Jewish students at UC Berkeley continue to feel targeted and look to student government for support in light of rising antisemitic rhetoric on a national level.
According to Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, the executive director of Berkeley Hillel, Jewish students have felt more nervous and uncomfortable in light of this increased antisemitic rhetoric. ASUC Senator Shay Cohen shared similar sentiments.
“It’s crazy to see a spark in support for people like Kanye West, who is clearly and bluntly antisemitic,” Cohen said. “Jewish students at Berkeley are getting yelled at saying ‘Kanye is right,’ and antisemitic slurs have been brought up in recent cases because of this.”
According to Jacquelyn McCormick, the chief of staff to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, bias-motivated incidents are on the rise in major U.S. cities and have increased by 54.5% in the largest 10 cities.
Most of these incidents, she added, are directed at Asian, Black and Jewish Americans.
“Addressing hateful rhetoric and hate crimes is one of the most important issues of our time,” McCormick said in an email.
According to Naftalin-Kelman, there needs to be more education amongst students regarding the origins of antisemitism and how it manifests today.
In a Nov. 7 ASUC University and External Affairs Committee meeting, public commenters and senators discussed Senate Resolution 2022/2023 – 016, which urges ASUC to denounce the rise in antisemitic incidents nationwide. The resolution outlines multiple acts of antisemitic hate in recent months, including statements from rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and antisemitic signs held over a Los Angeles freeway last month.
As the primary sponsor of the resolution, Cohen believes in its importance in showing that the campus student body stands with Jewish students during this time.
During the meeting, student commenters took issue with a list of resources in the resolution, which includes a YouTube video by Berkeley Hillel titled “Antisemitism Education.” Some students expressed concern in the meeting that this resource allegedly conflated anti-Zionism with antisemitism, calling for the resolution to be amended.
“There is controversy over a part of the video that defines different acts of antisemitism and whether or not it is antisemitism but to me, hatred towards a Jew is hatred towards a Jew,” Cohen said. “Whether or not you agree with that is up to you, but that’s how Jewish students feel.”
Cohen hopes the resolution will be passed in the Senate without revision.
Beyond the resolution, Cohen noted that campus can make educational resources or send out messages denouncing the recent rise in antisemitism to support the Jewish community during this time.
Naftalin-Kelman noted there are several on-campus resources for Jewish students, including a Center for Jewish Studies, Helen Diller Israel Institute, an antisemitism education initiative and more that continue to exist.
“Jews around the world are scared right now. There have been many not just acts of rhetoric, but violence towards Jews everywhere; it’s a scary time to be a Jewish individual in the United States” Cohen said. “It’s sad to see that the silence is speaking very loud right now.”