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Letter to the Editor: Anti-Semitism should have been mentioned

By Valerie Kass     2/28/17 5:19pm

To the Editor,

This letter is in response to the coverage of the vandalism of Willy’s statue. As a Jew, I was shocked and hurt by the appearance of a swastika on campus. As a student, I was further disappointed by the way the administration and the Thresher addressed this incident. This event warrants a discussion about the meaning of the swastika and its clear anti-Semitic significance. However, both administration and the Thresher failed to include any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism in their responses to the incident.

In his widely shared statement on Facebook, Dean Hutchinson commented that “... the use of the swastika clearly reveals that whoever did this is either ignorant of the history of true evil associated with this emblem of hate or is genuinely motivated by blind hatred.” While I do not disagree with the dean’s statement, I find the absence of any mention of anti-Semitism inexcusable. In fact, I find this omission reminiscent of a statement the Trump administration made which remembered the Holocaust without mention of the Jews who were its predominant target. One cannot discuss the swastika outside the context of anti-Semitism or the systematic genocide of approximately six million Jews in the Holocaust. It is important to recognize and support all groups targeted in the Holocaust, but it should also be understood that the Nazis’ ultimate goal, or “final solution,” was a world exterminated of specifically Jews. The Nazi party’s symbol, the swastika, cannot be divorced from this.

The Thresher followed Dean Hutch’s example, failing to use the words anti-Semitism, Jew or Judaism in their article. The article similarly fails to offer the possibility that the swastika’s use could be deeply offensive to Jewish students.

I am disappointed that this university which prides itself on the pursuit of knowledge has not initiated what could have been a productive and educational dialogue about anti-Semitism on campus and around the country. The sad truth is that anti-Semitism does exist on campus. In the past two weeks, I have witnessed and personally felt the effects of two separate anti-Semitic acts. These were not isolated incidents and are indicative of the often ignored anti-Semitism that is a reality of life at Rice.

I cannot help being angry about this and I will not apologize for my justifiable emotional response. However, as I further consider recent events, I feel I cannot solely blame the perpetrators of these incidents. The fault lies not just with them but also with the refusal of the Rice community and leadership to talk about or acknowledge the issue of anti-Semitism at Rice. People must be taught what anti-Semitism is before they can understand how their actions impact the Jewish community.

Ignorance of history leads us to repeat it. Specifically, ignorance of the Jewish plight allows anti-Semitism to persist generation after generation. Silence condones anti-Semitism on this campus. How are we supposed to change if the leaders of this community will not even say the word anti-Semitism?

Valerie Kass, Sid Richardson ’20

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