Being Jewish at Oberlin is complex. On the one hand there is a large dedicated Jewish student population, an active Chabad and Hillel, and plenty of opportunities for engaging in Jewish life. On the other hand, there are incidents that make being Jewish at Oberlin difficult. That being said, I think that often the media picks up on the bad things and tends to accentuate the negatives to the point where there are no objective positives.
But there are objective positives to being Jewish at Oberlin, and to be frank I’m a bit tired of hearing how bad Oberlin is for Jewish students. I am very open about my Judaism and my Zionism on campus. I have friends who agree with me wholeheartedly and friends who don’t agree with me so much on the issues. I find that on an individual level, Oberlin students are willing to listen to different viewpoints and are always open to have a conversation.
That is not to say that I haven’t encountered any of the anti-Semitism that has been talked about repeatedly. I was one of the recipients of the “Zionists were responsible for 9/11” email, I was on campus during the debacle with Joy Karega’s anti-Semitic posts, I was on campus this semester when a Jewish professor’s home was vandalized. Still, I’d like to emphasize how, at least in my own personal experience, I have found a dynamic and thriving Jewish community at Oberlin.
When people talk about how Oberlin as an institution is terrible for Jewish students it potentially drives Jewish students away. However, the only way to make Oberlin a better campus for Jewish students is by bringing in Jewish students. Yes, we have to explain that it is not always ideal, but since when has being Jewish anywhere ever been entirely safe? If we all choose to go to schools that are less hostile towards Jews -– and really I feel Oberlin is not as hostile as everyone is saying -– then nothing will improve. Oberlin is more than its flaws, and the only way to start changing Oberlin is to welcome in future Jewish students. If we create a narrative that Oberlin is one of the worst schools for Jewish students, then we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I feel as though, despite its challenges, I have found a dynamic and diverse Jewish community at Oberlin, and encourage more people like me to come experience Jewish life at Oberlin; it’s not as scary as it seems.