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Opinion: Non-Jewish ASU students need to do more to fight antisemitism

ASU is one of many college campuses that experiences antisemitism. Here are ways we can fight it, as told by members of ASU's Jewish community

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"Antisemitism still exists here at ASU, and it's our responsibility as a community of students to fight discrimination of any kind and make students across all cultures feel welcome."


On Jan. 15, a 44-year-old British man held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue, including the rabbi. Later in the week, an FBI director called the attack an act of antisemitism.

Antisemitism isn't just something we see on national news — it happens in our own community here at ASU. In August 2020, antisemitic posters were found on ASU's Tempe campus. In November 2021, several more flyers were found posted. 

Antisemitism exists here at ASU, and it's our responsibility as a community of students to fight discrimination of any kind in order to make students across all cultures feel welcome.

Madeleine Steppel, a Jewish student and a junior majoring in religious studies, was subjected to antisemitism when she discovered one of the flyers at Hassayampa Academic Village in November. Steppel said that throughout the day her body was shaking due to the intergenerational trauma of antisemitism.

READ MORE: ASU PD to investigate antisemitic flyers posted on Tempe campus

"You see these things happen on campus, but you never expect it to happen to you," Steppel said.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a national organization fighting antisemitism, one-third of Jewish students experienced antisemitism on college campuses in 2021. Only 51% of students who were victims of antisemitism on college campuses said they felt safe on campus.

While antisemitism is an ongoing problem, it doesn't mean there can't be a solution. Many students highlighted the importance of educating non-Jews on Jewish culture to help combat antisemitism.

Steppel said it's important for younger people to be educated too. "Just like when kids are learning that racism is bad, at like 4 to 5 years old, we also need to be teaching them that antisemitism is bad," Steppel said.

Only 22 public school systems mandate Holocaust education. While Arizona is one of the 22 states, Holocaust education wasn't mandated across the state until July 2021.

While many ASU students may have never received Holocaust education or been educated at all about Jewish culture, ASU Hillel executive director Debbie Yunker Kail said it doesn't mean they can't learn any of it now.

"When you see a Jewish student (or) if you have a Jewish friend, ask them about their culture and tradition, and heritage," Yunker Kail said. "Just the same way you would show interest in any person."

According to Yunker Kail, some Jewish students themselves don't know a lot about their own culture.

"They may know they're Jewish, they may see something like what happened in Texas and feel personally affected," Yunker Kail said. "But they may not even know how to explain it or how to articulate what their Jewish identity means to them."

Yunker Kail said the best way to raise awareness is to give people the language to speak about their identity and culture so that they can deal with it themselves.

But ending antisemitism shouldn't be the responsibility of Jewish people. Non-Jews need to step up and help as well.

"Call it out," Steppel said. "Say what it is and explain why it's antisemitic as well." 

According to Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, of Chabad ASU, acts of violence don't just happen.

"Acts of violence don't start from acts of violence," Tiechtel said. "Usually they start from words of hate. When words of hate are stopped — but others are saying there’s no place for this — I believe that will stop acts of violence."

We as a community here at ASU need to call out antisemitism when we see it or hear it — whether we're Jewish or not. If we can educate ourselves by learning more about different cultures and being kind to our Jewish friends on campus, ASU will be a more welcoming place for everyone.


Reach the reporter at wjbrown@asu.edu and follow @JakeBrownASU on Twitter.

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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.


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