Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Letter to the editor: These Jews say there’s nothing scary about anti-Zionism

(Jews Against Zionism/ Courtesy)

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20, 23:19).

This letter will be released to the larger Emerson community on the fifth day of Pesach, or Passover. It will also mark 200 days of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. During this time, many different Zionist organizations nationwide have attempted to speak on behalf of us, Jewish students. However, Emerson’s Jews Against Zionism refuses to be silenced or used as justification for the ongoing atrocities in Gaza and over the last 75 years in the land of Palestine. 

In the story of Passover, we tell the story of bondage, one in which a king enslaved our people and where we fought together and found freedom. This story was once used by the runaway slaves in the Americas as a tool of inspiration for their escape; in honor of this revolutionary history, we once again draw these parallels as we fight for the freedom of Palestine. While we do not wish to center ourselves in the dialogue about Palestine, we know as Jews that we hold a unique power and voice in this conversation. This is why we are writing to stand loudly and proudly with Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine. The following are JAZ’s demands of Emerson College and its community;

1) We ask that Emerson College, the Board of Trustees, and President Bernhardt call for a permanent Ceasefire, and an end to the bombardment in Gaza. 

The current bombardment on Gaza, that began on Oct. 7, has caused the death of over 30,000 Palestinian civilians, a massive portion of whom are women and children. This is a humanitarian crisis, and we refuse to let Israel execute the genocide of innocent people. The United States sent more than $15 billion in military aid to Israel in 2023 alone. As a Massachusetts institution, Emerson College has the voice and the obligation to protest our tax dollars being used to fund these atrocities. 

2) We reject the notion that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. We also assert that Jewish values and religion do not align with the genocidal and racist state of Israel.

We believe in the Jerusalem Accord definition that “Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility, or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).” While antisemitism and anti-Zionism can overlap, anti-Zionism is an ideology that calls for the liberation of oppressed peoples and does not aim to harm Jewish people. 

As the descendants of survivors, and those who carry the intergenerational trauma of the Holocaust, we ask that one historical atrocity not be used as a tool of comparison for another. “Never again” means never again for anyone, not just never again for Jewish people. We understand the historical context that forced many Holocaust survivors to settle in occupied Palestine, however, we also know that the state of Israel has systematically used and abused these survivors in order to justify their war crimes. 

We recognize the intersectionality of Palestinian liberation and the overlap of marginalized identities. We believe that any form of social justice needs to include Palestinian liberation. Anti-racism, disability justice, gender equality, and queer rights cannot exist under Zionism when Israel perpetuates racism, the mass disabling of Palestinians, gendered violence, and pinkwashing.

3) We unequivocally condemn the arrest of 12 Emerson students and one non-Emerson student, and the student suppression surrounding Students for Justice in Palestine and the Emerson College Student Union.

We were deeply disturbed by the arrest of thirteen of our friends and comrades for peacefully protesting outside President Bernhardt’s inauguration. We echo the demands of the Emerson 13 in asking for accountability for the Emerson College Police Department, and ask that Emerson centers the affected students when trying to mend this situation. 

4) We call for Emerson College to publish its financial records and demonstrate financial transparency around any Zionist or Israeli-tied donations and/or donors. 

Often, Zionism wears the face of higher education. In 2011, Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology made a joint bid to develop a new NYC campus on Roosevelt Island, and received $100 million in City Capital for the campus now known as Cornell Tech. The program has received an additional $170 million through private investments, and its website boasts of the 25 tech startups they “incubated,” as if shareholder profit and buyouts that grow tech monopolies are the point of higher education. They call this partnership a “cross-cultural experience,” and host conferences about “the future of mobility,” while both cultures restrict the mobility of the Palestinian people and systematically seek to exterminate them. 

As students of a supposedly progressive art school, we hoped that our host institution would be more conscious of the crimes of colonialism than its STEM contemporaries, but Emerson College has continued to align with the Zionist status quo of higher education. Emerson College does not disclose the identities of individual donors to the school. If there have been Zionist donors affiliated with Emerson, they are not only complicit with genocide, but cooperative with it. We demand that Emerson College fully disclose its sources of private funding as many other higher education institutions do.

