Last week, there was an incident of anti-Semitism right off of Towson University’s campus. Two Jewish boys, both members of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, were walking near campus and attacked both physically and verbally by two non-Jewish Towson students.
This wasn’t the first incident of anti-Semitism I’ve seen while at Towson. Two years ago, someone wrote anti-Semitic messages on the chalkboards in Freedom Square, an open area on campus. The culprit was never found.
I like my college. I enjoy my classes, I’ve met some great people, and found a major that has helped me determine my future career. But these incidents make me feel unsafe and like my school less.
I’m a woman. I’m Jewish. Together, that means I’m always at risk.
I live in fear of being assaulted because I’m female. I walk to the garage from night class with my keys in hand, pepper spray in my bag, and my water bottle as a weapon. I shouldn’t have to fear a simple five-minute walk. I shouldn’t be afraid to be alone.
I don’t tell people on campus my religion unless I know I can trust them. Until they’ve given me some sign that they have nothing against my religion. Especially with the rise of Neo-Nazis, it’s hard to tell who is an ally and who is against me. I don’t “look Jewish” (read: dress modestly in the ways of Orthodox Jewish women), but that doesn’t mean I don’t fear that somehow, someone will figure it out.
Being female shouldn’t make me feel scared for my safety. I like being a woman. I shouldn’t find myself wishing sometimes I was born male so I didn’t feel this pit of anxiety in my stomach every time I step out my front door.
We live in a country that has the right to freedom of religion. And yet, my religion is what puts me at risk, and it shouldn’t. I’ve had my ups and down with Judaism, but at the end of the day, I am proud to be Jewish. It’s always been a part of my life and will remain that way. I should be able to openly state my religion and not fear attack.
I’ve spoken with others who also feel the loss of safety. Some of us, including myself, only marginally felt safe before, if at all. And it’s crazy that who we are and how we practice are risk factors when they shouldn’t be. They certainly shouldn’t be invitations to harm us.