Rhodes College and Hillels of Memphis Join Together to Combat Antisemitism and Islamophobia
“Because students have returned to campus in person this year after a year and a half of being online, it’s especially important to be proactive about educating our campus communities about what Antisemitism looks like on college campuses today,” said Sophie Bloch, the Director of Hillels of Memphis, a program of Memphis Jewish Federation. “College students have unique needs and experiences that require a nuanced look, and we all have a role to play in proactively combatting Antisemitism on campus by engaging in dialogue, honoring our differences, and creating space for students to feel comfortable exploring their Jewish identity without fear.”
On September 30, Hillels of Memphis participated in co-sponsoring the event Moon and Stars: Supporting and Celebrating Muslim and Jewish Students. Primarily organized by Chaplain Beatrix from Rhodes College, this event was held both in person and virtually and featured guest speakers Josh Losner, from Hillel International’s “campus climate” department, and Ishaq Pathan, the Director of Islamic Networks Group in the Bay Area.
“Multiple students of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian backgrounds came to show support, demonstrating that a sense of community truly does exist here on Rhodes campus,” said Samuel Cross, a sophomore who is also a Rhodes Hillel Co-Vice President and Jewish Community Fellow.
During this event, the two speakers were invited to discuss proactive strategies that students, faculty, and administrators in campus communities can use to talk about these issues and educate one another, empowering them to combat Antisemitic and Islamophobic beliefs on campus together. Josh and Ishaq highlighted the importance of interfaith dialogue and the crucial need for Jews and Muslims to engage together. The speakers shared that through simple conversation both sides can better relate to each other, identify mutual similarities, and work to overcome adversities together.
“The event was also attended by multiple members of the V.O.I.C.E.S committee, who serve as the voice for minority groups on campus. As a member of this committee myself, I know that my counterparts left the meeting with both an increased respect for the Jewish and Islamic communities as well as a better understanding of how to best represent them and safeguard their traditions on campus,” said Samuel. “I expect that in future years we will see increased interactions between V.O.I.C.E.S, Hillel, and the Muslim Student Association, fostering stronger relationships between the communities.”
Another theme addressed was that the experiences of Jews and Muslims are unique to each individual, so it is crucial to share stories and get to know one another as individuals. By interacting and learning each person’s unique perspective, both groups gain the opportunity to reflect and relate with one another. Through listening to each other’s experiences and viewpoints, we can start to build relationships and a culture of mutual understanding.
“I believe this type of seminar should become a tradition on campus. It’s rare that these issues get the attention they warrant, and it does a good job opening much-needed discussion about campus diversity and how to protect it,” Samuel said. “By opening this door, it also gives us the opportunity to discuss issues beyond the Judeo-Islamic communities on campus, including race, sexuality, and variance in ability as well. On a college campus, especially for one as small as Rhodes, it is important to foster an inclusive community and I believe this event was a significant step in that direction.”