Letter to the Haverford Community

Letter to the Haverford Community

By Anonymous; Image by U.S. News

Dear Fellow Students, administrators, and members of the Haverford community,

I am reaching out with a heartfelt plea for understanding and respect within our campus community. It has come to my attention that there are growing tensions and misunderstandings that have begun to foster an unwelcome environment for Jewish students among us.

It is crucial to acknowledge that while criticisms of political entities and their actions, including those of the State of Israel, are a part of healthy discourse, these should not translate into actions that alienate or intimidate individuals based on their religious or cultural identity. The distinction between political criticism on the one hand and religious and cultural respect on the other is essential.

Recently, the removal of posters across campus for events such as Shabbat 100 and “How do you Jew” – gatherings meant to celebrate and share Jewish culture and tradition – has raised concerns about our adherence to Haverford’s core values. These actions do not reflect a critique of political stances but rather, unfortunately, suggest a disregard for the presence and safety of Jewish students on campus. Such acts dismantle the bridges we strive to build within our diverse community and instill fear and isolation among our peers.

Additionally, there have been instances where misinformation and harmful narratives have been spread without appropriate condemnation or rectification from our administration. Suggestions to merely rename events – like the “Mass Death on All Fronts: Israel’s weaponization of COVID against Palestinians (how the Israeli state intentionally debilitates Palestinians through the spread of COVID)”– without addressing the underlying issues can seem like a superficial attempt to cover up deeper biases rather than taking substantive steps to foster an inclusive environment. The Jewish Federation of Philadelphia accurately noted: “The event’s title dangerously and inaccurately implies that Israel spread coronavirus to advance its global control, repackaging a centuries-old antisemitic trope that Jews take advantage of global crises as a means for their own gain and advancement. In this case, the event’s narrative takes on a new form of the antisemitic blood libel trope, accusing Jews of committing ritual murder and perpetuating the harmful stereotype of Jews as evil and conniving.”

When a Dean of our college emails the organizers of such an event and says they should merely change the name and prefaces his email by saying that, with regard to the complaints about the program’s false, libelous and inflammatory content, “these are not my views or the views of the college,” it feels that he and the administration are supporting the event. Similar administration support for hateful views occurs when we have a teacher who walks around campus without condemnation after tweeting on October 8th “We should not have to apologize for celebrating these scenes of an imprisoned people breaking free from their chains. This was a historic moment to be recorded in the history books” when referring to the massacre of October 7th. This conduct by the administration shows that many in the administration have a disregard for the feelings of Jewish students. Without proper condemnation from the administration, who knows what those on campus ripping down posters will move to next? Acts of physical intimidation? Acts of physical harm? Jewish students hope for the best but fear the worst.

It is imperative that we, as a campus community, strive to differentiate between political discourse and religious and cultural respect. Disagreements on political matters should not devolve into personal animosities or actions that harm others based on their identity.

I urge all of us to reflect on the values of empathy, respect, and understanding. Our diversity is our strength, and it is only through mutual respect that we can hope to foster a community where all feel safe, valued, and included. Let us engage in open dialogues, challenge our preconceptions, and work together towards a campus environment where every student, regardless of background or belief, can thrive.

In the spirit of community, understanding, and respect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *