I grew up Jewish, both culturally and in faith. Like a sheep on a farm with high fences, I was with my own kind without fear of the wolves of antisemitism touching my people. The suburbs of Los Angeles were that farm and the rest of the world, a haven for predators trying to wipe out my population.
Coming to Indiana, I assumed it would remain that way. I did hear stories from other schools about antisemitism on campus, but I did not believe it would ever happen to me. That was until my junior year at IU.
In October 2022, NBA star Kyrie Irving posted a link to Twitter to an antisemitic movie that included quotes from Adolf Hitler and claimed Jews worshiped Satan. It was a disturbing tweet, but I felt safe because of his suspension and the fact that he is a known conspiracy theorist. I believed no rational human being would share his beliefs — that was until November of 2022.
I was sitting in class just a few weeks after Irving’s statement. That day turned out to be one of the most painful and traumatizing days I have ever had. The class in question discussed dissecting religious texts and, on that day, we were talking about QAnon, a far-right political movement that emerged in 2017. I raised my hand and asked what the group thought about Jews. The professor, who is a man I deeply respect, responded with examples of the group’s hatred toward my religion. Then it happened. A student sitting two seats to my left raised his hand and uttered something that still shakes me to my core.
“Well, they do have a point,” he said. “With everything going on in the world, they kind of are evil.”
I was stunned. The professor continued for about another 30 seconds before he stopped and paused for what felt like an eternity.
“I’m sorry; I don’t really know where to go from here,” the professor said. “We should take a break.”
I got up, my heart pounding from what I had heard. The student, who is still currently an athlete at IU, came up to me. I expected an apology but instead I got an explanation about how it was a misunderstanding. I gave him a nod and then went back to my house, unable to focus enough to return to the class.
The professor then emailed me, asking if I would like to report the experience. I pondered it for the rest of the day but, as someone who works in sports media at IU, I was too intimidated by what the repercussions of my complaint would be if I reported an important athlete. I declined to move forward and now, as I see his name still on the roster for his sport, I feel like I have done a disservice to my own kind.
Now, nearly a full year after that moment, I have seen increased antisemitism taking place around the country. I have read about people celebrating the terrorist group Hamas’ attacks and saying freedom for Palestine means the destruction of the only Jewish state in the world. Lies and misinformation about the bombing of a hospital in Gaza overshadow the rapes and murders occurring to my fellow Jews committed by Hamas. Is that justice? Is there justification for terrorism? Is there a valid reason for kidnapping elderly women and infants? I have argued and argued with ignorant antisemites about their so-called opinions and have received nothing but hatred in return.
Terrorism is terrorism. Hamas call themselves a liberation movement but that is not their goal. The beauty of religion is that it stands for something. Hamas is only against everything that does not fit their twisted agenda. They are not a freedom group. They do not genuinely represent Islam or any other religion in the world having to do with love and prosperity. They are sadistic extremists who want nothing more than for the world to live under their tyranny. Leaders of the Palestinian militant group have said their aim is to kill Jews. Is that justified?
Hamas’ crimes are celebrated at universities around the country and professors at prominent schools are praising their actions. Anti-Jewish sentiment is on the rise all over the country. For centuries, Jews have been made out to be scapegoats, and today’s situation is no different, only this time it is being lauded as social justice. I have received jeers from people passing me when they see my Israeli flag. I see the phrase that Hamas uses to call for Israel’s destruction, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” plastered across campus. I have seen antisemitism. I have felt antisemitism. So, I ask, is hatred ever justified? Am Yisrael Chai.
Zeke Shapiro (he/him) is a senior studying sports media.