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Dr. Jeremy Schiller’s story

The COVID-19 pandemic was heavy enough.

As a practicing physician and the Chair of the Salem Board of Health, Dr. Jeremy Schiller was doing his utmost to protect community members from a virus scientists were racing to understand and navigate in real time.

“I had a good relationship with [then Mayor of Salem] Kim Driscoll, and we promoted COVID mitigation strategies that were rooted in science and were progressive and dynamic,” Dr. Schiller says. “Despite overwhelming support from the community, we received a lot of the typical negative responses — and I was ok with that. Science is hard and is always evolving and that is not easy for some to digest and understand.”

However, those responses became personal in December 2021. The Omicron variant was sweeping through Massachusetts and hospitals were dangerously nearing full capacity. The Salem Board of Health, at the urgence of local hospital leaders, instituted a vaccine mandate for local restaurants to help keep area hospitals from a possible catastrophic crisis.

“At that point, there was a real increase in number of those comparing what we were doing to the Holocaust,” Dr. Schiller remembers. “Multiple emails on a daily basis from various people in the community.” Dr. Schiller went out of his way to respond thoughtfully to the emails and educate community members on the actions the Board was taking. However, the correspondences were becoming increasingly antisemitic in nature. Salem’s Health Agent, whose surname sounds Jewish, shared that both he and Dr. Schiller had been the subject of voicemails citing them as “Jews controlling public health.” He also forwarded Dr. Schiller postcards the Board of Health had received that were addressed to “Un ‘Doctor’ Schiller” with a Star of David drawn on it and statements like “FREI” (German for “free”), “GENOCIDE,” and “Justice will come for you” scrawled across them. The Health Department even received a yellow Star of David — badges Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Around this time, a rally was held outside Dr. Schiller’s house (he wasn’t there), organized by Diana Ploss, an independent gubernatorial candidate who, later that week, livestreamed a simulcast of the Board of Health meeting, with hateful comments like, “Look at this Jew, always after money” and “Look at the smug Jew talking” posted on her website. Dr. Schiller, who volunteers in his position as Board Chair, was aghast and disgusted that his efforts to help guide the community safely through the pandemic evolved into an opportunity for antisemites to viciously attack him for the simple fact that he is Jewish.

“It was scary,” Dr. Schiller says. “I contacted Mayor Driscoll and there was no political calculus whatsoever on her part. She immediately released a letter along with the ADL condemning what was going on.” Dr. Schiller also applauds the swift response of Chief Lucas Miller of Salem Police Department in coming to his defense, as well as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Lahey Health, Dr. Kevin Tabb, for reaching out and supporting him.

“To me, there’s a role for condemnation and outrage, but it can’t end there. Education and understanding are critical components to combating antisemitism and hate,” Dr. Schiller says. “That’s why the idea of allyship is so important to me. We can only imagine how many other groups of people feel marginalized. I have a very close family and amazing friends. I can’t imagine how deeply undercutting and painful this would be to someone who doesn’t have that kind of support — because even with that support I can still feel the pain of it today.”

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Rabbi Shlomo Noginski’s story

On July 1, 2021, while standing near the entrance to Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton, Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was approached by a man with a gun who demanded that he give him the keys to his vehicle and then instructed him to get inside the car. Rabbi Noginski, fearing for the lives of the school-aged children attending summer camp within the building, ran from the assailant and, in the ensuing struggle that followed on Brighton Commons, was stabbed a total of eight times in broad daylight.

But for every stab wound, for every ache, pain, and hardship that followed in his slow recovery, Rabbi Noginski is only keeping a tally of all the miracles, including — defying comprehension — being in the right place at the right time.

“I have seen G-d’s hand throughout my life,” Rabbi Noginski says.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, Rabbi Noginski’s family was targeted for being Jewish. His mother, a celebrated composer and pianist who had won a national competition and performed in the Kremlin, attracted the attention of antisemites disgusted that a Jew — and a woman — received the award.

The family received multiple death threats and Rabbi Noginski was often physically and verbally attacked. They made aliyah (immigration to Israel) to escape antisemitism in the early 90s and Rabbi Noginski’s mother encouraged him to take up martial arts to defend himself.

Rabbi Noginski believes his black belt in judo played a small role in defending himself from the dozens of relentless stabbing attempts made by his attacker over the course of their struggle that lasted more than 10 minutes. However, he is quick to point to a series of divine interventions for his ability to stave off more serious or even fatal injuries, rather than his “physical prowess.”

