top of page

The evolving reality of antisemitism around me

By Adam Levine

Editorial Staff

I feel victimized by antisemitism for the second time in my life.

The first time, I did not realize it was antisemitism. I was in kindergarten. I heard a joke at the lunch table about Adolf Hitler. As most kindergarten students do, I went home and happily repeated the joke to my family.

My parents, both of whom were raised in Jewish households, explained to me the antisemitic nature of the joke and encouraged me to report it to the school’s administrators.

I never thought I would come face-to-face with antisemitism again, especially on my college campus.

The Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE) and Academic Affairs co-sponsored the “Series on Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine,” a two-part event that aimed to “provide historical context to the conflict while exploring potential pathways to peace and justice,” according to the event flyer.

To clarify my views on the Israel/Palestine conflict, I am outraged by the horror and death on both sides and I cannot begin to fathom the socio-political intricacies of a place nearly 5,500 miles across the world.

All I can hope to do is continue to learn.

This, however, does not affect my views on antisemitism as a Jewish-American college student.

The series’ second event, “Untangling the Discourse: Exploring Complex Terms in the Israeli-Palestinian Context,” on April 16, which I attended with my dad, left me speechless.

The event’s first speaker, Salem State University History Professor Aviva Chomsky, opposed the widely accepted definition of antisemitism, proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016, even though it has been adopted by 43 nations, including the United States.

According to ABC News, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act May 1 with a vote of 320-91.

This law “requires the Department of Education to use the IRHA’s working definition of antisemitism when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws,” the article said.

The most offensive aspect of the event was Chomsky’s response to a question submitted by the audience. When asked how to respectfully discuss the conflict with Jewish friends, she referenced conversations with her own Jewish friends. 

Chomsky said they reported a sense of fear due to the rise of antisemitism in the United States after Oct. 7. She said she was confused when her Jewish friends reported being fearful.

I was astonished. I did not understand how someone could be confused about this - how someone could share this at an event hosted and sponsored by my own university.

Chomsky said when she asked her Jewish friends to provide justification for their fear, their cited evidence was not enough to validate their claims. She said they relied on statistics rather than first-hand experiences.

I was in disbelief. Many examples of antisemitism in the U.S. after Oct. 7 began to flood my mind.

For example, NBC News reported on an incident on Nov. 5 at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst’s (UMass) campus at their Hillel. Hillel is the world’s largest Jewish campus organization.

At an event hosted by the Hillel, “Bring Them Home: Solidarity Walk and Installation,” a vigil for the 240 people taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, a Jewish student was punched and the Israeli flag was spit on, the article reported.

As a transfer student from UMass, I regularly attended the Hillel when I was enrolled there and hearing about this event made me afraid.

The article also cited other examples of antisemitism on campuses across the nation.

This event took place in our home state at the Commonwealth’s flagship state university. As a professor at one of the other state universities, I expected Chomksy to be aware of incidents such as this.

It was not merely a “statistic.”

This is a real-life example of antisemitism, justifying Jewish Americans’ fears.

Chomsky also validated the use of the historically antisemitic phrase, “from the river to the sea,” and did not provide any insight about its origin or why it is deemed antisemitic. Rather, only one perspective of the conflict was shown.

I was appalled to be sitting at a University-sponsored event hearing this claim and antisemitic rhetoric.

It was overwhelming, astonishing, and anger-inducing.

I sat there wondering, “Is it antisemitic to invalidate the rise of antisemitism and fear Jewish Americans feel? Am I really face-to-face with it?”

After decades of my parents, grandparents, and other relatives sharing news articles of antisemitism on college campuses, my college campus brought it to me.

I have been afraid of identifying as a Jewish student on campus after Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.

I have been afraid of the community’s, the administration’s, and my peers’ responses to my feelings.

Not representing both sides of such an intricate situation at a University-sponsored panel, which claimed to educate the community about the conflict, suppresses the voices of the Jewish students on campus who have a strong connection to Israel.

This University’s administration took no action to disavow the antisemitic comments of Chomsky at the event they sponsored.

Taking no action is an action.

I am ashamed of my University’s administration for not condemning Chomsky’s views on antisemitism.


Recent Posts

See All


  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
bottom of page