The Daily Gamecock

USC Jewish community aims to fight rise in antisemitism: 'Let's get the conversation started'

<p>Hillel board members at their annual Family Weekend pop-in event at the Anne Frank Center on Sept. 23, 2022. Hillel hosts a multitude of events throughout the semester to bring the Jewish community together.</p>
Hillel board members at their annual Family Weekend pop-in event at the Anne Frank Center on Sept. 23, 2022. Hillel hosts a multitude of events throughout the semester to bring the Jewish community together.

Recently, public figures such as Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and Kyrie Irving have taken to social media to share antisemitic rhetoric, leaving members of the Jewish community in Columbia disappointed but unsurprised. Members of the community said allyship from non-Jewish people and communication are important ways to combat antisemitism. 

“It’s very disappointing to see stars of pop culture and sports giving these remarks to such a broad audience, and such a large audience at that," Madelyn Miller, a third-year sport and entertainment student and president of Hillel, a Jewish student organization on campus, said,"At the end of the day, we strive to unite against hate and any form of hatred whether that's antisemitism or any hatred towards other groups and cultures, we don't stand for it at all."

While recent remarks by celebrities have received negative media attention, some members of the local Jewish community recognize that this is not a new problem.

“(Antisemitism) is something we have been dealing with as a people since the beginning of our story 3,000 years ago,” Rabbi Sruly Epstein, a director of Chabad, another Jewish student organization at USC, said.

However, social media is allowing antisemitism to reach a larger audience than before, he said.

“If you’re a Jewish student here at the University of South Carolina, because of this globally connected world we live in, if you’re reading these things in the news and seeing them on social media whenever you tune in, it can make you feel uncomfortable,” Epstein said.

During this time of rising antisemitism, USC has garnered praise from USC faculty for being welcoming to Jewish students.

“I do have to say, the University of South Carolina is very well situated to deal with those type of issues, and it is a real safe haven for Jewish students,” Rabbi Meir Muller, an assistant professor in the College of Education, said.

However, Miller said the university can still improve in its response to increasing antisemitism.

“I think there’s always room, you know, it would have been nice for the university to maybe come out with a statement or come to Hillel individually and just show their support, but I think they do a good job of making all students feel welcome and we’re lucky to have a university that does care about all of its students,” Miller said.  

Members of the Jewish community are also emphasizing the importance of receiving support from non-Jewish people to help fight antisemitism. 

"It can be as small as just talking to somebody that you know that's Jewish and telling them that you support them because silence isn't helpful," Miller said.

While Chabad has discussed these antisemitic remarks, it tried to remain positive and kind to combat antisemitism, Epstein said.  

“Our philosophy has always been to try to better ourselves and just try to double down on our commitment to being a source of goodness and kindness and light to our communities, in our immediate circles and to the world at large as a way of countering this darkness. You can’t fight darkness with darkness, you can only fight darkness with light,” Epstein said.

Beginning to have conversations about antisemitism is an important first step in fighting the problem, according to Miller.

"At the end of the day, we need people to just be talking about it, let's get the conversation started, and that's how we can put all of this to rest," Miller said.


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