“It is G-d’s protection that is the real assistance,” he says. “But the real miracle is that I was outside of the school accidentally. If I came out earlier or later, this young man would have had unhindered access to the school and the camp, and it could’ve been much worse.”

Rabbi Noginski sustained six stab wounds to his left arm and hand and two to his abdomen. The attacker, who was discovered to have a history of using antisemitic slurs, was charged with hate crimes, as well as assault with intent to murder and attempted armed robbery, and the investigation is ongoing.

“In the short term, I simply could not perform any manual physical labor with my left hand or bear any weight, and one of the deeper wounds in my left shoulder affects my ability to do heavy lifting with my left arm,” Rabbi Noginski says. “In terms of emotional rehabilitation, that’s another story.”

Rabbi Noginski sees this attack as “a second birthday,” a blessing, and proof of G-d’s presence in his life. He’s using this incident to infuse the community with “more light and positivity” and has already opened a new Rabbinic Studies program at the school.

“Going forward, I feel I’ve been charged with a mission of doing more than I was before,” he says. “Anything that happens is directed by G-d, and this only strengthens my Jewish pride and identity.”

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Chanie Krinsky’s story

On a May evening four years ago, Chanie Krinsky had just put her three youngest children to bed when she heard rustling outside of her home, the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham.

Thinking it was an expected visitor, she asked her son to greet them at the door, but he reported seeing no one there. Right afterward, her husband, Rabbi Mendy Krinsky, returned home with groceries and Chanie smelled smoke.

“I’m very sensitive to it because I had been in a serious house fire when I was younger,” Chanie explains. Mendy searched inside for the source of the smell and couldn’t find anything when Chanie remembered that the Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Arlington-Belmont, the home of Rabbi Avi Bukiet and his wife, Luna, had been set on fire just days earlier. She urged Mendy to look outside.

When Mendy opened the door, their son peeked his head out and immediately noticed small flames licking at the side of the house, near the entrance to the synagogue. Because of the rain, because of their access to a fire extinguisher, or, as Mendy and Chanie believe, because of divine intervention, they were able to contain the damage to the exterior and put out the fire before the fire department arrived on the scene.

“As soon as I heard that there was a fire, I woke up the kids who were already in bed, carrying them, half-awake, out of the house and into the car,” Chanie says. From there, Chanie sent out a message to other Chabad residents in their network, explaining what had happened. “I said, we’re safe, be careful out there, you know, in case this person was going around doing this to other places,” she recalls.

Through her chat group, she learned that the Bukiets, once again, had their Chabad set on fire that very evening, just 40 minutes earlier.

“It was hard for us to sleep that night, knowing this person was still out there, knowing that someone was trying to burn our house down,” Chanie says.

The next day — Shabbat — brought hope.

“The number of flowers and gifts and messages of support that we received from the community was so touching,” Chanie says. “Two women from the community suggested holding the Havdalah ceremony outside our house after the sabbath ended, and they told the local temples and churches. We came out of the house on Saturday night and there were more than 400 people there — the police blocked the street. We prayed, we sang songs, it was so moving.”

At the time, people were saying, “Maybe take down the menorah in front of your house, maybe you should hide it, or remove your address online,” Chanie says. “We said, ‘Absolutely not. We’re not going to hide.’ On the contrary, we believe this event and similar ones should be an impetus for growth. The best way to combat antisemitism is to be stronger and prouder Jews.”

“Until the indictment, there was no way to know for sure that it was antisemitism, but we knew even then,” Chanie says. “We’ll never know why he chose ours and the Bukiet’s — but they were both the homes of the Chabad rabbis and their families.”

The man accused of the Chabad arson died before justice could be served, but the mark from the fire remains on the house and, since then, one of her sons was targeted for being Jewish and physically assaulted in Manhattan.

“Sometimes the world can feel scary, but you need to move on, you can’t live with that heaviness,” Chanie says. “We have to be aware, but we trust in G-d and move on. We can’t let this stop us.”

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Sam’s* story

Imagine you’re a sophomore in high school, living in a small, picturesque New England town. You come home from school one day before break, ready to relax, and open your Snapchat to see what your friends are up to. And just like that, you’re confronted with a picture of a swastika made of pennies taken in one of the classrooms of your high school. Sam* doesn’t have to imagine. She and her friend lived it.

Back when Sam and her friend experienced this incident in high school, they had already endured years of cutting comments about their Jewish heritage from their classmates and friends, saying things like “Do you live in little Israel?“ or “I didn’t know Jews were allowed to go trick or treating.” And they shrugged them off because they didn’t want to make waves with people who clearly didn’t understand how offensive they were being.

