What It’s Like to be a Jewish Student at Ontario University

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The following testimonials reveal the ongoing anti-Semitism that exists today on Ontario university campuses.

 

I was in a philosophy program, but had to switch out as so many professors were against me. The majority of my papers spoke to my pro-Israel views, and they kept failing me on my assignments. Now, I’m in Political Science and as there are a couple of great, Jewish professors on campus, I will finally graduate with a degree. I’m really disappointed in the ongoing bias and prejudice I see at one of the top university’s in North America. 

~Male undergraduate student at University of Toronto, main campus, 2015  

  

In a history class, a Muslim student made an anti-Jewish, anti-Israel comment related to Gaza. The professor chose not to directly comment, but rather re-focus on the specific issue at hand. I was frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I would like to know how to better handle issues like this in future. 

~ York University, female undergraduate student, 2013

 

Frosh week at U of T Mississauga was one of the worst experiences of my life. A week that is supposed to create feelings of excitement and belonging brought on feelings of fear and isolation. U of T put together an assembly, where they attempted to pride themselves on being diverse and accepting; however, they lacked a complete understanding of what it is to be a minority and to be identified as one. The school put on a slideshow that had the names of various religions on it; they asked the students to stand up and cheer for their religion when it appeared on the screen. I was terrified when the word “Judaism” showed up, knowing that I would most likely be the only Jew at the assembly. I became embarrassed when my floor mates looked at me in shock for not being proud of who I was, so I felt forced to standup and present myself. Instantly, I became known as the campus “Jew Girl”; students would walk by me and say “You’re the Jew Girl, right?” I couldn’t have felt more isolated and insulted.

Later on in my first year, a couple of students snuck into the common room on my floor in my residence. We were watching the U.S. presidential elections and one of the boys said, “I hope the Muslim guy wins because he’ll kill all of the Jews!” Instantaneously, a German girl on my floor chirped back, “Don’t talk like that, my friend over there is a Jew (pointing at me) and she’s so nice. If there’s anyone in this world she should hate, it should be me, and she doesn’t.”

I was petrified; I had once again been identified as a minority and now in the presence of blatant anti-Semites. I had never in my life experienced racism and now at U of T, I saw it everywhere I went. The guys proceeded to stand up and walk over to me. Once they were in front of me, they told me they were KKK representatives and that they were going to kill me and I belonged in the gas chambers with my grandparents. A bunch of male students on my floor surrounded the two men and told me to run. Once the school had been alerted of the situation and identified the students that had attacked me, they did nothing. These guys new where I lived and they wanted me dead, and my school (U of T) did nothing. They had convinced me not to call the police and that they would be expelling the attackers, but in the end they didn’t. I saw the men a year later in the campus bookstore, where I had to run and hide behind a bookshelf, so that they wouldn’t see me. U of T did not look out for my wellbeing, and made the Mississauga campus a very scary place for me to be!

~ University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus, female Alumni, incident occurred in 2005 during undergrad

 

I am an Orthodox Jew and a visible minority. A couple of years ago, I was off campus at York, enroute to a nearby coffee shop. I was walking with a friend from Iran who speaks Farsi. Suddenly, two young Iranian women spotted me and started talking about me in Farsi. My friend translated their hate speech as “Look at that despicable Jew with a hat and strings. Wish we could kill him.” My friend told them that they should be ashamed of themselves. 

~ York University, male undergraduate student, incident happened in 2013

 

During Operation Protective Edge, the summer of 2014, I serviced the public at my summer job. I have an accent and people frequently asked where I was from. I always answered that I was from Israel but I never discussed the war with customers. But one customer heard that I was Israeli, and complained to my manager that I was discussing the situation which was not true.  Before firing me, my manager told me I should have lied about what country I was born in. I’d never felt so humiliated in my entire life.  But a Jewish professional offered to help me at no cost and this led to a financial settlement. I felt much better and I left the organization on good terms. A few weeks later that horrific manager was fired.  

~Student employee serving the public, summer 2014  

 

I regularly speak my mind in class regarding Israel. I get a lot of dirty looks, but every once in awhile, a Jewish student will stop me after class. That person will tell me that I have courage and that I am right. Jewish students on university campuses worldwide need to stand up, and fight for Israel and for Judaism as a whole.

~ University of Toronto, male undergraduate student, main campus, 2015 

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