How to Fight Antisemitism

The Stuyvesant Jewish community has dealt with an overwhelming wave of antisemitism following the October 7 attacks on Israel, so collective action must be taken to ensure Stuyvesant returns to the safe space it once was.

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As I left for school on Monday, I hesitated to wear my blue and white Spectator hoodie, fearing for my safety. The next day, I tucked my Star of David under my shirt. A couple of days later, I decided not to wear the ARISTA committee T-shirt I was given a couple of days beforehand because it had white text on a blue background. I am exhausted from worrying about this war, but more exhausted from dealing with constant bigotry. However, no matter how tired of this war I am, I am writing this piece to address the fact that Stuyvesant isn’t a safe space anymore.

Following the October 7 attacks on Israel, the Stuyvesant Jewish community has dealt with an overwhelming wave of antisemitism. The Jewish community is not just affected by the war in Israel and by fear at home, but also by hatred in school. During classes, multiple classmates have said that the Israeli deaths are justified. Others posted on social media celebrating the deaths of innocent civilians, and some students even idolized the Hamas paragliders who killed hundreds of people at a concert in Israel. Many of my acquaintances—I can’t call them friends anymore—are posting explicitly antisemitic tropes involving control of the media, dual allegiance, blood libel, and even swastikas. The swastikas come from the recent surge of Nazism online, including within the Stuyvesant community. Most of my Jewish friends even stayed home, fearing unimaginable things on October 13 after Hamas called for a “Day of Rage” against Jews worldwide. We are expected to return to business as usual after a couple of days since the war started, but this is simply not possible for Jews at Stuyvesant. With everything going on in the Middle East and now the constant bigotry Jews face, how can we? 

I ask—I beg—that the Stuyvesant student body returns to decency. Regardless of your opinions on Israel-Palestine, it is an objective—yes, objective—truth that terrorism is wrong. In all cases, it should never be celebrated, especially when many Jews in Stuyvesant have family in Israel and may know somebody who was killed. If every student, including those who are defending Israel, took an extra five seconds to think about whether they should (re)post the vast quantities of hurtful misinformation and lies on social media, then this would be a big step in reducing the amount of hate speech circulating around Stuyvesant online communities.

Additionally, Jews should not be constantly harassed or held responsible for Israel’s actions—they aren’t Israeli diplomats. In fact, many Jews are often the people who are most critical of Israel because they wish to see the (only) Jewish state remain an equal state for all people, including Palestinians. Personally, I fiercely oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempted destruction of Israeli democracy and his crazy policies regarding the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank. I shouldn’t have to deal with people who assume I believe in harming Palestinians, or other politics I don’t support, simply because I am Jewish. Jews should be treated as human beings, not enemies who lurk around Stuyvesant. 

Lastly, I urge the Stuyvesant administration to properly handle the surge of hate speech both online and in person. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from the consequences of their actions. I will always support legitimate advocacy for improving the lives of millions of Gazans greatly affected by the war, but some students are not advocating for this. Those who post internationally recognized symbols of hate online, such as the Nazi swastika or blood libel, should face disciplinary action in the same manner that they would if they did so in person. I appreciate the gesture of Principal Yu’s announcement and the administration’s attendance at the Jewish Student Union’s meetings, but what actually helps the Jewish community is actual action being taken when many students report Nazism and hate speech to the Deans. The Stuyvesant student body and administration must both partake in collective action to return the school to the safe space it was before the war.