But when that swastika was posted, it was a step too far to ignore anymore. Enough was enough. “This was posted on social media, so a broad amount of people were seeing it compared to when someone just says a comment to you. You don’t have proof per se, but this was posted, and however many friends he had on Snapchat were however many people were seeing the post,” Sam says.

Sam and her friend decided it was time to make a change. At first, they kept it a secret because they didn’t know if people would understand. When their friends approached them, Sam said, “I’m a minority here. None of you are Jewish and I didn’t know how you were going to react because I was doing something against one of our friends.” They needed help. After talking with their parents, they boldly reached out to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The ADL answered the girls’ call and introduced them to a program called A World of Difference Institute that educates and trains faculty and students on how to deal with issues of discrimination of all types. But there was a slight problem. They needed funding to get the program off the ground in their school. To their relief and delight, the community stepped up. Parents, local businesses, and their high school PCO worked together to raise over $7,000 in just a few short weeks.

To this day, Sam and her friend’s courage to ask for help continues to better their hometown. “My youngest brother who’s seven years younger than me is at my high school now, and he’s being taught these things [by A World of Difference Institute] […] It’s really important to me to know that they are still doing it and they are still educating the teachers and the kids.”

Sam knows that the work isn’t done. “It’s so weird to me because I just graduated college and I feel like I’m still actively doing things for this, and I was 16 years old when I first started. I did not think that six or seven years later this would be staying with me.” Even though antisemitic incidents are up all over America and “it’s a really scary time to be a Jewish woman,” Sam keeps moving forward. “I like to help out as much as I can. People still reach out to me asking if I can help and I try and do that in the best way possible.”

By sharing her and her friend’s story again, Sam has given hope to the next generation one more time.

* Name changed upon request due to safety concerns. 

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Andie’s story

It all started with a “harmless” joke.

Andie, just beginning their conversion to Judaism, was simply trying to connect with their family at the movies. On any given day, Andie is generally guarded around their family, and with good cause. “A lot of members of my family of origin are pretty homophobic and say a lot of really insensitive or offensive things — before and after I came out.” Ready to endure and respond to this kind of behavior, they set off to hopefully make the best of an evening together.

But their cousin had other ideas. Andie was extremely close with this cousin and his sister, “they were basically two extra members of my family.” But “as we grew up, he really started saying and doing things that were not ok — being really sexist, being really homophobic.” And Andie tried to avoid him and stay in a space that made them feel safe, but he caught them off guard.

While waiting in line for popcorn, their cousin decided now was his moment. He said, “Why are the rabbis running down the street? They were chasing a penny.” Andie was stunned. They were ready to hear offensive comments, but not about their newly found religion. Andie’s safe space was torn apart.

No one thought there was anything wrong with Andie’s cousin’s casual antisemitism, not even their mother, who as a devout Christian that believes Christians are persecuted in American society, might be the one person to truly get it. But she simply dismissed Andie’s concern with, “Don’t pay attention to it.”

Andie’s family has a history of not understanding where they’re coming from. “I’m neurodivergent, I do and say weird things and I have a very funky sense of humor, and I kind of feel like that puts a target on me a little bit with my family.” And on top of that, they grew up in a far-right-leaning, religious household where they were told their whole lives that being gay was bad — “It’s sinful.”

They were taught that religion was not a welcoming place for all, until they discovered there was more out there than what their family believed. “When I explored more about other religions I was like, ‘Oh, so it’s not all bad, it can even be a really positive thing in somebody’s life.’”

They’ve since become more devoutly Jewish and find it healing, Shabbat in particular. “It’s an anticapitalistic practice that’s very important to me in my life, and also, as somebody with a lot of chronic illnesses, I need time where I am basically just doing nothing to heal my body and rest my neshama (soul) after a long week of working.”

Still, when they go to visit their family, they aren’t being respected or accepted, so they try and find ways to work around their family’s expectations, like dressing in ways that will be approved of — shorts and a t-shirt instead of long sleeves and a long skirt — or trying to keep kosher in their own quiet way even though their grandmother insists on offering them shrimp in a manner that feels to Andie like it’s a “power play.”

Fortunately, Andie has found their chosen family — people who make them feel seen — throughout their conversion to Judaism while at college and beyond into their new life. “I live 3,000 miles away now and I’ve cultivated a really good group of people who understand my quirks, and I feel very loved.”

And so, it didn’t all start with a joke, but maybe that’s where it all ends.

