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

‘Students are scared to be outwardly Jewish’: Jewish students contemplate transferring following reported antisemitism on campus

An ADL survey found that 73 percent of Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year alone.
Nick Peace
Pro-Israel protestors stand across from 2B alley pro-Palestine encampments on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Nick Peace for the Beacon)

Higher education institutions have been grounds for antisemitism since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. Hamas’ attack and Israel’s retaliation have resulted in an overarching feeling of unsafety among Jewish students on their campuses. 

In the months following the Hamas attack, Jewish students at Emerson say they have experienced antisemitic incidents on campus, leading them to feel unsafe and contemplate transferring out of the school. 

Jewish Emerson students who were interviewed by the Beacon have reported feeling like the campus environment is “hostile,” “unsafe,” “hateful,” and “aggressive.”  

An Israeli freshman, who requested to remain anonymous, said she has stopped speaking Hebrew on the phone with her family since the war began and antisemitism kicked up on campus and in the Greater Boston Area. 

“I want to exist without being a political artifact,” she said. “It scares me because somehow my identity has become political. My parents told me to keep a low profile because they’re scared that something will happen to me.”

The fear of the Israeli family is reflected in parents of Jewish students nationwide, according to a ​​Hillel survey, which was sourced from parents on its email list as well as a prior study completed by the Jewish Federations of North America. This combined study indicated that 96 percent of responding parents said they are “concerned about the increase in antisemitic incidents on college campuses since Oct. 7,” and many others said their concerns would affect which college their children plan to attend. 

Emerson Student Success did not immediately respond to the Beacon regarding how many students have transferred this academic year.

The Anti-Defamation League Center for Antisemitism Research, Hillel International, and College Pulse surveyed American college students before and after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7. Their survey found that 73 percent of Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year alone. In addition, 43.9 percent of non-Jewish students also reported witnessing antisemitism during that same time. Before this school year, 70 percent of Jewish college students experienced at least some form of antisemitism throughout their entire college experience.

Celine Sanborn meets with prospective students and their families and Jewish students on campus as part of her role as Emerson’s Jewish chaplain and Hillel* advisor. She described the Jewish climate on campus as “reactive.”

“Students are scared to be outwardly Jewish, and they’re scared to talk about their friends and family who have been affected by the Israel-Hamas war or talk about friends that they lost at the Nova Festival or in the massacres that happened on Oct. 7,” she said. 

Israeli students are especially afraid to be seen as Israeli and to talk about their experiences on campus for fear of retaliation, she said. 

“Because of that direct climate, several of my students are considering transferring or have already transferred,” said Sanborn.  

Mia Blachman, a transfer student and Junior interdisciplinary major combining acting and journalism, will leave Emerson at the end of this semester. Before coming to Emerson, Blachman spent eight months at a teaching fellowship in Israel where she taught English to middle schoolers.

She explained that the environment on campus made her feel unsafe revealing where she came from.

“I don’t feel safe speaking in my classes because I’d say something about where I came from, and all of a sudden, there would be a huge outburst in class,” Blachman said. 

Blachman has family and friends in Israel, some of whom she lost during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. During the attack at the Nova Music Festival, three of her friends were filmed being raped and then murdered by Hamas members. Blachman saw these videos. 

Along with negative in-class interactions, Blachman witnessed and experienced hate on campus. While at a big get-together in a friend’s suite in Piano Row, a group of students walked in chanting, “Free Palestine, death to Israel.” Blachman confronted one of the chanters and said, “I just moved here from Israel, are you including me in that?” He responded with, “Yeah, you’re a terrorist, just like all of them.” 

These experiences and interactions led Blachman to move off campus for several months. She began living in a friend’s apartment and a local Chabad. Chabad institutions provide outreach to unaffiliated Jews and religious, cultural, and educational activities. 

“I was so scared because I felt like I could get attacked, so I was living off campus,” Blachman said. 

Liam Meldung, an Israeli student who transferred to the University of Central Florida after his first semester at Emerson, said he felt unsafe on campus and was targeted by his fellow students. Meldung moved back to his home state of Florida to attend college there. 

“One time, I walked into the dining hall wearing my [Star of David] necklace, and I wore it out because I’m proud of being Jewish and Israeli,” said Meldung. “Someone noticed it and gave me a death stare from across the dining hall, and I felt like I should leave because I don’t want to start something here.”

Another freshman Israeli student, who requested to remain anonymous, feels that the tension on campus is due to the student body, which she feels has struggled to separate Israeli civilians from their governing body. 

“The problem here is that the students, staff, and faculty don’t know how to separate people from government, and by using words like apartheid, genocide, and colonialism, the narrative that is perpetuated is so selective, they ignore so many facts, and they erase so much history to make it fit into what they want to believe,” the student, said. “Most of the Jewish people I talk to are transferring, and if they’re not, they’re seriously thinking about it.” 

Recently, the hostility on campus has bled into one of the “only safe spaces for Jewish students,” said Hillel Vice President and junior visual media arts major Ari Willis. Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, serving 160,000 college students each year. It supports the Jewish campus experience through staffing, regional programming, professional development, and consultative services.

Last week, a new group on campus known as Emerson Jews Against Zionism (EmJAZ) began advocating for eliminating Hillel on Emerson’s campus.

“It’s really heartbreaking that there are people at school trying to take away a safe space like Hillel,” said Willis, who recently wrote a letter to the editor in response to EmJAZ’s demand. “We’ve worked so hard to build a community, and it feels like we are being targeted.”

Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) set up tents in solidarity with Palestinians and demanded Emerson call for a ceasefire in Gaza and to divest from companies and institutions that support Israel in the Boylston Place alley on Sunday evening. The encampment attendees covered the walls of the alleyway with phrases that include, “Fuck Zionists,” “One state: Palestine,” “Israel is antisemitic,” and “#FuckIsrael.” 