5) We ask for the removal of Hillel from Emerson’s campus and a replacement of an Emerson-elected Jewish chaplain. 

Hillel is a fundamentally Zionist organization. On their website, they include “Israel” as one of the main parts of their vision for the foundation. Emerson Hillel spends a great deal of its resources promoting their Birthright trip (in which Jewish teenagers can visit Israel for free), and celebrating events such as “Israel Palooza”. While Emerson has a reportedly large Jewish population (13%), we do not feel comfortable in the only designated Jewish space on campus, and low attendance at Hillel events reflects that. Not only is this frustrating to us, but it’s also unprecedented as both Muslim and Christian students have instituted Chaplains that are Emerson-elected, instead of outwardly sourced through an organization like Hillel. We ask that Emerson create a space for Jewish students to practice that isn’t tied to the state of Israel. The Jewish community is wildly diverse, and our on-campus space should reflect that. 

6) We demand that Emerson College work to address the real causes and manifestations of antisemitism. 

While pro-Palestine activism does not threaten Jewish safety on campus, antisemitism has been a recurring and unresolved issue on campus for almost a decade. Swastikas and other forms of hate graffiti have appeared time and time again, with minimal response or action from the administration. Emerson College does not provide Kosher food options in its dining halls, even with its large Jewish student population. It also does not acknowledge the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the school calendar. This makes it extremely difficult for Jewish students to keep religious observance without falling behind. Emerson College has the resources and the knowledge to make the campus a better place for Jewish students, but instead chooses to stand behind and fund Zionist organizations that do not represent a large portion of us. 


Emerson’s Jews Against Zionism stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine and all those who have been unfairly martyred. As we watch in horror as this genocide continues, we mourn, pray, and fight for a better world. We refuse to stay silent as Emerson College and Zionist organizations attempt to speak for us. We will no longer be used as pawns to justify your silence, we will no longer stand on the wrong side of history. Not in our name, and not ever. There is a Jewish saying during Passover in which we say “Next year in Jerusalem!” Instead, this year we say “Next year in a free Palestine!” Our fight is just beginning from the river to the sea. 

Signed by: 

Celia Fischer ‘27, Maya Drooker ‘27, Emma Samuels ‘27, Sophie Healy ‘25, Griffin Willner ‘24, Leo Zahn ‘26, Adam Nuñez ‘25, Eli Calderone ‘26, Jordan Freid ‘27, Alex Silver ‘27, Anna Bacal Peterson ‘25, Charlotte Brandman ‘27, Eden Unger ‘24, Rowan Wasserman ‘27, Izzie Claudio ‘26, Leah Chazdon ‘27, Mason Vaughan ‘25, Ella Fields ‘25, Michael Santostefano ‘24, Piper Browne ‘27, Sara Fergang ‘24, Rebecca Horton ‘25, Nate Kahn ‘27, Sadie Swayze ‘25, Robin Jacobson ‘25, Dylan Young ‘25, Ethan Cooney ‘25, Liz Fleischer ‘26, Emma Levy ‘26, Matthias Gat ‘28, Gwen Baily ‘27, Jess Adair ‘24, Amalia Sandine ‘25, Amanda Bloome ‘25, Alexa Poplawsky ‘24, Eli Fresco ‘24, Clarisa Carrillo ‘24, Eliza Lederman ‘24, Maddie Thorpe ‘24, Arlo Winokur ‘25, Emmy Portnoy ‘27, Adrian Manansala ‘25, Sydney Schiller ‘25, Mason Hajj (Graduate Program), Kylie Gifis ‘25, Jaya Pernicone ‘24, Chad Fruscione ‘25, Marina Newman ‘25, Jacob Herzof ‘27, Sydney Schiller ‘25, Ryan Kipnis ‘24, Samantha Kavich ‘25, Emmy Kopstein ‘25.

