amazing and vibrant Jewish community in my hometown, I’m also accustomed to facing stereotypes, rude assumptions, and stares as I walk with my brother, who wears a yarmulke.

So, when I came to my college, I was so excited for the inclusivity and celebration of cultures that liberal art colleges around the country celebrate, including my Jewish identity. And while much of my college experience has been extremely positive, from the moment I set foot campus, what I experienced was far from the “progressive and accepting” atmosphere I expected. During my orientation week, a student asked me about my views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before I could answer, she interrupted, “Because you’re Jewish, I can only imagine what you think about Palestinians.”

This was not an isolated incident. Over the past three years, I’ve had people continuously interrogate me about my views on Israel to the point where I’ve hidden from many people that I am currently studying abroad in Israel, and even had to explain to a professor why saying that “Jews influence Israeli politics through money” underscores offensive antisemitic tropes of Jews and money, and the Jews controlling the world. This is despite the fact, that many special interest groups utilize lobbyists to represent their interests yet, through a double standard, Jews are criticized for the same action. As such, the perpetuation of the antisemitic trope that Jews control the world continues.

The progressive movement champions the acceptance of a variety of people and their beliefs. Although I am among the vast majority of Jews who support Israel’s right to exist, many people in the progressive movement have attempted to force Jews to condemn their one self-determined Jewish state through labelling us colonizers, power abusers, and other dehumanizing names. I was so excited to join a progressive college campus, especially because so many of my political views are progressive. But again and again, I’ve been shown that I’m not accepted fully into this space as my authentic self.

I wake up every single day proud to be Jewish. Proud to celebrate Shabbat each week. Proud to keep kosher. Proud to have a community of Jews in North Carolina, in Israel through my study abroad, through Jewish organizations I participate in, as well as at my college in America. 

As a college junior and the President of Hillel, I’ve experienced countless joyful Shabbats, celebrations of the holidays, and meaningful conversations with close friends on religion. The freedom of religious expression that I so craved, in many ways, was fulfilled.

But this pride quickly turns into disappointment when my Jewish friends consistently text me about antisemitic moments on their college campuses. I’m disappointed that I’ve had my fair share of moments about which to text back. When Israelis on my program find out that I am American, Jewish, and a college student, one of the first questions they ask is about the increasing level of antisemitism on college campuses. I’m disappointed when I report that what they’ve heard is true.

College campuses are supposed to be places for acceptance and growth, both as an individual and as a community. That will not happen until all students, including Jews all over the nation, feel safe and proud regardless of our religion or cultural identity.

Nechama Huba is a current college junior studying International Relations and Psychology. She is a Ronald S. Lauder Fellow