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Addie’s story

“Don’t mind him, he’s just being cheap like a Jew.”

When Addie, working as a cashier in Foxborough in 2021, heard those words from a customer watching her companion fumble through his wallet, she felt an immediate physical reaction.

But this wasn’t Addie’s first time experiencing antisemitism.

Growing up in a small town southwest of Boston, Addie remembers being one of a handful of Jewish kids in her graduating class of 360 students. From the cliques that formed around church groups to being singled out during her history class unit on Judaism, pervasive feelings and messages of otherness were omnipresent throughout her formative years.

During a lecture on dictators in her freshman year, a classmate turned to her and said, “Addie, you need to go hide because the Nazis are going to come for you.”

“I didn’t think too much of it when it happened,” Addie recalls. “I was a shy kid. I went through the day, didn’t say anything to my teachers, didn’t say anything to anyone else, but I came home and was telling my mom about school, and I said, ‘Oh, this kid said this to me,’ and she sort of just stopped in her tracks and was like, ‘What? Can you repeat that?’ She said, ‘You know that’s not ok, right?’ I told her that I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do.”

Her father called the school, and Addie remembers feeling embarrassed, fearing reprisal and not wanting to draw additional attention to herself. After she met with the principal and told him what happened, the boy was moved across the room away from her, but he never apologized. “I think I kind of knew that nothing was going to be done,” Addie says.

Her mom and dad, however, insisted that calling it out was necessary. “Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, I’m glad they did it, it was a learning and growing moment for me to realize that things like this happen and they happen often.”

During her senior year, a teacher told Addie that her congestion from a cold made her sound like “an old Jewish woman from New York.”

“I had to hold myself back — she was an adult and an authority figure,” Addie says. “Now, looking back, I know I should’ve done or said something. That was another moment.”

Addie believes that these “moments” helped shape her into the person she is today and gave her the courage and confidence to speak up that day in Foxborough.  

Noticing that the man was looking at her and toward Addie with embarrassment, the woman continued, “Oh don’t worry, she’s not Jewish.”

Heart racing, Addie says that she “put the customer service part of [herself] aside” and said, “Actually, yes I am, and you shouldn’t say things like that.” She says that the woman seemed ashamed of what she said but didn’t offer an apology, and Addie’s manager gave her the time to step away and calm down after she explained what occurred.

While she knows antisemitism is never going to completely go away, Addie isn’t hiding, and these experiences have only strengthened her Jewish identity. “I hate that it happened, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it,” Addie says, noting that she shares these incidents as often as she can to encourage others to fight back. “I define it as a source of pride. It’s a badge of honor.”

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Campus Education and Allyship Grants Pool

CJP’s Center for Combating Antisemitism (CCA) is actively inviting applications for our new Campus Education and Allyship grants pool. This initiative is seeking up to four grants of up to $50,000 each to kick-start projects aimed at antisemitism education and fostering allyship on campus.

Eligible initiatives include those that:

  • Educate Jewish and non-Jewish students
  • Educate campus administrators, staff, and faculty
  • Cultivate allyship between Jewish student organizations and fellow campus groups, including faith-based and affinity organizations

We’re looking for proposals that are innovative, impactful, and demonstrate a plan for sustained engagement and education, ultimately increasing understanding or building bridges across campus communities. These grants are specifically for projects in the 2024–2025 school year.

Deadline for applications: Friday, May 3 at 5:00 p.m. ET.   
For more details and to apply, please visit this form.  

To learn more about CJP’s work to combat antisemitism, please visit: https://ma.cjp.org/antisemitism-initiative  

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Addressing Antisemitism Head-On

By Melissa Garlick, Senior Director of Combating Antisemitism and Building Civic Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies

Underpinning Dara Horn’s newest piece on antisemitism appearing in The Atlantic, “Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies,” is the same premise that grounds CJP’s growing work to combat antisemitism: that “one confounding fact in this onslaught of the world’s oldest hatred is that American society should have been ready to handle it.” Almost six months after the attacks of 10/7, it becomes clearer each day that antisemitism is both pervasive in our society and that American civic society and many of our leaders were not and are still not prepared to handle it.  

It is this exact space that CJP is building out our work to combat antisemitism.  

