Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Anti-Semitism at UMass

By Jeremy Tibbetts

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

UMass.snap is an unofficial University of Massachusetts Snapchat story, a place where students can submit footage of the “real” UMass life. While a lot of the content might be illegal or lewd, there was some footage posted recently that was very disturbing. On a table with an American flag pattern, a few people were playing beer pong with a swastika on one side and a Jewish star on the other.  Three pictures of the game were shown, captioned “Jews vs Nazis.”

I took screenshots of these images and as I reflected more on these pictures, I felt upset, angry and ashamed that our community does not take seriously that 11 million people, including people of color, queer people, Jews, Christians, Romani, disabled people and more, were murdered under this banner. I am disturbed that there are people uneducated about and indifferent to the attempted genocide of my people 70 years ago, and that the symbol of my extended family’s murder is part of a game to play and drink around. What turned out to be even more disturbing was what occurred after.

I have experienced anti-Semitism on campus before, though none of it has been violent. I have had change thrown at me, both on campus and off campus.  People have made jokes about my nose, my major and more. I didn’t realize the number of other students who have had similar (and worse) experiences, even from just this past semester. Jewish students have been called kikes, an anti-Semitic slur, at the kosher dining section in Franklin Dining Commons, the only place on campus some Jews can eat, and in the very same snap story as these pictures, a video captioned “on my Jewish flow” showed a man picking up a coin.

Jewish history is a story of second-class citizenship, of forced isolations and expulsions, and of violence and genocide. The global Jewish population has never gone above 17 million people, which it reached in the 1940s before falling to 11 million. Recently, there have been rallies outside synagogues in France with shouts of “Death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right” (on Bastille Day, no less) in the past year and a Ukrainian mayor was elected a few weeks ago who is member of a neo-Nazi party.

America has been a haven for Jews by comparison. Growing up in the United States, I was in an environment where I was proud to be Jewish, to wear a kippah (a religious head covering) around without fear. I attended Jewish day school that did not have to masquerade as a municipal building or exist in secret in a basement. I was also taught to face the jokes, the assumptions, and the questions with humor and levity. I was told that I was representing our people, and that we needed to be grateful for how good we had it and keep our heads down. When they make jokes and laugh, laugh along. Our people have seen mountains, so let the molehills go.

According to UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski, the University was notified about these offensive images via email in December and the UMass Bias Response team began “looking into the issue.” Blaguszewski said that the students in the images were identified within 10 days and “the matter was adjudicated under the Code of Student Conduct.” The school never issued a public response, but did respond to those that notified the news office of the image, per Blaguszewski.

These events happened over a month ago, and I am shocked that the University still has had no official response, not even reaching out to our Jewish community. It simply is not enough to find the people responsible and punish them, because these events are not isolated and are not solely about individuals.  Minimizing an incident and sweeping it under the rug only allows it to happen again. The University needs to be honest about what is happening. We are in college to learn, but we are exhibiting as a community that we are deficient in equally important areas. Long gone are the days when the Jewish community could only rely on itself in the face of these hateful ideologies, so where is the University? At UMass there is no room for ideas that strive to kill, and our community is teaching us not to be proud, but afraid of our Jewish identity.

As Tu Bi’Shevat, the Jewish holiday associated with the renewal of nature and the “birthday” of the trees and plants, was this past Sunday, it would be appropriate to quote the Talmudic story of Choni, a sage who happens upon a man planting a carob tree. Choni asks him why he would bother planting the tree, since he will be long dead by the time the tree bears fruit. He replies, “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me. Likewise, I am planting for my children.” I call on the University not to ignore these problems any longer and work to prevent these acts and all like it on our campus.

Jeremy Tibbetts is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]


7 Responses to “Anti-Semitism at UMass”

  1. Arafat on February 2nd, 2016 1:00 pm


    What you are observing is nothing new to Jews. If there is one thing Jews should have learned by now is to not put faith in the kindness of others.

    I sometimes wonder what might have happened to the Jews of Europe if they had focused a little less on excelling in the arts and sciences, music and physics, and a little more on self-defense. Arguably if Germany had a Second Amendment, which the fascists made sure was not permissible, but if they had at least then the Jews, gays, Catholic priests and gypsies could have resisted and not been led off to the camps like sheep to be starved to death, worked to death and gassed to death.

