Fighting Antisemitism at Mount Holyoke and Beyond

February 10, 2022

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community, 

It becomes more and more evident that we are living in a world where the deep roots of antisemitism and Judeophobia are easily dismissed and misunderstood, thus conversations about how to eradicate the dangers associated yield very harmful interactions. Over the last few years, we have witnessed violent attacks on groups of people connected to their racial, ethnic, religious, gender and various other identities. Our efforts to fight antisemitism, anti-Asian and anti-Black racism and all other forms of oppression become mired in confusion and inherent challenges exist when we refuse to see how our words and actions reinforce the human hierarchy. 

At Mount Holyoke, we remain vigilant in our work to find the gaps in our knowledge and understanding and thus we have created curricular and co-curricular educational opportunities to expand our understanding and perspective. This includes our upcoming Building On Our Momentum (BOOM): Community Day which will be our sixth annual gathering focused on diversity, equity and inclusion when it takes place on Tuesday, March 29. I invite you all to join us as we will welcome a wide range of speakers, workshops and creative spaces for engaging across our differences and learning about how to affirm and support one another in our efforts to create a truly inclusive community of learners. 

I am writing to you today to share important updates on our work towards “Fighting Antisemitism at Mount Holyoke and Beyond” which is an effort that builds upon the work of the Jewish Student Union and our colleagues in the Department of Religion and the Office of Community and Belonging. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion began the first annual teach-in on antisemitism in 2021 during our second annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Week of Racial Justice and Reconciliation. Each year, during this week, we will continue to host a teach-in on antisemitism, but we know that one day in a semester is not enough to even begin to address what has been part of the experience of so many who have suffered virulent and violent attacks. 

This year, Mount Holyoke has been the site of terrible incidents targeting Jewish community members. The investigation is ongoing and any individuals found responsible for these violations will be held accountable for these hateful acts. We believe it is imperative that our work addresses these issues head-on by urging every member of our community to learn about the history of Judeophobia and antisemitism. Our new series will welcome speakers throughout the semester, including a track on antisemitism at BOOM, featured lectures and numerous other scholars and activists throughout the spring semester. 

Recently, we welcomed Dr. Laura Leibman for a very special lecture during our annual teach-in on antisemitism as part of our week honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who well understood the sacrifices Jewish activists made during the civil and human rights movement in the United States. The Kings were often welcomed and supported by various rabbis who stood in solidarity with them at marches across the South and they saw many Jewish Freedom Riders make sacrifices in the 1960s. The shared vulnerability of being Black and Jewish was recognized by the Kings as seekers of peace, nonviolent activists and individuals who believed in radical love and empathy for all humankind. Coretta Scott King once noted: "To tolerate antisemitism is to cooperate with the evils of prejudice and bigotry that Martin Luther King Jr. fought against."  Dr. Leibman’s important lecture on her examination of the racialized experience of a multiracial Jewish family is powerfully poignant and she has provided us with an important resource list for families that want to explore their histories. We’ve shared this as a resource here along with this video of her lecture. 

This semester, our series will also include public lectures with featured scholars Dr. Anthea Butler on Feb. 28 at 7 pm and Dr. Paola Tartakoff on April 5 at 7 pm.  We are excited to share this history with you, to correct misconceptions that have perpetuated complex racial narratives and to build upon work that student activists have galvanized their peers to be engaged in through a variety of efforts at Mount Holyoke. I am most proud to also highlight the work of our Association of Pan African Unity (APAU) who have collaborated with our Jewish Student Union during Black History Month. Their Black-Jewish relationships dialogue is a vital one for community building and solidarity as we build the beloved community we want to embody at Mount Holyoke. To learn more about Mount Holyoke’s efforts to fight racial injustice, please visit our BOOM archives where you will see a host of talks focused on learning about how to fight Asian hate, Islamophobia, xenophobia and so much more.

I am grateful for the work I am able to do with students and my colleagues so we can create a world where we all can thrive in our support for one another. 

In solidarity,