When I committed to UC Berkeley this past May, I was immediately faced with a wave of concern from my Jewish community at home. Warned by friends and family that I would inevitably encounter hate for my Jewish identity in college, I was repeatedly told that UC Berkeley is especially infamous for numerous antisemitic incidents on campus.
However, I brushed their concerns aside, as I felt that the extent of antisemitism they were describing was only something my ancestors had to deal with.
The history of my identity is defined by the expulsions, exoduses and exterminations of Jewish people in innumerable countries. Notably, the Holocaust resulted in the mass murder of approximately six million Jewish people between 1933 and 1945.
While I have always been dumbfounded by the world’s silence during that genocide, I believed that this indifference toward antisemitism was merely something of the past, and that such hate could not exist in today’s progressive society.
Furthermore, UC Berkeley’s culture prides itself on historically being at the forefront of social change and remaining an inclusive environment for all students. This illusion, however, came crashing down for me.
On Oct. 7, when more than a thousand innocent Israeli people — many of whom were Jewish — were murdered and hundreds kidnapped, I foolishly expected empathy and concern for my community. This was the single greatest massacre of the Jewish people in one day since the Holocaust.
Instead, I woke up to posts on Instagram from peers celebrating this event as an act of resistance. I walked through Sproul as students chanted mantras glorifying the Hamas attacks. I witnessed a physical attack on my friend who was wearing a kippah (a brimless cap traditionally worn by Jewish males) and holding an Israeli flag. I put up flyers of innocent Jewish hostages and saw them taken down the next day. I sheltered in my dorm after hearing calls for a “Global Day of Jihad” along with many other Jewish students.
After these events, some people denied that they were antisemitic and invalidated Jewish students’ pain. Antisemitism is rampant on campus, and there hasn’t been enough done to stop it.
Students also displayed a disregard for my experiences when they directly told me I could not be a victim of antisemitism because the U.S. Census Bureau classifies Iranian and Middle Eastern people like me as white. However, any Jewish person of any race can experience antisemitism and hatred.
I have also been told that I am victimizing myself to “diminish the experience of Palestinians.” Some people have said I’m dramatic and ignorant of the context of my people’s murder.
To be very clear, I mourn the loss of all human life — including innocent Palestinians — and I cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis that people in Gaza are experiencing. I am wholly empathetic to their plight. Moreover, the simultaneous rise of Islamophobia is inexcusable and should be equally condemned.
This article is not meant to counterprotest the lived experiences of Palestinian people who are suffering or their right to self-determination. At the same time, defending the widespread mutilation, rape, capture and murder of Jewish people goes beyond criticism of the Israeli government.
The absence of sympathy for Jewish lives is dehumanizing. This is antisemitism.
So I ask all those who believe my experiences as a Jew are illegitimate: Who are you to tell me that my pain is not valid? Who are you to tell me that I am undeserving of sympathy and respect? Who are you to tell me that murdering my people can be justified as an act of liberation? Who are you to reject the humanity of the Jewish people?
Let me be abundantly clear again: As a Jewish person at UC Berkeley, I do not feel safe. I feel vulnerable, gaslit and isolated. Seeing my peers celebrate the murder of my family members, friends and other Jewish people has left me in complete emotional despair.
The subsequent invalidation of my mental state has only exacerbated this pain. And the insufficient efforts from campus administration to ensure accountability for antisemitism allows this hatred and violence to continue.
I was ignorant about the extent of antisemitism before coming to UC Berkeley. I now solemnly realize that this is an all-too-familiar story for Jewish people everywhere as I find myself begging for my community to be valued as human beings.