    Fortunately the fascist liberal Americans have not yet taken over America. And let’s not pretend it is not the leftist organizations that are energetically supporting the BDS, SJP and other anti-Semitic organizations. And let us not pretend it is not the leftist, fascist-leaning organizations that are fighting for greater and greater limitations on the Second Amendment. But it is not too late for Jews to spend some of their free time taking advantage of the Second Amendment and in becoming proficient with its freedom to learn real self defense. For if nothing else let’s hope Jews have learned that to leave their fate in the hands of others is to play the fool once again. If I were a Jew I would rather die fighting for my loved ones than to be carted off once again to whatever fate the fascists have in store for your remarkable people.

  2. Anon on February 2nd, 2016 7:26 pm

    Arafat, the myth that the Nazis employed gun control has been widely debunked. Hitler lessened regulations from previous rulers. Militant Jewish resistance wouldn’t have stopped anything when confronted the vastly superior SS.

    Jeremy’s post is about university policy and enforcement regarding inclusion and antidiscrimination. It has nothing to do with gun rights. You just took the conversation there to suit your nonsensical agenda. No one except you is claiming that gun control implies an impending holocaust. No one else is that crazy.

  3. Ally on February 2nd, 2016 10:52 pm

    Wow, Arafat, how about instead of ignoring the issue that the author so eloquently addressed and preaching your own agenda, you go and study some real facts. The author did a great job of explaining the personal stresses of religiously-charged bigotry on a college campus and of demanding the harmful cycle be addressed. Nothing within the article warranted such an unnecessary, ridiculous, aggressive response as yours.

  4. Mike on February 5th, 2016 12:17 am

    As a Jew myself who lost family in the holocaust my advice is you should try growing thicker skin and learning to stand up for yourself. It has served me just fine. I’ve experienced everything the author has and I never went crying to someone else to fix it for me. Unless the school is discriminating against you I don’t know why you feel the need to have others fight your battles. Tattling on a bunch of jerks(though it wouldnt at all surprise me if a fellow jew woth a dark sense of humor was involved) is sure to help. Also, sometimes jokes are just that. Dark, insensitive jokes. Theres a line… and that aint it.

    Also, I agree Arafat hijacked this for the gun issue. That said, every time I see my fellow Jew lauding gun control I shake my head in disbelief.

  5. Eleanor Burke on February 5th, 2016 2:57 pm

    The school should take a stand and issue punishment for allowing anti semitism at school.

  6. Karly M on February 6th, 2016 4:44 pm

    “When they make jokes and laugh, laugh along”…growing up in classrooms where I was the only Jew, this was exactly what I learned how to do. Recalling this trend from such a young age, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that there is very little religious tolerance in our cohort, manifesting in symbolic and verbal violence.

    On this campus, I haven’t experienced anti-Semitism but I believe those who have and stand with them.

    ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ comes to mind as I reflect on your article. The university, and the students themselves, should also take a introspective look about how and what their reactions are to any injustice.

  7. Anon on February 19th, 2016 7:51 pm

    What saddens me most, as a former Jewish student at UMass, is the idea that was always told that I was overreacting when I would get upset over an anti-Semitic slur whispered to me across the room, or being told to stop reacting at all when I, or a friend of mine was directly called a kike, and the University did NOTHING about it ever.
    Yes, It is important to have ‘thick skin’ and take the comments and actions at face value because no matter where you are in this world, there is always going to be somebody that doesn’t like Jewish people, or you personally because you’re Jewish. But, the fact that the University, a supposedly liberal and welcoming campus, rarely does anything to defend the Jewish students and staff on the campus is what I have a problem with. Yes, i’ve learned to accept anti-Semitism as a part of life, but not in my ‘home’ which UMass is for so many people- students shouldn’t have to choose between attending the first day of classes or observing the high holidays, they shouldn’t have to wake up and find a swastika drawn on the white board hanging on their door etc. and if they do, they should feel comfort in the fact that UMass will do something to help them, and to educate their counterparts. They don’t and its sad.

    Thank you for publishing this beautifully written article and bringing attention to a form of oppression that is ignored so much!

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