Hillel member and junior creative writing major Carlisle Robbins described feeling unsafe being visibly Jewish while passing through the encampments to get to his classes. 

“I feel terrified to go to my classes and am not going to classes near that building,” he said. “I was going to start wearing a kippah for Pesach observance, but I’m not anymore. I’m uncomfortable having outwardly blatant Jewish symbols out.”

Blachman also feels uncomfortable with the persisting encampments. 

“I feel unsafe knowing that people are attacking me online for not participating in a protest that calls for the death of my people,” she said. 

A sophomore visual media arts student who requested anonymity has felt targeted on campus for his Jewish identity.

“Everywhere I go on campus, people constantly stare me down,” he said. “I don’t even feel comfortable being out of the building past 11 p.m. because if I want to get back into the alley, I have to push past a group of students who are advocating for the elimination of Israel.”

Cyberbullying against Jewish students and the spread of misinformation is happening online, said Sanborn. 

“It’s happening in the classrooms and with faculty, where students feel they can’t speak their truth,” she said.

Many of Sanborn’s students are transferring schools because they want to be either closer to home because they feel scared, or they’re going to schools with larger Jewish populations, she said. 

“This is happening everywhere, you can’t really escape what’s going on, antisemitism is happening on every campus,” she said. “It just might be louder or scarier on certain campuses than others, but it’s happening everywhere.”

*Note: The writer of this article is an active member of Hillel.

View Comments (7)
About the Contributor
Margaux Jubin
Margaux Jubin, Staff Writer
Margaux Jubin is a sophomore journalism major from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. Outside The Beacon, Margaux loves live music, hanging out with friends, and spending time in nature.

Comments (7)

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  • C

    Casey / Apr 30, 2024 at 5:40 pm

    This is exactly the views of Jewish students that the emerson students body refuses to acknowledge. The students here believe they are doing something virtuous but all they have accomplished is further antisemitism and make emerson a dangerous place for Jews

  • B

    Brynna / Apr 28, 2024 at 10:04 am

    I’m proud of Margaux for writing this. Jews are a tiny minority and will never have the support of the masses. At only 14 million world-wide, we simply cannot be known. Most people on our planet have never met a Jew. Yet millions believe the most absurd things about us and there is no way to correct this.
    The current academic climate encourages us to see people as binary – one is either oppressed or the oppressor. Consider how debilitating this is. To be regarded as humane, you must identify as oppressed! This only serves to further disempower us. How can you become a powerful individual if you must be oppressed in order to be respected or even liked?!
    Jews are neither. We reject victim hood. And contrary to the rhetoric infecting our campus, we do not seek to colonize. That we do is a lie of ridiculous proportions. Look at an atlas. Most of the world has already been colonized by Christians and Muslims. Contrary to what Hamas declares in their charter, we can’t run anything. We can barely run a state the size of a postage stamp.
    Right now we are polarized, with a majority on one side and a tiny minority on the other.
    Don’t want to agree? That’s fine – consider this instead:
    No matter your ideology, opinions, or beliefs, we are all feeling the same exact emotions in this moment. If that isn’t enough to convince you that we can co-exist, we are all lost.

  • G

    Griffin Willner (he/they) / Apr 26, 2024 at 3:58 pm

    By the way, students in Hillel blatantly shoved people in the encampment and referred to folks there as terrorists. Additionally, some of the people in Hillel have referred to many Jews who support a free Palestine including myself as, “Gestapo,” “Nazi,” “KKK,” “Self-hating Jew,” and other extremely anti-semitic language. This reporting is very clearly biased. Not a single Jew involved in the encampment was interviewed…

    • B

      Brynna / Apr 28, 2024 at 11:02 am

      I’m sorry you experienced this. I don’t know how you can tell when someone is a member of Hillel – can you explain? The next time someone harasses you, get their name. It can be scary to confront someone who is attacking you verbally and emotionally but it’s very important to get names and document your experience right away. This unfortunately goes with the protest territory. Protesting is a highly emotional act and irrationality spreads like wildfire. Recognize that your group appears threatening to others, who may then respond aggressively because your group appears aggressive to them. If you buddy up and strategize for how you will respond to harassment ahead of time you have a better chance of staying calm and protecting yourself. Golly – maybe we old farts need to teach you our protest skills.

  • R

    Rebecca Levitsky / Apr 26, 2024 at 11:25 am

    This article speaks to the fact that all students are not getting the education that they and their parents paid for.
    It seems apparent that outside forces have been infiltrating our campuses for some time. It has become extremely painful that hateful Jew hating ideology has been bought and paid for by terror supporting entities. That our country and universities is sympathetic to those who burn families alive, rape women, take hostages and throw grenades at defenseless young people is heartbreaking. I do not want to give money to institutions who look the other way at the hatred of Jews. To be honest, the president of Emerson, Jay Bernhardt has tried to mitigate the issues on campus and I do believe he stands on the right side of history. He is a very fine person.

  • M

    Marty Goldman / Apr 26, 2024 at 8:49 am

    As the parent of a Jewish student, I am horrified to hear these accounts. My student is a Senior and is graduating and will not be subject to this in a few weeks, but of course it saddens me for those that remain.

    The market forces are clearly not working here. Students that have come here for the curated and specific experience offered by Emerson are being driven away and those who object to the College’s management, rather than “voting with their feet” and moving on to an experience more in line with their values are causing mayhem for the majority of the student body.

    Emerson is a premium opportunity and everyone is there by choice and deserves the chance to exist in peace and experience it fulsomely and pursue their educational endeavors.

    • G

      Gabrielle / Apr 26, 2024 at 6:35 pm

      Agreed! I’m
      A devastated alum