Observer Editorial: Do more than denounce
Observer Editorial Board | Friday, April 9, 2021
Antisemitism is on the rise in America. A recent Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey found that 63% of American Jews had experienced or witnessed antisemitism over the past five years — a 10% increase since last year’s poll. And Tuesday night, antisemitism made a horrific appearance on Notre Dame’s campus, at an event hosted by the Jewish Club at Notre Dame. An unknown group of people Zoombombed the meeting, sharing lewd content and harassing event organizers — one of the individuals who tried to disrupt the event even had a swastika as their profile picture. While club leaders believe these individuals are not associated with the University, the Notre Dame administration nonetheless launched an investigation into this hateful act — a good first step toward ensuring antisemitism and bigotry continue to have no place in our community.
But the events of Tuesday night tell us something bigger than just the fact that Zoombombers are still thriving. Tuesday’s meeting was meant to be a safe space for the Jewish community here at Notre Dame during Antisemitism Awareness Week — a community that is a minority on our campus. But instead, it was violated by internet trolls looking to inflict psychological and emotional harm upon our fellow students. Tuesday night should serve as a reminder that it’s still on all of us to stand up for marginalized communities; it’s still on us to be active allies for justice.
Our tri-campus is primarily white and overwhelmingly Catholic — this is a fact. And not in spite of, but because of this integral part of our schools’ identity, we must work to make this a place where other faith communities can also thrive. As a predominantly white institution, Notre Dame, specifically, owes its minority students safe spaces where they can thrive without fear of harassment.
Because our tri-campus tends towards homogeneity, it’s on each of us — students, faculty, employees, alumni — to keep this responsibility to each other in mind and work to create spaces for all people to live their truth. It’s on each member of the tri-campus community to shut down offensive jokes and challenge injustices. It’s on each of us to educate ourselves so we can recognize blatant hate, structural disadvantages, microaggressions and ignorance. In a world that is growing increasingly disconnected — be it by a pandemic, extremism, inequality — we must be more intentional in connecting to the life experiences of those around us.
Listen to those who are directly affected by bigotry and the actions it begets. Check in on your Jewish friends — and the African American, Hispanic and Latino, Asian American, LGBTQ, disabled, low-income people that surround you as well. But don’t only check in when an unfortunate event happens; rather, try to be proactive. Pay attention to the different ways in which they experience this world, and use those lessons to nurture safer and stronger communities today, so that we can look to the future with hope for better days for all people, not just privileged majorities.
The creation of safe spaces specifically for our Jewish community at Notre Dame should not be limited to the social sphere, either. The University can cultivate a more diverse and inclusive campus by extending these opportunities to its academic programming. Currently, there are three Jewish Studies positions under the theology department. Yet a tangible undergraduate program, concentration, minor or major in Jewish Studies does not exist. Allowing students to study this subject would not only enable important discussions, but also connect with Jewish scholars on campus. In a university guided by a mission to foster solidarity, implementing these academic opportunities would breed greater understanding and tolerance.
At The Observer, we hope to be a safe space for the tri-campus community and work to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups. Letters to the Editor are a form of expression available to anyone, and our Viewpoint department works especially hard to share the opinions of each student, professor and alumni of the tri-campus who wishes to do so. Our News department is always looking for stories we should be sharing with the greater community and striving to learn how we can serve our tri-campus better — if you have any tips, we are here and happy to listen.
We can wish and pray all we’d like for a more secure and more diverse community, but it’s our responsibility to help create that community. Each of us needs to work to not only condemn bigotry in the strongest possible terms, but also to actively create and cultivate safe spaces for those around us and to advocate for larger, more structural safe spaces within our campus communities. A better future demands it from us.