In this month’s newsletter, we highlight CJP’s increased investments in security for early childhood centers and day schools to ensure that our Jewish communal organizations are prepared on physical security as they are forced to contend with the rise of antisemitism. Our partners at JCRC also wrote this month about growing calls by city councils in Greater Boston to hold public hearings for ceasefire resolutions. While JCRC has worked with council leaders to better prepare them on the complexities of these issues, the public hearings themselves have also brought an onslaught of antisemitic rhetoric and comments. Finally, as CJP builds out and supports work to better train and resource campus administrators with tools on antisemitism, we are highlighting resources for students as anti-Zionism continues on campuses during spring semester.

Through communal security, working with civic leadership, and supporting Jewish students, CJP and its partners are working to address that “confounding fact” Dara Horn so aptly highlighted so that our society once and for all ensures that antisemitism becomes politically and socially unacceptable by addressing it head-on.

Stay informed with our antisemitism newsletter

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21st Annual Connie Spear Birnbaum Memorial Lecture

Sunday, April 14, 2024
6:45 a.m. — 8:00 p.m. ET


Jewish Arts Collaborative
1320 Centre St
Newton Centre, MA 02459
and on Zoom

Register

Now in its 21st year, thousands of people have come together at the Birnbaum Lecture from all parts of Greater Boston’s Jewish community to hear from some of the most prominent and inspirational scholars and leaders of our time – always in an atmosphere of openness, inclusion and mutual support.

After his opening lecture, William Daroff will be in conversation with three area Jewish campus activists addressing “NAVIGATING UNCHARTED WATERS: War, Anti-Semitism, and the American Campus.”

Music has always been a major component of the Birnbaum Memorial Lecture. As in the past, beautiful choral selections and classical chamber music will again be featured at this year’s lecture. The Zachor Choral Ensemble will offer lovely melodies, harmonies, and gorgeous solos to provide a musical ambience to an evening of learning, commemorating, and community.

For security and planning purposes, advance registration required for those attending in person. Can’t attend in person? Join us virtually.

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How College Students Can Address Anti-Israel Activity on Campus

By Rich Tenorio

In recent decades, pro-Palestinian students on American college campuses have incorporated “Israeli Apartheid Week” into their activism. This year, amid the fallout from the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and the ongoing Israeli response, there is a chance of increased anti-Israel and anti-Zionist demonstrations on college campuses.

For Jewish students who identify as Zionist, this may create or heighten an uncomfortable atmosphere. There are resources that exist online that can help students who might feel unwelcome on campus during this period. The most important thing for students to remember is that they are not alone.

Accusations raised against Israel

Anti-Zionism at colleges and universities has been documented by multiple organizations nationwide. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) examined campus anti-Zionism earlier this decade, including with reference to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and noting that all criticism of Israel was not necessarily antisemitic. The Anti-Defamation League has documented anti-Zionism on college campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks—from Students for Justice in Palestine rallies in the immediate aftermath of the attacks to campus walkouts in late October to cause for further concern by the end of 2023.

How to respond

Students may feel unsure or uncertain over how to respond to anti-Zionist arguments. There is advice available through many organizations; here are some resources to access first.

  • The Israeli American Council has a downloadable activism resource packet regarding the Israel-Hamas war.  as well as  the Mishelanu program for college students. The latter has two categories – Fellows and Ambassadors. IAC New England currently offers Mishelanu at four campuses in the region: BU, Brandeis, Northeastern and UMass-Amherst.
  • The AJC provides a downloadable advocacy guide for students facing anti-Zionism called “Know Your Rights.”
  • Students at Brandeis University can apply for a fellowship to battle Jew hate from the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.
  • The Zionist feminist organization Zioness has a 58-page toolkit on campus antisemitism and anti-Zionism, including tips on deescalation.
  • Hillel International, an organization devoted to Jewish campus life worldwide, has an extensive resource website on antisemitism, including anti-Zionism.
  • AJC New England has a “Campus Library” resources section for students in both college and high school.

The ADL has many tools for dealing with antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on campus, including:

  • Think. Plan. Act.,” a resource hub for facing antisemitism on campus.
  • Recommendations on how to counter antisemitism at colleges and universities gleaned from campus surveys pre- and post-Oct. 7.
  • Six specific tips for combating campus antisemitism.
Parents’ concerns

The Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi has a downloadable booklet of resources for parents regarding antisemitism on campus.

