At NYU, Cliques Aside, Jewish Culture Thrives

Walking onto NYU’s campus during my freshman year, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I feared the worst. I’d heard the stories about Students for Justice in Palestine antagonizing and threatening Jewish students, the administration and faculty taking part in the BDS movement, and Jewish students generally feeling unsafe. On top of the stress every college freshman faces, I was terrified of not feeling welcome in my school. These sentiments almost drove me away from NYU.

Fast forward a year and a half later, I’ve found these rumors to be exactly that, rumors. In my time at NYU, I have never felt unsafe, nor have I felt restrained from expressing my Jewish identity or my pro-Israel views. Within the greater university, I might slightly hold back during political discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in fear of an intense debate ensuing. When I need an outlet to discuss these issues, I go to the Bronfman Center, NYU’s Hillel, where I can interact with like-minded people. However, talking about Judaism as a religion on campus is an enlightening experience as I get to share my background with others, and it has never been negatively received. Most people are interested in learning about new cultures and religions.

The closest I have come to feeling unsafe was when the Graduate Student Union passed a BDS resolution. Unsure of the university’s response, I was concerned for the future of Jewish life at NYU. However, President Hamilton was quick to condemn and nullify the resolution, declaring NYU’s commitment to Israel and the Jewish community. This was vital to my feeling comfortable on campus.

Despite being active within the Jewish community, I haven’t experienced overt anti-Semitism at the hands of faculty, administrators, or Students for Justice in Palestine. However, as a Jewish student who bounces between religious denominations, I have found it hard to find a community. In short, it can get cliquey. Since NYU has such a large Jewish population, each religious group has its own self-sufficient student club. This is a wonderful attribute to boast, but it means that there isn’t much interaction between the groups. While I have never found a person I didn’t connect with at the Bronfman Center, I have a hard time feeling like I belong within the greater religious community. There is a clear distinction between religious and cultural Jewish life at NYU. It has been easier integrate into the cultural realm, but religious life is a bit more complicated for people like me who are more eclectic in defining their Jewish identities. Coming to the city, I felt like I might get swallowed up by NYU. However, I have found safety and a home within Jewish life at NYU and am proud to call it my school.

This story "At NYU, Cliques Aside, Jewish Culture Thrives" was written by Rebecca T. Stern.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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