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Comments (17)

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  • M

    Mitchell / May 9, 2024 at 9:12 pm

    This is just a sad reflection on our failure to properly educate the younger generation of Jews. It is clear they lack a basic understanding of the Jewish faith, Jewish history, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. They mistakenly see Israel as the cause of antisemitism (as if antisemitism didn’t exist before 1948), not the ultimate safeguard against it. How lucky for them. It’s bad enough that these “Jewish” students deny their own connection to Eretz Israel, they aim to deprive all Emersonian Jews of that connection. This is the consequence of illiberal education in America. These students could learn from their peers at Columbia: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/e/2PACX-1vRQgyDhIjZupO2H-2rIDXLy_zkf76RoM-_ZIYsOfn9FkI7TETgRtOfXK9VobMvGh6iEZfDPgALXJTCR/pub.

  • B

    B. Bat Yakov / May 1, 2024 at 12:07 pm

    Sadly, this letter demonstrates religious discrimination. Hillel is a religious organization that provides kosher food, prayer services, Shabbat and holiday accommodations, and Torah learning. This brand of Anti-Zionism is indeed Anti – Semitic as JAZ aims to cut Jewish students off from their practices, traditions, and affiliations.

    It doesn’t matter that the authors are Jewish. Throughout the last four millennia, large percentages of Jews have joined the majorities in hopes of avoiding Judaeophobia. The strongest among our people have always been few, but numbers are not important.

    People are not numbers. Protest organizers call for more “bodies”. That’s how those who rely on numbers for strength ultimately think of human beings – as “bodies”, space fillers, mass. It’s a dangerous attitude.

  • J

    Joel / Apr 30, 2024 at 1:56 am

    The UN has a legal definition of genocide and self defense against rapists and terrorists and trying to free hostages doesn’t meet it.

    (*Disclaimer* Part of this comment has been removed because it does not follow The Berkeley Beacon comment section policies.)

  • R

    R / Apr 27, 2024 at 3:46 am

    All of you are very ignorant and islamic terrorist apologists

    Your first line is wrong. OCT 7th was when Hamas under order of Iran committed the war crime of killing 1200 Israelis

    The death is Gaza are all due to Hamas using human shileds.

    The rightful resonse happened after Oct 7th

    Everyone of you either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew

    MLK was a Zionist. Zionist ethical moral and inclusive people

    It is time for Emerson to stand up to you Bund marchers

  • A

    Aristotle / Apr 27, 2024 at 1:59 am

    Greetings from a different known institution.

    I didn’t know “Peterson” is a Jewish name. The people signed here are maybe half Jewish, eight Jewish, or got 10% Jew on a DNA test. They also probably had to google about Pesach. Ridiculous.

    Also, some of them are probably not very intelligent. Maya for example, is a Hebrew name, that was created by Zionists. Maybe she should change her name to Fatma, which is so trendy right now.

  • A

    Adam in LA / Apr 26, 2024 at 6:40 pm

    I don’t know if you’ll win on #5, but 1-4 and 6 are definitely needed.

  • L

    Levana Batya / Apr 26, 2024 at 5:54 pm

    Emerson Hillel has been on Emerson’s campus for 40 years and has more history and consistency than most groups at Emerson. Students and parents know the legacy and importance of Hillel and the abundance of resources they provide. Hillel has been on campus for longer than you’ve been born and will be at Emerson long after you graduate.

    • G

      Griffin Willner / Apr 27, 2024 at 12:56 am

      Is it not weird to you that this is the only outsourced religious group on campus? Is it odd to you that President Jay Bernhardt was on the national Hillel board? Is that not a conflict on interest? Jews like me are uncomfortable at Hillel and we deserve a STUDENT ELECTED Jewish student group and chaplain through the Center for Spiritual Life at our institution. We need a place where all Jews can pray, not a political group with an agenda. Check yourself. A large number of Jews who currently attend this school prefer this idea.

