Building Community in Times of Darkness at Brooklyn College



December 20, 2023

I am a fourth year student at Brooklyn College and have been an active member of the school’s Jewish community, serving as the president of my fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and planning many events with Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College.  Following Hamas’ terrorist attack in Israel on October 7th, I was motivated to assume a leadership role in the Hillel and get more involved with the United4Israel club. I feel passionately about finding ways to support students experiencing antisemitism and anti-Zionism on our campus.

Since October 7, I am especially aware when I’m often the only Jewish student in my class. I have seen and heard of professors calling out Jewish students in class to justify Israel’s actions. Although our university administrators condemned Hamas after the October 7 attacks and demonstrated support to the Jewish community by attending a recent Hanukkah ceremony, the climate on my campus remains tense. Recently, pro-Palestinian students have formed a coalition demanding the removal of the President given her support of Israel and Jewish students. 

On the first day back at school after the October 7 attacks, we held a vigil to mourn all of the lives lost in Israel. We went through all the proper University channels in planning the vigil, including meeting with Student Affairs and campus security. We were assured that no one would be allowed near us while we held the vigil. However, while we were saying Kaddish, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) started protesting and shouting at us. Their chants were so loud we could barely hear ourselves reciting Kaddish. This tension continued throughout the semester with sidewalks covered in anti-Israel and antisemitic slogans, pro-Palestinian students marching through campus with megaphones and calling for a global intifada, and security being offered to Jewish students to navigate through a pro-Palestinian protest that made me feel unsafe.   

Through all of this adversity, I have found increasing strength and pride in my Jewish identity. Tanger Hillel is a home for a Jewish community that is very diverse and I am in awe of how Jewish students from different religious and ethnic backgrounds have come together to support one another and to demonstrate our collective support for Israel and each other. 

After a challenging semester, celebrating Hanukkah on campus with my AEPi and Hillel communities has been much more meaningful this year. The Hanukkah story is one of resilience and survival.  It reflects a pattern that appears in critical moments in Jewish history—and we are living through one right now, at this very moment. Now more than ever we are united with our Jewish family and global community. We have an unbreakable bond that our Brooklyn College community shares with our community in Israel. The bond of the Jewish people will ensure that we continue to survive and thrive. Hanukkah is a time when light comes through darkness, hope exists after struggle, and we as a Jewish people survive in the face of hate.