For the second year in a row, San Diego State University, my campus, has been called an unsafe place to be Jewish. In 2015, David Horowitz listed SDSU as the “sixth most anti-Semitic campus” in the United States. This year, The Algemeiner’s first annual list of the “40 Worst Campuses for Jewish Students” in Canada and the United States listed SDSU as the 19th worst college campus for Jews. As a student on campus who is not Jewish, yet reports on issues of college campus anti-Semitism and is immersed in the community, let me tell you this: I am done, so damn done with lists and articles that try to paint San Diego State University as an unsafe, anti-Semitic hotbed of Jew-hatred when the reality on campus shows a thriving and proud Jewish community unafraid and unapologetic about their Judaism. It’s insulting to see SDSU listed: not only does it disrespect the Jewish professionals on campus working everyday to ensure that the community on campus is supported and represented, but it’s also far from the truth.
I walk into Hillel every day, I spend every week with my Jewish friends and I can confidently say that SDSU is an awesome place to be Jewish. Attend Hillel’s biannual barbeque or drop in on Chabad’s packed, roudy Shabbat dinners filled with Jewish and non-Jewish students, and you’ll absorb a resounding message lost on those who claim SDSU is “the worst”: despite BDS, despite all odds, the Jewish community on campus is stronger and prouder than ever. Everyday, I feel incredibly privileged to be involved with the Jewish community on campus, whether be volunteering for Mitzvah day or just hanging out at Hillel with our Israel fellow Gal. As a non-Jew, when others are proud of their heritage and culture, it affects you. It inspires you to respect and be proud of your own history and culture.
Sure, anti-Israel activism and the anti-Semitism associated with that activism is something to be concerned about. Last semester, I wrote about Students for Justice in Palestine’s Miko Peled event and Peled’s anti-Semitic Twitter rants (the event was ultimately cancelled). But SDSU isn’t defined by BDS or singular events planned by SJP. In fact, one could argue that these events have made students prouder of their Judaism and Zionism — and stronger in their conviction that being proudly Jewish is the ultimate rebuke against the rhetoric of BDS. BDS has ironically, united the community and energized my solidarity with the Jewish community.
I implore concerned parents and professionals to visit our campus and to talk to students. Once you see this community, you’ll realize these lists are untrue. You’ll realize that the community and Jewish life here are not defined by anti-Israel activism, but by the people within it. It’s defined by people like our Hillel director Jackie Tolley, who works to make Hillel a place of inclusion for all people like me, or people like my friend Talia, who rallied a group of largely non-Jewish students to cheer her on at Chabad’s latke eating competition. It’s defined by the people I find myself around every Friday evening, breaking Challah, lighting candles, reciting prayers that I don’t quite understand, but am still affected by. To argue that Jewish life is solely defined by anti-Israel activism on campus is a myopic perception that doesn’t reflect the amazing, vibrant community we have here.
This story "San Diego State Jews Are Thriving and Proud" was written by Anthony Berteaux.