      • A

        Anonymous / Apr 27, 2024 at 11:29 am

        You seem to be insinuating that President Bernhardt’s Jewishness and involvement in Jewish life is a conflict of interest in his job generally, which echoes widespread anti-Jewish tropes. Your statement reads as him “being a Jew is an inhibitor”.

        You’re uncomfortable at Hillel? Did you go to Hebrew school? You want a space where ALL Jews can pray… would you be inclusive of Zionists? Just curious.

      • L

        Levana Batya / Apr 27, 2024 at 5:02 pm

        This is just factually incorrect. Jay has never been on the national board of Hillel. Also, students at all Hillels around the world have always been involved with the interviewing and the hiring of staff. Sounds like you’re angry because YOU were not involved. Hillel International is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world that supports thousands of students in North America, South America, Europe, and Israel. They do an immense amount of good and schools with active Hillels are actively sought out by prospective students because they trust this 100 year old organization. I understand that you feel misrepresented but you are the minority. Leave the majority of the Jewish community out of it.

  • A

    Anonymous / Apr 26, 2024 at 3:15 pm

    Where are you getting low attendance from? We had over 70 people attend our Seder. Hillel makes me and so many other people feels safe. Why should my safe space be removed just because you don’t like it? Why can’t we have multiple Jewish orgs on campus?

    • A

      Adam Nuñez / Apr 26, 2024 at 4:31 pm

      The reason for this, as you should understand quite clearly, is that your space promotes Islamaphobia, engages in genocide denial, uncritically supports apartheid, and considers a racist, settler-colonial ideology a foundational aspect of Judaism. This makes all Jewish students on campus unsafe, because Hillel promotes things that are by nature, discriminatory. I hope this can offer you an understanding on why Hillel should no longer be at Emerson College.

      • A

        anonymous / Apr 26, 2024 at 4:42 pm

        These are completely baseless claims, anyone who has been to a Hillel event can attest to the fact that we accept people of all backgrounds and beliefs. You have not attended a single Hillel meeting this year (I am on the board and we keep track), so you do not know any of this. We unequivocally support our Muslim counterparts and do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind. In fact, there have been times when we have reported anti-Palestinian comments made within our org because we do not tolerate it any more than you do. Please make an effort to engage with our org and see for yourself rather than simply believing what others tell you.

        • A

          Adam Nuñez / Apr 27, 2024 at 2:43 am

          I was at the Hillel talk about Israel, along with 4 other anti-Zionist Jewish students as you all verbally attacked us. I watched you all call 34,000 innocent people murdered by the IOF “Hamas numbers.” That is engaging in genocide denial. You all denied atrocities and war crimes to my face. Do you remember that, anonymous commenter from the board of Hillel?

          • A

            Anonymous / Apr 27, 2024 at 11:34 am

            The 34,000 certainly includes Hamas / Islamic Jihad terrorists. We may never know the true breakdown of innocents vs. terrorists. Have there been atrocities? Yes. But you should at least acknowledge that on Oct. 6, only one side was planning to attack the other on the basis of identity. And the response of the other wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

  • A

    anonymous / Apr 26, 2024 at 1:04 pm

    Well that statement about Hillel having low attendance is factually incorrect. We had a seder on Monday and over 70 people showed up, whereas JAZ’s seder had, from the looks of it, 20 or so. If JAZ wants to make their own space for Jews on campus, they have every right to do so. But that should not, and will not, take away the safe space for the majority of Jews on our campus just because a few people dislike it.

  • A

    Anonymous / Apr 26, 2024 at 12:50 pm

    Feel free to create a safe space for Jewish students that oppose Israel’s right to exist. But why does that have to mean removing the safe space for Jewish students who do believe in Israels right to exist. You claim that there is “low attendance at Hillel events” and yet there were over 70 people at our passover Seder last week.

    Hillel is not going anywhere and you are foolish if you think it is.

    🇮🇱Am Yisrael Chai 🇮🇱