There are no words to describe the agony of Israelis, and all of klal yisrael, over the past month. The brutality of October 7th is beyond words. While our circumstances outside of Israel are very different from those in Israel, it is now a deeply painful time to be a Jew in America. Our anxiety, heartbreak, alienation, and fear is palpable.
The alienation of American Jews from our non-Jewish friends, neighbors, and colleagues is especially pronounced on university campuses, where a shocking number of students and faculty have been cheering on Hamas. Students for Justice in Palestine have held rallies on dozens of university campuses calling the terror attacks committed by Hamas an “historic win” for Palestinian resistance. A Stanford professor forced Jewish students in his classes to stand in a corner while he called them “colonizers” and called the Hamas terrorists “freedom fighters.” A Columbia professor called the massacre on October 7 an “awesome and stunning victory.”
For Jewish LGBTQ+ students, these reactions on campus have been particularly painful. Queer Jewish students are suddenly finding themselves subject to exclusion and derision in the environments that they previously sought out for refuge and support. For example, after writing “It’s FREE PALESTINE over here. Zionists aren’t invited,” the president and founder of Columbia University’s lesbian organization, LionLez, sent an email to members saying “This is not a war. ‘Israel’ is the sole aggressor. Israelites are the Nazis.” Speaking to lesbian Zionists, she wrote, “You and your white supremacy are also not invited. STOP THE GENOCIDE! FREE PALESTINE! FUCK ISRAEL.”
I am horrified and alarmed by the hatred and exclusion LGBTQ+ Jewish students are experiencing on their campuses. To provide a space of support, connection, and even hope for LGBTQ+ students, Eshel is hosting a conversation for Queer Jewish college students with myself, Rabbi Shai Held, Jewish campus activist Elisha Baker, and LGBTQ+ activist Yakira Galler. We will gather virtually to connect with one another at a time when many of us feel deeply isolated, to support and comfort one another, and to share our own strategies as we navigate this challenging moment.