From a young age I was faced with an identity crisis and needed to figure out who I really was. The answer finally presented itself when I first traveled to England with my family. Only 7 years old and excited to ride the famous red London tour bus, I watched as my mother gathered the prepaid tickets and proceeded to hand them to the bus employee. He immediately noticed that my mother’s shirt was written in Hebrew and asked her if we were Jewish. My mother had always taught us to be proud of who we are, so she acknowledged and said, “Yes, we are Jewish.” Upon hearing this, his face turned red, he began yelling and calling us “dirty Jews,” then kicked us off by force.
I may have been young, but at that moment I realized that it doesn’t matter where I was born, grew up, or live—I would always be a Jew. A piece of processed tree or birthplace does not define my identity. A Jew is not an individual within a religion but a member of an ethnic people and part of a 4,000-year-old nation. Today, the Jewish nation in diaspora has mostly forgotten who they are. We need to be loud, proud, and unapologetic about being alive and strong. With no identity, there is no legitimacy. If our sole goal is to combat movements that are anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, then we have already lost. We must not battle to survive but fight to thrive, as any resolution should never compromise the right for Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
Public anti-Israel expressions are not uncommon on Columbia University’s campus and others. As student groups conduct social media campaigns and host events on campus promoted as fighting against inequalities and for human rights, many actually serve to antagonize and ostracize pro-Israel students in the way conflicts and opposing viewpoints are portrayed. For example, earlier this year a socialism group at Columbia University promoted an event against Israel and made their Facebook caption “long live the intifada,” a common slogan among the Palestinian uprising against Israel that means “death to Jews.” “Intifada” derives from the Arabic term nafada meaning to “shake off” or “get rid of.”
The climate on these campuses must change. Movements that isolate and antagonize the Jewish people and their homeland are symptoms of a deeper problem. It is our job on campuses and throughout society to stand up and let our message be heard. As one of the founders and president of the Students Supporting Israel group at Columbia University, we have three simple goals:
- To support Israel’s legitimacy and indigenous right to exist as a Jewish Democratic State.
- To showcase the whole truth and story of Israel to inspire the world.
- To support a movement of coexistence on the ground in order for resolution to be found, peace to be achieved, and justice to be obtained.
Read more about the mission of Students Supporting Israel at ssimovement.org/about. We are a group of students from different backgrounds, religions, and identities, but share the same goal of supporting Israel and its people. It is important that those who fight for social justice do it together and never be intimidated. It is hard to fight for a cause, but it becomes a responsibility when you believe in it with all your heart.Rudy Rochman is the President and Co Founder of SSI at Columbia University.