As many of you know, a group of your peers has taken charge in confronting the challenges our Jewish student communities at SF State face. We’ve heard many of you express concern around these issues. They’ve affected us personally. While not everyone is able or willing to be vocal in advocating for the changes we want, we wish to keep you all informed of our actions and the response (or rather, lack of response) from our campus administration.
This morning, we met with President Wong following the release of the J. Weekly article published last Wednesday (May 3rd), and President Wong’s email response sent to the student body last Friday (May 5th). Our goal for this meeting was to discuss the issues that we raised in our letter to President Wong, sent (April 3rd) that 25 of you helped us write. We regret to report we left the meeting feeling more unsettled than before we entered. While President Wong has publicly claimed that he is going to take steps to combat anti-normalization on campus, and the anti-semitism that stems from it, he seems to be repeating the same empty promises that he made a year ago. He’s committing to creating a task force and instituting anti-bias training for faculty and administrators. Not only did we not see these promises acted upon in the past year, President Wong insinuated that it is our job to help lead these efforts, and that the university would support us in doing so. But, we don’t feel it is the responsibility of Jewish students to ensure the campus administration and faculty is appropriately educated so that they can keep us safe. We replied via email that we would support the university in leading action in this direction.
Furthermore we questioned President Wong about his shocking comment in the J. article, where he categorically refused to say he would welcome Zionist students on campus. In today’s meeting, President Wong provided a flawed definition of Zionism, stating that he believed it was the right of every Jewish person to be Jewish. Not only is that misrepresentative of the core ideologies of zionism, but, if indeed President Wong believes that to be true, why would he then refuse to say zionists, (Jews, according to that definition) aren’t welcome?
Throughout the meeting, President Wong refused to share any ownership or responsibility for the campus climate, pushing the blame onto other entities. This failure of leadership, coupled with the recent incidents on campus, such as the Know Your Rights Fair and the President’s re-invitation of Mayor Barkat, lead us to conclude that President Wong has helped further the exclusion of Jewish students from our campus.
We, the five students standing up to speak out against these issues, are not advocating one particular political viewpoint. Rather, we are fighting for the right of all Jewish or zionist students to have the physical and psychological safety to express our authentic and diverse beliefs. This is not only about Israel - but it involves Israel. We are not asking any of you to do anything that would make you uncomfortable, but we deeply appreciate the support of our peers as we take these bold and sometimes scary steps. We believe these issues go beyond Jewish life and Hillel, and are applicable to every campus community. We want to be a part of a school where all identities, especially historically marginalized ones, can be voiced and explored.
We ask those of you who feel angry by all of this, talk to us. You’re not alone and we need your voice heard alongside ours.
We ask those of you who are afraid, those of you who tuck your stars of David into your collars, talk to us. You’re not alone and we’re here to support you.
We ask those of you who don’t think this is issue worth raising, talk to us. You’re not alone and we understand your desire to not rock the boat. We are doing this for you – we want to make sure you have the space to simply be Jewish and not be politicized.
If you want to help, please reach out to us. We know the five of us can’t make change alone – we need the strength of our community with us as we pursue equity, fairness and respect.