These Reflections Illuminate What Jewish College Students Are Feeling Right Now – Kveller
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These Reflections Illuminate What Jewish College Students Are Feeling Right Now

These nine unique perspectives from students across the country speak to a range of feelings about the current campus protests.

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Earlier this week, we shared the results of a survey that reflects what some parents of Jewish college students are feeling right now as protests surrounding the Israel-Hamas war spring up on campuses across the nation. But how are the Jewish students themselves actually feeling?

Of course, every student is their own world, has their own perspective, and no one piece of coverage can really hold all those viewpoints at once. Yet as I look at my social media feeds right now, it feels entirely dichotomous. On the one side are people who see campus protests as absolutely just, who scoff at every bit of criticism as irrelevant and missing the urgency of the moment; on the other are those who see these protests as purely antisemitic, disconnected from reality, privileged, violent, misguided. The two never seem to meet.

But it seems that for many Jewish students, the truth lies somewhere in the messy middle. Our partner site Hey Alma, which is geared towards young Jews including many college students, attempted to capture a wide spectrum of Jewish opinions and experiences in universities in an excellent, just published collection of nine articles that all explore what it feels like to be Jewish on campus right now.

Whether or not you are ensconced in one of the two aforementioned firm opinions about campuses, it is worth reading, if only to get a sense of what the lived Jewish experience on these campuses is really like for these nine students — as diverse and complex are our people. These reflections are thoughtful, deeply connected and deeply feeling, whether or not your agree with them.

Students write about being caught in the middle of multiple identities: “My Judaism is fractured and bent out of shape,” a young student from Barnard College shared, feeling equally unmoored at “Shabbat dinners at Hillel” and at “seder on the encampment.” A freshman at Yale feels caught between “my Jewish community I hold so dear and the campus activism with which I deeply empathize.”

Some still have faith that a bridge between dichotomies exists — “I believe deeply in the ability for us to come together for peace,” writes one student at Gonzaga University, “even as everyone around me seems to be devolving into extremism and violence.”

Some students feel like they are confronted with antisemitism every single day — “the encampment near my home has become a breeding ground for antisemitic rhetoric and actions,” a student at the University of Michigan shared.

An Israeli student at Columbia wonders if she should hide her identity and ultimately decides not to. A student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wants her peers calling for “intifada” to look her in the face — “we’re standing right here, and you’re calling for our destruction,” she writes.

A Jewish student involved with the encampment in Trinity College shares his pride at being able “to understand the necessity of extending empathy to others and standing in solidarity with all marginalized people.” A student at NYU was arrested while protesting on the first night of Passover. “As I was bound in zip-ties for over five hours, I kept in mind all the students in Gaza who, unlike me, would not be able to return to their studies tomorrow,” she wrote.

A 25-year-old Israeli student at the University of Kansas is mourning her home of Kibbutz of Nir Oz, where many of her friends have been killed or taken hostage. “I’ve watched my classmates struggle with their feelings of insignificance as tertiary stakeholders in a distant war,” she writes.

“Maybe if I weren’t grieving the massacre of my community,” she concedes, “I would feel differently; however, if I weren’t grieving the massacre of my community, this wouldn’t be happening.”

You can read the full collection of articles on Hey Alma.

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