Guest Opinion: What it means to be Jewish on campus


The Appalachian Online


“You’ve got a lot of balls wearing that here.”

I look up and there’s only one other person in the hallway with me. They’re standing beside me throwing something away.

I don’t say anything as I am still trying to process what this man said to me as he turns to walk down the hallway. The only thing that stands out about me is my Star of David necklace displayed prominently against my black sweater.

It’s not the first time someone has made a rude comment to me for being Jewish. One of my friends overheard a man cough and say, “Jew,” as he passed us. Another Jewish friend of mine called me brave for still wearing a Star of David necklace after these experiences.

It is not the first time someone has made me feel unsafe to be Jewish on this campus. Three years in a row between our holiest holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, anti-Semitic stickers have been posted around campus. Swastikas have been found carved into benches and desks.

“Smash Cultural Marxism” posters were placed in several buildings this academic year, using a neo-Nazi dog whistle that suggests the Cultural Marxists, or Jews, are trying to replace white, Christian culture with their own; its connection to Jews is through Karl Marx’s Jewish ancestry.

Being Jewish on this campus means that incidents like these are rarely discussed. There are almost no emails about how we will not have this hatred on our campus.

Being Jewish in the south and on this campus is not always about living with the experiences of anti-Semitism or worrying about the open resurgence of neo-Nazis.

Between the Jewish community of Appalachian State and the greater Boone area, there isn’t a high population, which lends itself to a tight-knit community.

This is the place that fostered my identity as a queer Jew as I have been able to meet other people who shared those identities.

At Appalachian State, I have been able to meet others who understand my experiences, both good and bad, of being queer and Jewish.

I get to make jokes with them about how I like nice Jewish boys and girls, as it is very important to Jewish grandmothers that their granddaughters meet a nice Jewish boy.

With the people I have met here, I have been able to develop more pride in my Jewish identity.

I care more about matzo ball soup, latkes and going to Shabbat services now than I did before college.

I know more people now who, depending on their relationship with their Jewish heritage, may share the same identity of their ethnicity, culture or religion as me than I have ever known before.

These other Jewish people I have met are the reason that no matter the comments made to me, I am not going to take off my rainbow Star of David button or stop wearing my necklace because I love my Jewishness more.

On campus, I’ve faced a lot of problems as a Jew, but I’ve also become prouder in myself as a Jew.

Chayym Kornhauser is a guest opinion writer from Appalachian State Hillel. They are a senior history and psychology double major.