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Antisemitism at Harvard Is Real. That’s Why It Needs Jewish Students.

By Julian J. Giordano
By Maya Shiloni, Crimson Opinion Writer
Maya Shiloni ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a double concentrator in Government and Economics in Mather House.

Being a Jewish student at Harvard can be hard.

Recent events on our campus not only surfaced antisemitism from Harvard students and faculty, but also demonstrated the administration’s failure to protect its Jewish students.

Since Oct. 7, antisemitism has surrounded us.

The murders of our friends and family in Israel were celebrated on social media, and “Zionist,” a word that describes the vast majority of Jews, continued to be used as a slur on this campus.

However, antisemitism at Harvard is not a new phenomenon. It is rooted in our institution.

When the number of Jewish students enrolled in the University rose in the early 20th century, the administration deemed there to be a “Jewish problem.”

Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell founded the committee on “Methods for Sifting Candidates for Admission,” to reduce the number of Jewish students at Harvard and solve the school’s “Jewish problem.”

To convince a Jewish professor to join the committee, Lowell claimed that greater Jewish enrollment would spur more antisemitism at Harvard, and therefore Jews should support efforts to limit their numbers.

In Lowell’s eyes, our presence was the cause of Harvard’s antisemitism.
The Harvard community has always found reasons to justify our exclusion.

Today, students continue the University’s legacy by finding new reasons to ostracize Jewish students. They call us “colonialists” for living in our indigenous land. They claim that we control the media and Harvard itself. They try to convince us that the antisemitism we experience at Harvard is not real, claiming that antizionism is not antisemitism and anonymously posting messages including “love how u manage to make it abt urself.”

The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee is just the latest actor in a long, long history of antisemitism on this campus.

When the PSC posted a cartoon that depicted Jews as money-grabbing puppet masters, lynching an Arab and a Black person, they were peddling ancient antisemitic tropes. After facing backlash, they removed the post.

When students chant “globalize the intifada,” they invite violence against Jews and Israelis around the world. When they say that “all of you Zionists are the same. Killers and rapists of children!” They say that the vast majority of Jews are despicable human beings. When they call “from the river to the sea Palestine is Arab,” they call for the ethnic cleansing of Jews of their ancestral land.

Looking at the history of this institution, and the recent wave of activism, we can easily expect Harvard’s knock-off encampment to bring the same level of unsafety to our Jewish students at Harvard as it brought to those at Columbia.

After protesters surrounded and yelled at Jewish students at Columbia and pointed signs at them, describing them as “Al-Qasam’s Next Targets” — referencing the military wing of Hamas — a rabbi at Columbia urged students to return home over safety concerns.

Hopefully, Harvard’s rabbis won’t have to do the same.

Lowell would have been content with the current situation. Nowadays, the administration doesn’t need to intervene to solve their Jewish problem: Jewish students are scared to commit to Harvard.

But the rise of antisemitism and the escalation of recent events are precisely the reason that you, a Jewish admit to Harvard, must come to this University.

To not attend is to let the antisemites win. We have been working for two thousand years — since we were exiled from our ancestral land — to have the right to belong. Our presence is not the cause of antisemitism at Harvard, but the cure for it.

If we learn anything from our history, it should be that when antisemitism spikes, the world stands idly by. It shouldn't be just our job to fight antisemitism, but unfortunately, no one else will do it for us.

I know this is a lot to put on your shoulders as a high school senior. But I genuinely believe in our power — your power — to change this place. Being a student at Harvard gives us a say in its future.

Together, we can hold the administration accountable. We can have a voice in campus life. We can tell our stories and the stories of our people to our classmates.

In this challenging year for Jews at Harvard, something special has also happened. In the months following Oct. 7, the Jewish community has come together like never before. Hillel became our second home.

We organized vigils, created spaces to mourn, and found one another. When one of us was down, we lifted them up. As the months passed, these connections blossomed into beautiful friendships that we will cherish for many years.

Before coming to Harvard, I didn’t embrace my Jewish identity, but the last few months have given me a newfound appreciation for my heritage and people. They have shown me that being Jewish is core to who I am.

While my family is thousands of miles away from me in Israel, I know I have a second family here at Harvard. And if you come to Harvard, you will, too.

Maya Shiloni ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a double concentrator in Government and Economics in Mather House.

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