When I arrived in the UK, I was expecting the best out of my next three years in further education in the UK. When I was at school, I had never heard about the safe spaces that were constantly being discussed in universities, or the phrase religious pluralism, or hate based on religious devotion.
As a freshman, I made friends, started socialising and became familiar with the student Jewish community. I soon joined the Jewish Society committee as a standing member. At university, I believed, I could possess a set of beliefs and devotions and be respected for my opinion - but it became apparent I wasn’t.
In parallel with the Labour Party’s spat with anti-Semitism and Jeremy Corbyn’s remorseless ambivalence to stamp the hate out, anti-Semitism has grown on British university campuses. With this year’s revelations of anti-Semitic name-calling in Oxford University’s Labour Club and the shocking violence against Jewish supporters of Israel at King’s College London and Cambridge, this issue hit too close to home.
In one of my first engagements with the Jewish Society, I attended a talk by a reporter on the dealings of the Knesset - the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem. I remember distinctly a student, adorned in a red and white keffiyeh, stand up suddenly to attack one of the reporter’s claims about the Israel-Palestine debate. In his rant, he denounced the existence of the State of Israel and attacked the Jewish religion for the primary cause of the Palestinian plight in the region.
My heart sunk in my chest as I felt physically threatened by a man preaching hate against my religion, especially on a campus where I was told and believed I would feel safe.
A few months after my start at university last year, I visited old friends in London. Walking along the side streets of Euston close to the University of London, I was struck by the number of posters advertising talks for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and two graffitied swastikas that were washed away or scribbled out.
Anti-Semitism is fringe hatred of the Jewish people, often represented by a minority, whose harmful opinions cannot reflect the majority. Yet, this hatred has breached the communities of radical believers and onto the streets and our educational institutions, where Jewish students are made to feel subordinate.
Closer to home, during my running for President for my accommodation hall, I was greeted with anti-Semitism again - in anonymous form. On a poster, promoting the pledges and goals for my run, a short, stubby moustache was drawn on my face, likened to Adolf Hitler’s hairpiece, and a swastika drawn on my arm, similar to that of a Nazi officer.
I was shocked to disbelief. Whether it was a joke or a legitimate threat, someone who I might have known, had adorned my face with a swastika. In reaction, I cried and got angry. I asked my friends to investigate who would have done this, but no one would come forward to apologise or make amends.
I considered bringing this issue to my accommodation security team or a senior member of student affairs at my university, but I feared retribution or that my claim would be dismissed.
Every time I read about anti-Semitic attacks on students, or washed-out swastikas on walls around student areas, or name-calling, I keep having to remind myself that we are past the days of mass Jewish hatred across Europe. Where Jewish students were exiled from universities, expelled due to their religion, and made to wear the yellow Star of David at all times.
But with a record number of anti-Semitic attacks in the UK last year - 1,382, - there is a real and existential threat to Jewish students on university campuses. I, and many of my friends, are aware of this threat and feel unsafe on campus with this horrifying rise of anti-Semitism in our safe spaces.
The brightest and most influential Jews in the UK have already recognised the existential threat that anti-Semitism poses - and its creeping persistence. The ignorant and naive must be pressured to stamp out the smallest forms of anti-Semitism: the name-calling, the dated stereotypes, and the Holocaust jokes. They must be educated in the dangers of the proliferation of this message to ensure Jewish students have a safe space to live without hate.