For faculty, administrators and staff
  • The National Education Association has an article on its NEANow site that shares tips for how educators can deescalate antisemitism on campus and how they can prevent anti-Israel criticism from crossing over into antisemitism.
  • Hillel International runs the Campus Climate Initiative, a program that educates college administrators on how to fight antisemitism and insure inclusion of all students on campus.
  • Both Zioness and the historic Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi also have advice on allyship for campus administrators.
For students applying to college
  • The organization TribeTalk seeks to inform high school seniors about the climate at the colleges and universities they are considering. One way it does this is through workshops on antisemitism and the ways it can intersect with anti-Zionism.
  • Hillel International has a series of webinars for Jewish high school students and their families about the college prep process, including in the changed atmosphere of today. One webinar focuses on antisemitism on campus.
  • Adam Lehman, the CEO of Hillel International, penned an opinion piece for Newsweek offering advice on how to choose a school during a campus antisemitism increase.
  • The Lappin Foundation has a program called Leaders for Tomorrow for high school juniors and seniors. Its goals include teaching about the dangers of antisemitism, and how to be a leader in high school and college.
Advice for allies

For non-Jewish administrators and students on campus, there are ways to show support.

The ADL offers a guide, “6 Ways to Be an Ally,” that encourages you to do the following:

  • Support targets, whether you know them or not.
  • Don’t participate.
  • Tell aggressors to stop.
  • Inform a trusted adult.
  • Get to know people instead of judging them.
  • Be an ally online.

Students should not face anti-Zionism or antisemitism alone. They are encouraged to reach out to their local Hillels on campus, and also to report antisemitic incidents to the ADL.

Rich Tenorio covers antisemitism news for JewishBoston.com. His work has appeared in international, national, regional and local media outlets. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a cartoonist. Email him at richt@cjp.org.

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Hillels Receive Grants From CJP To Fight Antisemitism on Campus

By Combined Jewish Philanthropies

Hillels have always been devoted to supporting Jewish life on college campuses and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) has worked closely with on-campus partners around safety and security for years. Now, however, there’s a heightened level of fear on the part of college and university staff and students amid the uptick of antisemitic incidents and vandalism, Hillel officials say. In Greater Boston and around the country, students report feeling isolated and scared. At the same time, campus Hillels grapple with understaffing and depleted resources. 

To buoy their essential work, CJP has created a $360,000 Emergency Security and Antisemitism Support Grant Pool, and the support arrives at a pivotal time. As part of our ongoing 5-Point Plan to combat Jewish hate, these grants will be divided into two parts: first, addressing the increased cost of security, and second, providing additional support as it relates to combating antisemitism crisis response, ranging from student support, staffing, educational programming, and additional security needs.  

The Hillel Council will receive $40,000, while eight local Hillels and eight local Chabad houses will receive $20,000 each, helping to create safer and more welcoming campuses. 

“CJP has been an incredible partner to Hillel Council of New England well before Oct. 7,” says Miriam Berkowitz Blue, executive director of Hillel Council of New England. “In these last few months, we have felt CJP’s support even more through increased opportunities for community building and gatherings—not just for Jewish students, but for campus professionals as well. The success of the student delegation for the March for Israel in Washington, D.C., bringing 200 students together for this momentous event, further demonstrates the impact of CJP’s commitment to fostering a sense of belonging amongst the Jewish student population across Greater Boston. The increased support through this emergency grant will help sustain our Hillel’s efforts to build Jewish student life across campuses so that they feel secure and safe on campus. We are grateful to CJP for their unwavering support at a time when it is needed most.” 

Overall, Hillel professionals say they are increasingly turning to CJP funding to improve physical security in their buildings, as well as for training, guidance on emergency plans and procedures, and as a meaningful partner in conversations with campus law enforcement and security, all while supporting student wellness. 

For example, the Hillel Council of New England has provided services to students from 13 campuses, a significant increase from the seven campuses they usually serve. Hillels are encountering students seeking help for the very first time, they say. Faculty and other university staff are also experiencing similar challenges, and they need support. 

This mirrors nationwide trends: Hillel International has established a national grant pool to support campuses in crisis, receiving requests totaling nearly $835,000 from 99 applications. So far, 87 grants have been awarded, amounting to over $700,000, mainly for security initiatives. 

“This is the most difficult time ever to be Jewish on a college campus. Our students are lonely and afraid—and need Hillel more than ever.  We are deeply appreciative to CJP for being our critical partner in protectingJewish students and fighting antisemitism on campus,says Rabbi Jevin Eagle, executive director of BU Hillel.

Nonetheless, funding gaps persist, officials say, particularly for staffing and ongoing programming. According to Hillel, 52 campuses that have already received funding reported additional need for support. CJP is grateful to be able to offer tangible resources at a turbulent time. 

