An insight into the Jewish student experience at UC Davis
Amid the discussion of Senate Resolution #25 at the Oct. 15 ASUCD Senate meeting, members of the UC Davis Jewish student community expressed concerns about recurring anti-Semitic acts on the UC Davis campus and ASUCD’s involvement in international conflicts.
ASUCD Senator Samantha Boudaie addressed recent anti-Semitic events that occurred during her time at UC Davis, including rocks being thrown at the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) house and anti-Semitic political flyers displayed on campus. Boudaie also described an incident in 2001, when the UC Davis Hillel house was set on fire.
“A pool ball was thrown through our [AEPi house] window in the middle of the night,” said Justin Weiner, a fourth-year neurobiology physiology and behavior major and member of AEPi. “When I was running for ASUCD, I had people direct messaging me anti-Semitic slurs and telling me they would never vote for a Jew. As a Jewish student, I’ve often felt unsafe and that I had to hide who I am for that reason. I know a lot of my friends and people in my community have felt the same.”
Weiner also described an incident in 2015, when swastikas were spray-painted on the AEPi house.
“In the past four years, our campus has seen multiple instances of swastika vandalizations and Nazi flyer postings all around the MU,” said Danielle Younai, a fourth-year political science major and the president of Aggies for Israel. “These instances of outright hate speech and hate crimes have made me and other Jewish students feel afraid for our safety on campus. Unfortunately, the administration is not very responsive. Every time a student goes to [the] administration asking them to show support or protect them in a meaningful way, the student is simply gaslit into believing anti-Semitism isn’t a problem in Davis. It 100% is.”
Weiner described incidents of Jewish students going to certain members of administration about concerns like anti-Semitic death threats and having them dismissed as “a joke or unlikely to happen.”
“I think certain people in the administration have done a good job [condemning anti-Semitism],” Weiner said. “The Chancellor’s statement after the anti-Semitic flyers were posted was nice. But, there are other people in this administration who have had a history of dismissing racism and anti-Semitism.”
“UC Davis stands with our community against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination,” wrote Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Pablo Reguerín via email. “Our Principles of Community express our community’s dedication to mutual respect, understanding, compassion and caring for everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation, culture, ethnicity or gender. Student Affairs is working across communities and we offer our support to individuals and organizations, providing resources and opportunities to promote inclusivity. We are working to support student expression free of intimidation and to ensure all students have equal access and time to express themselves.”
Younai described personal encounters with anti-Semitism within the first few weeks of her experience living in the freshman dorms.
“I distinctly remember being made fun of in the dorms for mentioning that I was fasting during Yom Kippur,” Younai said. “Then, later, upon finding out that I was Jewish, a student at the time joked about how he was going to throw pennies at me and other jokes related to the Holocaust.”
In a data report collected and prepared by Boudaie, the findings of 50 Jewish students who were surveyed over a six-month research span are presented.
“A whopping 73.5% of Jewish Aggies have seen something on campus that made them feel uncomfortable as a Jewish student at UCD,” the report reads. “[Nearly 47%] of Jewish students personally experienced or witnessed any anti-Semitic incident(s) on campus [and] 36% of Jewish students do/did not feel welcome everywhere on campus.”
Considering UC Davis’ experience with anti-Semitism and the cancellation of an ASUCD Anti Defamation League (ADL) workshop last year, the Jewish student community has called for more effort to combat anti-Semitism on campus. The ADL workshop ignited student disagreement and debate over the Israel and Palestine international conflict, which ended with the university making the swift decision to cancel future workshops.
“The Jewish student body is very resilient,” Boudaie said. “We do our best no matter what. No matter what we encounter, Jewish students and Jewish people in general have always done everything possible to push through. It’s nothing new that we’ve faced very vicious anti-Semitism our entire lives. Persecution, anti-Semitism, is very familiar to a lot of us.”
Younai echoed these sentiments of perseverance and the presence of UC Davis’ Jewish community.
“Being a member of the Jewish community on campus has been one of the best parts of my college career,” Younai said. “We’re small, but we’re strong. My Jewish friends, faculty and staff at UC Davis have been my greatest support system.”
Written by: Hannah Blome — firstname.lastname@example.org