Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Stop asking me if I’ve ever tried bacon

Being liberal doesn’t excuse you from wronging others
Katherine Mayo
Caroline O’Connor

As The New York Times reported at the end of 2017, anti-Semitic incidents surged 57 percent across the globe from the previous year. In my own life, they surged 100 percent.

Before starting college, I knew anti-Semitism was a real threat and problem in the world. My parents, Jewish friends and grandparents who were living in Eastern Europe during World War II reminded me of this constantly. I preached the need to do something about anti-Semitism to those who doubted its reality, but I did not fully understand the actuality of the issue because I had never experienced it firsthand. This all changed when I started college.

I told myself that because I was Jewish, I was different, a mere repetition of words I had heard throughout my life. Funnily enough, this was not true when I heard these words, and now that I have stopped hearing them, it suddenly is. I was not different in any way. Most of the people surrounding me throughout my life were Jewish and there was not a moment in my life when I felt marginalized for my Jewish identity, until I came to the University of Massachusetts.

A year ago, at the start of my freshman year, I knew I was entering a more diverse community than any I had ever been a part of (though still not all that diverse). Inevitably, I expected change and challenge, but I did not realize the form this would come in. It did not so much as come into my head that the challenges I would face in college would be because of my Jewish identity.

Is this anti-Semitism or just authentically experiencing the Christian-centric world for the first time? I found myself asking this throughout my first month at UMass. I soon realized, however, that UMass is not a comfortable (and questionably safe) place for Jewish students. A year later, I realize, this is not a campus-wide issue, this is a global issue.

Before starting college, my perception of anti-Semitism was based exclusively on violent acts, name-calling and stereotyping. I have found, rather, that it weaves into my every day in disguised ways. When someone finds out that I’m Jewish and decides to weigh into my people’s background because they “have a Jewish friend back at home,” when I’m asked if “I’ve really never tried bacon” or when they ask if I’m “really Jewish” since I have Aryan features. Anti-Semitism is present when I am told that my dual Jewish-and-atheist identity is simply “impossible.” And, most shockingly, it was present on the day that my non-Jewish friend saw a swastika flag hanging on the wall of someone’s dorm room through the window. It saddens me to know that the rare case of anti-Semitism that I saw in the news prior to starting college was not all that is out there. More so, it embarrasses me to know that I thought this was the extent of perpetuating anti-Semitism in the modern day.

Ignorance of the other does not nearly stop with the case of Jewish students at UMass, nor is this its worst instance. Students, and this definitely includes me, need to understand that membership in a liberal campus by no means allows you to minimize others’ identities. As college students, but furthermore as people, we must educate ourselves beyond our coursework and learn about what cannot be taught in a classroom. This may seem obvious, but is has become apparent in my own life that UMass students, and people all over the world, need to be reminded that being liberal doesn’t excuse you from wronging others or diminishing their identities.

And, to answer the question I have inevitably left lingering in your mind – no, I have never tried bacon. But, before you begin to use this to reaffirm your misconceptions, let me assure you that my never having tried bacon is not representative of all or even most Jews; I simply grew up vegetarian.

Alya Simoun is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].


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  • M

    MatthewSep 20, 2018 at 12:01 am

    Saying that a Gentile asking a Jew if he’s eaten bacon is antisemitism diminishes the meaning of antisemitism. Not only is it not antisemitic, it is not even mildly offensive to a reasonable person.

    Judaism prohibits eating bacon; everyone knows that. So, it is hardly a “stereotype” that Jews don’t eat bacon regardless of how many Jews actually keep kosher. It’s like asking a Catholic if they really give up something serious up for Lent. It is merely about asking if someone follows a rule associated with his identity group.

    For the saying that “Jewish atheists” are impossible? Clearly that’s not an accurate statement but, unless it comes with a context of other nefarious and anti-Jewish beliefs, it is not antisemitic but merely reflects a lack of knowledge of what defines a Jew. Someone can merely be ignorant of the difference between Judaism and other faiths. Christians aren’t a nation like the Jews. So unless the notion of the Jewish people has been explained properly to them, and they still see Judaism as perfectly analogous to Christianity, it is perfectly natural for them not to understand the idea of a Jewish atheist.