Dr. Sarah Abramson, senior vice president of strategy and impact at CJP, says, “One of CJP’s most sacred responsibilities is to ensure the safety and security of all our community members, including those on the front lines of the emergency on college campuses. We want Jewish life to flourish where our young adults are growing and learning. CJP is proud to make these grants to our campus partners.”

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The Climate on Campuses: A Student’s Perspective

By Polina Kempinsky
Guest Contributor

The terror attack on Oct. 7 has shaken my worldview to the core. I stopped feeling safe, became fearful, and started to wonder where I belong. To strengthen the sentiment, there was an increase in tension and antisemitism at Harvard University.

It’s important to say that, for the most part, the support I received from many friends and professors, from the first day, was incredible. Many, including members of the Muslim community, have reached out. I felt like I was receiving an incredible hug from them, as well as from the local Jewish community, without which I couldn’t have made it.

But there were other voices as well. Some have started as early as Oct. 7; others have become louder over time. The key question, at least for me, is not whether Harvard University president Claudine Gay should resign or not. The question is what can be done to address antisemitism’s core drivers on campus—stemming from the community and the institutions.

What drives the issue?

As to the community, much of the discourse is aggressive—or occurring in an echo chamber—sometimes turning into violence. For example, much of Harvard’s internal communication is occurring on Sidechat, an anonymous community-based app, featuring almost daily antisemitic posts. Israelis in school WhatsApp groups are often receiving aggressive and antisemitic comments. There was at least one documented incident of a physical attack of a Jew on campus.

As an institution, it feels like we’re alone in this. Some relevant university officials attempt avoiding conversations with us. At the end of the day, even if officials have attended meetings with us, as the president mentioned in the hearing, the outcome is still not there. Events of aggression toward Jews are often overlooked or belittled. For example, imagine getting out of class to a chanting of “from the river to the sea”—and seeing a senior university official standing next to you, knowing that you’re Jewish, and not saying anything. At the end of the day, Jewish (as well as Muslim) students don’t feel safe on campus, and the university’s response to it, if even happening, is often too little, too late.

Looking for solutions

There are no simple solutions to these issues. I understand, respect, and cherish the right of people to free speech, but I often struggle to understand why my right to feel safe is secondary.

If I could express three wishes, I’d ask for protocols, space for bottom-up initiatives and creation of a culture of discussion.

As for protocols, I want clear guidelines as to the university’s responsibility when handling antisemitic or Islamophobic occurrences: point of contact, timelines, guidelines, and methods. I would want a clear mechanism to know that I get the protection I need, when I need it—regardless of context, in a similar manner to best practice ombudsman positions.

As for space for bottom-up initiatives, the logic stems from the university’s long time to react. It took the university over two weeks to offer “community spaces” after Oct. 7 for impacted students. Students have managed to create such spaces for themselves within hours. A month after Oct. 7, I led an initiative of small group discussions on the topic, bringing together students from across the political spectrum to openly talk about the situation—an initiative that has created collaborations and built bridges between communities. The university has been promising such a space since Oct. 7, and as of now, I have attended one such teach-in as late as December. I’m not saying this failure stems from ill intentions, as much as this is the nature of things, like markets determining prices or the benefits of democracy.

The third is creating a culture of discussion, which is in the hands of faculty. In one of my classes this semester, after receiving comments on not creating an engaging enough space, the professor asked us to debate on several topics. One of them was “for/against Black face.” As a student rightfully responded, this is as useful as debating for/against clean water. There are so many other topics that could be discussed—why are we not using them? We’re not used to having difficult or complex conversations at school, often because we’re told we don’t have to. But if we can’t do it at Harvard, where and when will we be able to do so?

Polina Kempinsky, 27, is a master’s in public policy student at The Harvard Kennedy School. She is from Israel and previously worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group. She holds a BA in philosophy, politics and economics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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How to Fight Antisemitism on College Campuses

By Combined Jewish Philanthropies

American college campuses are increasingly hostile places for Jewish students. In the wake of the attacks by Hamas on Israel, we are seeing a surge of harassment, vandalism, and violence against Jewish people across the country. In Greater Boston, the increase in antisemitic and anti-Zionist incidents has been deeply alarming, particularly as it has impacted our Jewish students on college campuses.

All forms of antisemitism on campus are unacceptable. CJP will work tirelessly to combat it—and we need your help. 

Take action
CJP’s 5 Point Plan to Fight Antisemitism

Read more about our 5-point plan to fight antisemitism, focusing on strategies to increase public awareness, community engagement, allyship, education, and communal security. 

