April 16, 2024
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The Experience of a Jewish Journalism Student on Campus

As a senior at the University of Connecticut, I began to reflect on my time at school this past August, at the beginning of my final fall semester in college. As a Jewish student at the University of Connecticut, I’ve also begun to reflect on my time here, but in a much different way, beginning after the October 7 attack on Israel.

Before the war began, I felt relatively safe at my university as an openly Jewish student. I knew of some underlying tensions between student organizations on campus, and even experienced some interactions I would deem borderline antisemitic. However, to me, these incidents were few and far between. It wasn’t until the October 7 attack that I realized just how far antisemitism and anti-Zionism reaches at UConn.

In the immediate aftermath of October 7, our university president sent an email to all UConn staff and students regarding the attack. This email, which addressed the attack, condemned terrorism and called for peace in the Middle East, sparked outrage from certain students on campus, who then tried calling for our president’s resignation. Seeing this backlash from my peers while my Jewish community was in mourning was shocking.

To my horror, instead of sympathy, there have been many recent glorifications of Hamas’ terrorism. Four days after Israel was attacked, a student group held a rally on campus at which was heard chants of “Death to Israel’’ and “Israel go to Hell.” Various posters were put up around campus asking students to “Join the Fight,” or posters with pictures of masked soldiers dressed similarly to Hamas fighters with the words “RESISTANCE ISN’T TERRORISM – Victory to Palestine” and “LIBERATION BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.” University administration had the posters removed, only for them to be hung up again and super glued to the walls, making them difficult to remove. Students chanted and wrote in chalk outside buildings “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is an inciteful saying created by Hamas, implying the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea should be “free,” thereby indirectly calling for the destruction of Israel and mass murder of the Jews living there. Students have ripped down posters that were put up around campus of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and have outwardly told Jewish students that they are in support of Hamas.

Another cause for concern is a table of books in our campus library that highlight current events, the most recent being the Israel-Hamas war. Almost all of the 20 displayed were solely from an anti-Israel viewpoint. One book in particular is on the topic of Hamas, and falsely portrays them as a functioning political party that was democratically elected into power. After asking the library staff to explain the bias and misinformation in these books, the staff simply responded by explaining the point of the current events table, and ignored the question altogether.

There have also been multiple efforts from student organizations to silence or deter Jewish students from participating or being heard, something I have personally experienced. The university’s student-run newspaper, a paper that portrays itself as a voice for the students, is funded by the students and is expected to serve as a forum for the open exchange of ideas and opinions, yet has posted many anti-Zionist, anti-Israel articles littered with antisemitic rhetoric. While seeing this one-sided bias unfold, I spoke with many Jewish students on campus and wrote an article on our behalf, shedding light on the Jewish students’ perspective and what we have experienced. My article was first ignored upon submission, until ultimately I was told they were refusing to publish it.

This blatant embrace of terrorism and the explosion of antisemitism on campus has created an incredibly hostile and unsafe environment for Jewish students. For me, seeing my peers and others dismiss the attack on October 7 is not just unacceptable, it is inhumane. While I do not necessarily equate what is happening now with the conditions that led to the Holocaust, there are certainly chilling parallels.

I go through my days feeling tense about being targeted for being outwardly Jewish, for wearing any piece of Jewish-identifying clothing or jewelry (that I now get an urge to hide while in social settings), or simply while walking in or out of my campus’s Hillel building. My concern for my safety makes it challenging to learn in the classroom, even more so while sitting in class alongside students whom I’ve seen openly advocating for the destruction of Israel and its population, a country in which many of my loved ones live.

It’s clear that many acting against Israel at this time are not doing so solely to support Palestinians. Those contributing to the antisemitism on campus, attacking Jewish people both verbally and physically, and calling the mass murdering of Jews on October 7 “a resistance” are instead using this as an excuse to show their own deep-seated antisemitism. Now more than ever it’s important for college and university administration and faculty, and our peers, to ensure Jewish students are supported and that our voices are heard, as many of our families have experienced the tragedy that results from silence.


Laura Augenbraun is a senior at the University of Connecticut studying mathematics and journalism as a double major. Throughout her college experience, she has been involved in Hillel and multiple environmental-focused student organizations. Before choosing to leave the Daily Campus, she wrote for their environmental beat.

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