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Jewish student reacts to anti-Semitism on campus

I got home at 1:00 am on Saturday morning. I saw an email that said a note had been placed under a student’s door in Peet. The note said, “Kike, You should be gassed for what you say & do on this campus. Be worried CUNT”.

Kike, I hadn’t heard that word for a while, a part of me hoped that it was out of fashion these days. I guess I was wrong. I spent the rest of the night fuming. I posted on the Beloit Student Group page and told the person who wrote the letter to fuck off. That was all I could do at 1:00 in the morning. The next morning as I was leaving home I decided to wear a yarmulka, something that I have not done in public for years. I wanted to hide my fear behind courage. I wanted this person to know that they could not make me, or the other Jews on campus, cower.

This incident reminded me of what my Zaida, a Holocaust survivor, used to say, “They will never leave us be, why they hate us I don’t know, but they always will.” Unfortunately he was right, I remember being called a dirty Jew by a group of three kids on the playground when I was twelve. They kept asking me why I killed Christ, and when I had no answer they tried to beat me up. I remember being told not to speak Yiddish in a gas station in Iowa by my father. I can only hope that this event will serve as a wake up call to the Beloit community that anti-Semitism still exists.

Jews are a small minority who continue to be hated by a large segment of the population. This is a fact that is often overlooked or ignored by many people today; in Beloit and around the world. I hope that after this particular hate crime people will begin to realize that Jews as a group are both vulnerable and targeted. Ignorance of anti-Semitism only helps to propagate it.

I have been humbled by the outpouring of support by the Beloit community in the wake of this crime. There has been no better feeling than the countless messages and the expression of solidarity. As a Jew, I personally have always felt that combating anti-Semitism was a job that Jews would be forced to do alone, because who else would care. I am forever grateful to the Beloit community for standing with us. I want other minority groups on the Beloit Campus to know that we stand with you as well. This crime means that Jewish Life has to be more involved in combating hate on campus, and you can bet we will do just that. I myself have grown complacent, and maybe I unknowingly bought into the idea that there is no more anti-Semitism. But we all know that’s not true. So when the dust settles on this crime, I ask the Beloit community to remember it as we Jews remember the Holocaust. Remember that there are people in the world who would do harm to your fellow students based on their religious/cultural identity, and please continue to stand with us.

As for me, I am going to keep wearing a yarmulka around campus for the foreseeable future. If anybody wants to talk about what happened or has questions about anti-Semitism or Judaism, shoot me a message, whether you’re Jewish, or not feel free to get in touch.

Finally to the perpetrator of this heinous crime. You must not know your history. Your side always loses. The inquisition failed, the pogroms failed, the Holocaust failed. My Zaida and Nana had children, their children had children, and that child is here today. My family’s blood is littered throughout the fields of Poland: My great aunt bled out with a machine gun in her hand on a street in Warsaw; many others lie in unmarked graves, their bodies thrown there by people like you. But their children and kin are living and will continue to live. The history of the Jewish people is rife with those who have tried to do us harm. But we are still here. “Am Yisroel Chai” means “The People of Israel Live” in Hebrew. It is as true today as it was a thousand years ago, and as it was in 1945, when the dying were liberated. I am living proof of the Nazi’s failure and I intend to go on living.


15 thoughts on “Jewish student reacts to anti-Semitism on campus”

  1. Todd Hansen says:

    Powerfully written, Ethan. Stay strong. The Beloit community stands with you. Todd Hansen, ’89

    1. Heidi BigKnife (Rankin) '90 says:

      Agreed. Thank you for being courageous enough to respond to this cruel idiocy. Blessings!

    2. Sol B says:

      As a fellow Jew, perfectly and powerfully stated said.
      And good to see old friends (Todd) and others showing support

      Sol Bermann (class of 88)

  2. Carol Schmidt says:

    Bravo! Well said!! Thank you for your courage! Only love and tolerance will overcome hate and fear…We stand with you against the dark!!!

  3. richard sheinberg says:

    Wow Ethan I admire your courage and determination. Richard Sheinberg ’80

  4. Jill Braden says:

    I stand with you, Ethan, as a Jew and a Beloit alumna, Class of ’76. My husband, Jeff, converted to Judaism. Thank you for writing this article and for being brave in the face of bigotry and hatred.

