Spread Kindness Not Hate: Jewish Students Speak Out

Earlier this semester, anti-choice groups Created Equal and Genocide Awareness Project created a demonstration on campus at Tate Plaza. These demonstrations, while permissible under free speech and allowed at a public university, used doctored images as well as associating said images of abortion with the Holocaust, thereby having obscene, antisemitic material that should not have been allowed on campus. The killing of babies was associated with six million Jews being murdered, which cannot be equated. No lengths of tragedy and suffering could begin to equate the two. While the intended audience was that of students who would listen and perhaps champion the cause, another audience was targeted, that being the Jewish students. Already being a minority on campus, Jewish students, including myself, felt targeted and scared to walk on campus. Having something horrendous like the Holocaust shoved in our faces in a particularly mass public space was terrifying. Similar responses came from the Overheard at UGA group on Facebook, those who wrote on the Free Speech wall and the Democrats of Athens—people I am grateful for in their understanding. I talked to other Jewish students about their responses to the event.

Becca Wilson, a junior and an active member of both Hillel (the Jewish Student Center on campus) and Dawgs for Israel, said “I think the images displayed at Tate [were] appalling. I believe in everyone’s right to free speech and protest as protected by the First Amendment, but using imagery of the Holocaust including extremely triggering Nazi symbolism and pictures of mounds of dead bodies is triggering. There are members of the UGA community who have been directly affected by the Holocaust and to be bombarded by reminders of the darkest point in our people’s history in a place where we are supposed to feel safe is outrageous. I would also like to mention that there were graphic images of lynchings which had a similar effect on African American members of the UGA community.” 

Ellie Reingold, a sophomore and also an active member of Hillel speaking on behalf of other Jewish students as well said, “We feel that displaying Holocaust imagery and equating abortion with genocide is at least as egregious as the graphic images of aborted fetuses. To start, it vastly exaggerates and misrepresents what abortion actually is. Unlike genocide, abortion is not fueled by hate; women choose to get abortions because they cannot take care of a child or because to carry to term would cause them harmnot because they hate the fetus. Nor is it systematic; it is a decision taken by individual women independently. Unlike genocide victims, fetuses do not experience forced displacement; forced labor and cruel, inhuman living conditions. And most importantly, abortion is not an effort to eradicate a specific culture or ethnicity. Abortion occurs across all demographic groups, and ‘fetus’ is not a culture or an ethnicity.”

She continued, “Secondly, invoking genocide to describe abortion trivializes the horror of actual genocide. When we allow the Holocaust—or any genocide for that matter—to be used as a token to denounce anything that is not genocide, we are complicit in an attitude that allows genocides to keep happening again and again (since the Holocaust, major genocides include Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, and Myanmar, among others).”

As noted by both of these students, it should never be okay to equate abortion to any act of genocide, but in this particular case, the Holocaust. Our own safe place was where we are supposed to grow and learn how to be kind human beings was downtrodden by the cruelest reminders of our humanity being taken away from us, not to mention a mere two days after the anniversary of Kristallnacht itself. I repeat, this is not okay. UGA may be in the Bible Belt, but that never means antisemitic acts should be accepted on campus. We would like to speak out for the people who felt scared by this event, those who know what it’s like to be targets and victims, or those who just stood in solidarity. We are trying to be that voice for you. 

For all protesters out there, yes you have a right to your free speech, but please consider your execution before doing so, and whom you might hurt if done the wrong way. Please, above all else, practice kindness. Lift up the rest of humanity and use that free speech voice to pass on positive messages that we all need to hear. Kindness really can make the world a better place.

Love,

Jews who just wanted to be heard

 

Photos provided by author.