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Recent Antisemitism on Massachusetts College Campuses

By Combined Jewish Philanthropies

We are seeing a disturbing rise in antisemitism across our school campuses in Massachusetts. These are only a few recent examples of how these events have impacted Jewish students on campuses across the commonwealth.

Recent antisemitic incidents on Massachusetts college campuses

Boston University: Graffiti at BU Hillel Being Investigated as Possible Hate Crime by BUPD, Suffolk County DA

University of Massachusetts – Amherst: UMass Amherst student arrested for allegedly punching Jewish student and spitting on Israeli flag

Wellesley College: Wellesley College under federal investigation for alleged antisemitism

Toolkits and resources to respond to Jewish hate
  • Report Campus Hate. This organization was created by Hillel International, the Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network to empower Jewish students to address growing antisemitism on college campuses. Any incident reported through the website or phone is reviewed by a trained security professional who will work with law enforcement and the campus Hillel to file a report with the university, ensuring the proper tracking of antisemitic crimes. Additionally, students can be connected to wellness services, as well as tools and resources to help improve campus climates.
  • Reach out to CALL, the Campus Antisemitism Legal Line. It is staffed by a team of volunteer lawyers and overseen by Hillel International, the Anti-Defamation League, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Students, parents, faculty members and staff can report an incident online or by texting “CALLhelp” to 51555.
  • Visit the AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America. Its comprehensive database of antisemitic activity on U.S. college and university campuses is available here.
  • Use the IAC’s Israel-Hamas war activism toolkit to be informed to stand up on campus.
  • Use this Student Action Plan toolkit from AJC and share this toolkit for university administrators with your schools.
  • Keep visiting the College Students resources page on FaceJewishHate.org for new tools and action steps on how you can address this surge of harassment, vandalism and violence against Jewish students.
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College Student Aims to De-Escalate Campus Tensions

By Rich Tenorio

When Nim Ravid, a junior at Harvard University, learned about the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel, the tragedy was personal for him. A veteran of the Israel Defense Forces who served as an officer in the spokesperson’s unit, Ravid lost seven friends and colleagues in the attacks, including at the Supernova Rave concert.

As Ravid was processing his grief, he learned that over 30 student organizations had signed a statement blaming Israel for the attacks.

“The environment on campus did not make it easier,” he said.

Although emotions were raw at school, Ravid decided to try to speak with classmates in some of the organizations and convey his viewpoint.

“I spoke with at least five [organizations] that decided to retract the statement,” he said, adding, “Since day one, I’ve been talking to a lot of students in smaller settings who don’t know that much about what is happening in Israel. A lot of non-Jewish peers don’t have an understanding of the conflict.” After speaking with them, he said, “they have much more understanding and empathy” in the wake of the “horrible terrorist attack.”

Ravid is part of an alliance of Jewish student leaders on campus who represent both the college and its graduate schools. Outreach to the wider student community is one of several ways he is trying to spread awareness and de-escalate tensions since the attacks. These range from helping to organize vigils; assisting with an Instagram account, “Survived to Tell,” which posts videos of individuals it identifies as hostages and survivors of the attacks; and serving as a member of a recently-formed university-wide task force on antisemitism.

An inclusive approach

In these endeavors, Ravid seeks an inclusive approach.

For example, with Survived to Tell, “some of our non-Jewish friends all around the world edit videos,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to be Jewish or Israeli to help out.”

The account received 10 million views in its first week. It has over 10,000 followers.

“So many amazing people want to help,” Ravid said. “We find ways that people can help. One thing is to support some of our initiatives,” including Survived to Tell, which gives “access to personal stories, from Israel all the way [to] here.”

Although he’s encouraged by endeavors such as the Instagram page and the vigils, he’s also concerned by what he describes as vitriol both online and in demonstrations on campus.

“Not everything is visible from above,” Ravid said. “A lot of things happen on social media, including Sidechat, where Harvard students can post in an anonymous app. There’s been some horrible, horrible antisemitism and hate speech going on in that app.”

And, he said, “certainly social media does not happen in a vacuum … It’s fairly difficult, very difficult for Jewish students, Israeli students in particular. It’s not a comfortable or safe time to be around a university campus.”

“The right thing is to de-escalate,” Ravid said. “It’s how we can live together.” He noted that “Jewish students have been impacted, and also Muslim students. I try to steadily encourage de-escalation [and] find spaces where we can hear each other.”

Rich Tenorio covers antisemitism news for JewishBoston.com. His work has appeared in international, national, regional and local media outlets. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a cartoonist. Email him at richt@cjp.org

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