Hate has infiltrated my beloved alma mater, University of Michigan. Like my alumni friends, it’s hard for me to fathom that the hate on campus is directed toward people like me, a Jew and a supporter of Israel. We, the Jewish community, must show the university that we care about each other, our safety, and our freedom.
Pro-Palestinians and certain members of the Muslim community at the University of Michigan are united and organized under the student group SAFE. They use any reason to speak out against Jews and Israel. Their voices are heard and the school administration listens, knowing the group is powerfully united under their own agenda. The Jewish community on the other hand, remains relatively silent.
The school administration effectively promotes an anti-Semitic environment on campus by neglecting to provide adequate protection for Jewish and pro-Israel students from SAFE’s effort to intimidate.
Leading up to the U-M student government vote on boycotting Israel in 2014, SAFE verbally attacked Jewish students. No serious action was taken by the administration to stop their threats. Furthermore, just months ago, Jesse Arm, a sophomore from the Metro Detroit Jewish community was stripped of his right to free speech on campus.
SAFE decided to stage a protest on the same day that American student, Ezra Schwartz, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while traveling to deliver snacks to Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. Ezra had been one of Jesse’s friends, and Jesse, a member of the Central Student Government (CSG) asked SAFE to change its message and choose another day for its protest. Jesse’s peaceful exercise of his right of free speech led to frivolous charges and a subsequent trial by the ethics committee. Jesse was cleared of wrongdoing but faced the trauma of having to defend himself as well as the potential dismissal from his position with the CSG right before final exams.
Rina Steinberg, a freshman at U-M, wrote about the event in the Times of Israel, how uncomfortable and even how unsafe she feels as a Jew and Israel supporter on campus, specifically because of the singling out and unfair treatment of Jewish students by recognized groups under the university umbrella.
History has indicated that when the Jewish community keeps silent, anti-Semitism will continue to grow. Jewish establishments must rethink the way they deal with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (which are really one and the same) on campus and speak up.
Individuals in the Jewish community need to do the same. The Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Law and Justice, StandWithUs and the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan are ready and able to provide legal help to any student who feels threatened or concerned. If you have a connection with the University of Michigan, please take action by making your opinion known.
In February of this year, a few individuals spoke in front of the university’s Board of Regents, and I did so in March. The board indicated our concerns are not going unnoticed and that our actions do have an impact on the university. On the other hand, the university responded to letters from concerned individuals in the community by denying there was a problem. Yet, despite this contradiction, we must push forward.
We must increase our advocacy and engagement on Michigan campuses. This is the only way that we can force universities like Michigan to take real action to protect Jews. If not, our children, grandchildren, siblings, or friends at U-M will continue to be attacked and silenced, and this is something I can no longer stand.
Please reach out to the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Law and Justice, StandWithUS and the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan if you would like more information or assistance to support our Jewish and pro-Israel U-M students.