Dear Friends of Hillel,
During the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, I heard from students that they felt unsafe, especially online. One student said, “It’s crazy. People have gone from criticizing Israel's government to attacking Israel’s existence.”
Another student said, “People I know are going after me just for being Jewish, accusing me of killing Palestinian babies or wanting Israel for the ‘oil’. I have literally never said anything about Israel to them. I don't feel safe.”
I’m generally not an alarmist. I rely on facts to inform me in a perilous world. I have tried to reassure parents and students with this same perspective. Current statistics, however, cite a more than 400% increase in reported anti-Semitic incidences across the country in just the last two weeks. This is very alarming as are the attacks against Jewish individuals, synagogues, and business. Even more distressing are the tens of thousands of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel social media posts; many of which are directed at our Jewish college students.
The past two weeks have tested the limits of my usual perspectives. I’m reaching out today because I think you should know what’s happening - scores of students feel in need of support.
When I am asked about Anti-Semitism or Anti-Zionism on campus, I generally say: Yes, it’s true there is an alarming rise in incidents. There is no excuse for such behavior. And yet, students assure me that, for the most part, their Jewish experience on campus is generally very positive.
For them, the online world has become toxic. Yet, they can’t put down their phones. They’re up until 4am watching an onslaught of disturbing posts that are increasingly unabashed in their outright Anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric.
Debate and dialogue, the cornerstones of university education, are now unwelcome. Instead, misinformation and propaganda dominate the screen. 24 second videos and 140 character tweets attempt to boil 100 years of history into soundbites that are inevitably biased and simplistic.
Hillel instills Jewish pride and identity. We build bridges of understanding. These efforts are stalled amidst the cloud of emotion because the human brain can’t scream and learn at the same time. Influence emerges through relationships and by listening with open-heartedness. It’s never ok to dox and attack students for their opinions.
The in-person world, which was already fraught from Covid, feels even more vulnerable now. In times of crisis, Hillel acts on multiple fronts: as educators, care providers, security creators, advocacy trainers and holistic wellness advisors. We do all this while our professional staff grapples with their own emotions and concerns for themselves, their family members, students, and alumni.
Our Israel Fellows offer opportunities for students to check in (in person and on social media), creating a safe space for those who have questions, feel threatened, are confused or simply overwhelmed.
Our Senior Jewish Educator provides resources to learn more and to get beyond the senseless social-media-blame-game. We encourage all students to engage with narrative and history to seek greater fact-based understanding and move beyond toxic social media consumption.
Our whole staff is involved and engaged with students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, speaking about the importance of their mental health.
Hillels of Georgia is working with our University administration partners to call out and combat Anti-Semitism; and to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Jewish students, faculty and staff on our campuses.
Students are getting a lot of information from different sources right now - they are counting on Hillel to cut through the noise and identify sources for accurate information which can dispel the incredibly brazen misinformation circulating online.
I am proud that Hillels of Georgia and at each of our campus Hillels is a safe, secure, welcoming and inclusive space for so many different students and their perspectives.
At Hillels of Georgia:
We are Am Echad B’Lev Echad…One People With One Heart.
We Stand With Israel and Against Anti-Semitism.
We are a safe, welcoming and inclusive “home away from home” for our Jewish students…and all students.
I am grateful for your commitment to Hillel ensuring that we are able to achieve our mission of creating vibrant Jewish life on campus and instilling our Jewish students with pride while supporting them during these challenging times…and always.
B'Shalom, Elliot B. Karp, CEO
PS-You can help strengthen our Jewish communities on campus and instill Jewish pride in our students…now and in the future. Your generous support to the 2021 Hillels of Georgia Annual Fund is greatly appreciated. If you have not yet made a gift, or would like to increase your commitment, please go to hillelsofgeorgia.org/supportus. Thank you.