  5. Laina Cohn says:

    Ethan, thank you so much for this! As a victim of hate crimes such as this, I applaud you. Sadly, as a student in the early 90’s at Beloit I faced similar crimes on our campus, just for being a Jew. I too used my voice and my presence as a reminder of where our ancestors came from, what they endured, and stood proudly knowing I was there representing them.
    I have been following the news of these incidents, reflecting on my time at Beloit, and I must tell you that I could not be more thrilled with the progress the Beloit College community has made and the way the campus community has rallied. Not just for the Jews on campus, but for every student, faculty and staff member who has been affected by these crimes. Unlike what I believe you and your fellow community members are feeling tonight my cries were met with resistance by many.
    However, despite what happened all those years ago, I am happy, relieved and hopeful that lessoms are being learned. It is because of students like you, Ethan, that we continue to win and our children’s children will have the privilege of walking in your footsteps!
    AM YISRAEL CHAI! May you continue to enrich the Beloit community and beyond with your presence, your voice, your wisdom and your teachings!

    1. toby. says:

      I’m relieved to say I noticed 0 anti-Semitism at Beloit.. I was there from 64 to 68. I guess I was lucky. However sleep away summer camp was another story.

  6. Kevin Manhart says:

    Thank you Ethan for writing a very powerful message! The congregants of Congregation B’nai Abraham stand along side you and the other Jewish students, as well as the other minority groups at the Beloit Compus. Anti-semitism, hatred, and bigotry are not dead; there are those that harbor hatred in their hearts in Rock County. The congregation had to cover up a swastika scratched in the doors to our synagogue a few years ago as well as messages on our answering machine. Like you, I started wearing a kippah several months ago to honor God and express who I am – a Jew by choice.

    Our doors at the synagogue are always open and welcoming for you and the other Jewish students and your friends! See Levi for our schedule for the spring semester.

    1. Kevin Manhart says:

      Should be Campus not Compus….stupid auto-correct

  7. Rabbi Chesky Rothman says:

    Ethan, wow. Powerful. Thank you for being the student leader we need. You give Miri and I much joy as you coragously stand up and stand out! And your Zaide is certainly getting much nachas.
    Jewish Life @ Beloit is lucky to have you on our executive board.

  8. Sarah Schwarcz says:

    Thank you for your response to hate, your courage to speak out, your pride in your heritage, your commitment to help others facing discrimination. So well written!
    (Parent of ’83 grad, and Grandparent of prospective
    2018 grad)

  9. Lisa Wolcott says:

    Ethan, thank you for making Beloit and me and so many others proud. Beautiful and courageously said. You exemplify Beloit’s values. Keep speaking out, we stand with you. Your words and actions are brave and powerful, and a light for others.
    Lisa Wolcott, Class of ’88

  10. Ann Hergenrother says:

    Those who would do something like this are the losers. Shame on them. Continue to be proud and unafraid. I feel certain there are many many more of us in the Beloit community who are outraged to hear of this than not. My class was 1974.

  11. David D. Berkowitz '87 says:

    Dear Ethan, thank you for your brave, brave commentary. I entered Beloit in the fall of 1982. My roommate was from the middle ritz of Central Park West, his father on the board of Pomfret where he also attended. I had a walk through double on the second floor of Bushnell, and I was in the back. I came back to find small change scattered all over my room, “No Jews” written over the door, a barrier in front of my door (and when asked by the RA one floor up, “That should keep that Jew in his room). The last straw was we were watching TV and someone was cooking in the adjacent lounge and there was the smell of smoke. Someone asked, “What’s burning?” He remarked to the entire floor, “Maybe it’s David.”

    I wasn’t his only target. My friend Emery and I were in the same Bio101 session with my roommate, whom Emery knew from soccer. One day my roommate pulled a black fetal pig out of the vat, waved it at Emery and said, “Hey Emery, when you were a kid!” Professor Lutz went bug eyed expecting a rumble in his lab. Emery and I looked at each other, understanding each others experience, and laughed at him. It was both hard and liberating.

    Needless to say there were discussions with my RA, with the director of Residential Life, and so forth. He didn’t get it. I got a single in Peet the following semester. I wish I’d had your fortitude, your strength. I felt beaten down.

    Hang in there, and don’t let the bastards get you down.

    David D. Berkowitz ’87

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