    Obviously swastikas are antisemitic. Mentioning that in the same breath as the above accusations is absurd and diminishes true antisemitism, and the author misses completely the major issue of “anti-Zionist” antisemitism which is clearly the most evident form on college campuses that had risen drastically in recent years.

    We need to be careful not to liberally throw around the word antisemitism, along with other forms of bigotry, lest we smear innocent-intentioned people and diminish true antisemitism or other bigotry.

  • E

    Ed Cutting, Ed. D.Sep 17, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    I think you will find, if you look objectively, that true Christians are a whole lot more supportive of you than you imagine.
    As an Athiest, you may not know this, but 3/4 of the Christian Bible is literally an English translation of the Jewish Torah, right on down to the same chapter and verse citations. Hence I can say “Exodus 22.2” and my Jewish friends can understand exactly what I am citing and what I mean because Exodus 22.2 is in the Torah as well. And means the same thing — it’s the right to self defense.
    Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew, and hence the Christian Last Supper was a Passover Seder — that’s a fact. Israel is our holy land as well — and “Little Satan and Big Satan” means exactly what it sounds like — the anti-Semites are also anti-Christian.
    In fact it was CAMERA, a Jewish organization, which first pointed out the plight of the Egyptian Christians, who were (and are) being subjected to a genocide. There is not as big a gulf as you seem to think.

    • I

      IshmaelSep 17, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Hi. Congrats! You two made her point for her! By telling a Jewish woman her views are invalid because “not all Christians are bad” or something like that is a huge cop out answer and is defending something she never accused you of. There is no mention in this article of all Chrisitian’s being anti-Semitic, or even the majority of trying to be, just that maybe, just maybe, the stuff you think is fine to say isn’t fine to say to the people that, oh I don’t know, actually get to decide what offends them.

      Anywho, if we’re talking about direct translations, you’re wrong. First off, and this is really cool, there’s no way it’s a “direct translation” as even straight from Aramaic to English it’s not direct, as there are words or phrases that don’t exist in a language that exist in the other. Also, this really cool thing happens when people in power seize other cultures’ literature and that is they change it, and things passed down through generations are actually warped.

      Secondly, you quote one bible verse and claim it’s the same in both, but don’t actually quote the verse. Just say we know what you’re talking about. Here’s another cool fact, they aren’t the same. Shocker, I know. In fact, there is a passage in the Torah that discusses Mary and Joseph. In the Old Testament, the verse explains that they will have a son and he will be the messiah. In the Torah, however, it simply says they will have a child. Funny thing that one of the MOST IMPORTANT lines concerning the birth of Jesus doesn’t exist in the Torah but does in the Christian Old Testament.

      See, learning new things is fun!

      • E

        Ed Cutting, EdDSep 18, 2018 at 2:36 pm

        First and foremost, Exodus was written in Hebrew, not Aramaic. And not only is there not a direct translation between Hebrew and English, there isn’t a direct translation between the circa-1604 Old English of the King James Bible and the American dialect of English as the language exists today.
        Second, there is not just one Bible, either. Dramatically oversimplifying it, there is a Protestant Bible and a Catholic Bible and the two are not the same — 150 years ago when the Bible was read in Massachusetts schools, there was a great deal of dispute over which version would be used.
        Hence while the words may vary differently, and while most (but not all) Catholic versions are translations from the Latin translations and not the original texts, the meaning of various passages remains the same. In fact, David Green (the owner of Hobby Lobby) is doing a very good job of documenting the consistency of various Biblical texts throughout history.
        Exodus 22.2 is Exodus 22.2 — in the Torah, in the King James Bible, and in modern American English language translations — it’s the same citation and the same meaning although perhaps not stated the same way.
        And a son is a child, is it not???
        And as to people being offended, that is a very slippery slope that inevitably becomes the tyranny of the majority. Something called antisemitism has its roots in such intolerance….

  • A

    amySep 17, 2018 at 7:37 am

    “Is this anti-Semitism or just authentically experiencing the Christian-centric world for the first time?”

    Really being open-minded huh? This persuasive article on bacon and the challenge you’ve faced in people asking you if you’ve tried bacon has really opened my eyes to the difficulty some in our community face.