“Jewish people have always been in search of identity,” Professor Gerarda Costello said Jan. 24 at the Hillel-sponsored Anti-Semitism Discussion in the Orton Center. Understanding one’s self amidst a society that assigns binary existences was among the topics discussed at the event. Those in attendance were compelled to take a step back and examine the parts of themselves that they were born into or were chosen for them.
“Do I proclaim my identity, or do you determine my identity?” Costello continued. “When I name you, do I own you? There’s something destructive in that when you’re trying to erase people.”
Jewish professor Lindy Reznick and University of Redlands English professor Sharon Oster were also part of the panel discussion. Ariella Schusterman, Deputy Regional Director of ADL, an organization committed to “stop the defamation of Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” made contributions through a video call.
The forum, constructed by Hillel president Lauren Simon ‘19, was created in the motivation of recent attacks on the Jewish community. 2018 experienced the highest number of violence against Jews in 25 years, as reported by The Diaspora Affairs Ministry. The Pittsburgh shooting at The Tree of Life last October was the worst of these, taking 11 lives; the loss that was felt greatly on campus, throughout the nation and the Jewish community home and abroad.
Hate crimes against minority groups is still an unfortunate reality, and we ought to stand in solidarity with those who are being targeted, Schusterman summarized. “We encourage people to use their own voices, their own bullied pulpit, to speak out when hate comes to their campuses,” said Schusterman.
The dialogue suggested that through conversation and open-mindedness steps towards unity can be made. Furthermore, presenting the oppression of one group as an assault on all groups is a necessary step toward advancement.
“It’s hard to be Jewish at this moment in the United States,” Oster stated. Crowd members were locked in and attentive with every phrase spoken. There was no tension, but a tone of seriousness, as change manifests in collective determination. A willingness to change is a step towards it. Through recognizing our intersectional identities and using them as a means to formulate solidarity amongst one another, a powerful message was given that evening. The future is not stagnated and especially for young people, it is within our control.
Lindy Reznick remarked, “I compel you young people here tonight to not sit idly by. Do not be the passerby who lets hateful language through.” Education, she continued, is an essential phase in this process. Taking strides towards peace doesn’t always include a huge leap, as the first step is opening our mouths and defending what we believe.
Photos contributed by Clarissa Castaneda.