By Rachael Severino
Dear Dean Hinkson,
I am writing to you today to explain why I will not be applying to Barnard College for my Bachelor’s degree this fall.
I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Rachael. I am a sixteen-year-old Jewish young woman. I have been on the Dean’s List every year and I deeply care about school. My life-long passion lies in writing, and, had I attended your school, I would have majored in English with a concentration in Creative Writing.
Recently, your students voted to take an incredibly anti-Israel stance, which I am sure you are well aware, as there has been quite a bit of backlash. Your school has remarkably strong ties to the Jewish community, evidenced by the fact that roughly 33% of the student population identifies as such. However, more than half the students have turned their back on their peers by campaigning, and subsequently voting, to sever ties with businesses which are pro-Israel.
I have read nothing but heartbroken responses from your students. Holding this vote on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day proves how tremendously disrespectful a portion of your students have become towards their Jewish peers. Students at your school seem to have tunnel vision with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as exhibited by setting up an anti-Israel booth only feet from the Holocaust Remembrance Day booth. Palestinian terrorist groups have a poor habit of abducting, torturing, and murdering Israelis and Jewish tourists, along with stoning anyone in reach of the border. Yet, your students remain blind.
Israel has created a powerful army, and an even more powerful intelligence and counter-terrorism agency, Mossad, to combat being sandwiched between states that hate Jews, who happen to be the indigenous people of Israel. Not becoming martyrs [like other native populations] doesn’t make Jews the villains in this story.
When is one Jewish life important? When stonings, bombings, and beheadings are a staple in everyday life, the Israeli government has the right to defend their people.
The Palestinians are not to blame, but the terrorists who reside among them are.
Those of the Muslim religion have suffered in America for a great deal of time. Having young people come to their aid and rally for a hate-free world is fantastic, but defending Palestinian terrorist groups is not the way to go.
Jewish women have stood arm in arm with their Muslim counterparts in the on-going civil rights battle. Both groups fully understand what it means to long for a safe place to worship, and America, despite being the self-proclaimed land of the free, has not been kind to those who wish to be free when their faith is not Christianity.
Jews know what it means to be without a safe place. They have had a single homeland for only seventy years, preceded by thousands of years displaced and homeless.
Neither the Muslim nor Jewish communities are to blame for this conflict; ignorant groups fueled by hate are.
Your students do not seem to understand the situation at hand and have let centuries of both latent and overt anti-Semitism blind them.
College is meant to be a safe environment – one where students gather information and take steps into their future. How can a Jewish student feel safe when more than half the other attendees are rallying against them and their faith?
Barnard has been hailed as a place of learning that creative, talented, and bright young women of all backgrounds can attend, to both join together and change the world. The women currently at your school are changing things, but not for the better.
Jewish women have suffered since their religion first came to be more than 5,000 years ago. Barnard has spent it’s one hundred and twenty-nine-year long history drawing these women in, providing them with a safe place to flourish; now, it is just another place that stands against them.
Liberal colleges have never been kind to the Jewish people, leaving them out of their activist revolutions and renaming them as the scapegoat. The ignorant who forget history are inclined to repeat it, as your students have so clearly done; yet your history department is renowned. How can this be? How can they be so blinded by hate, even now? It begs the question, what are they learning at your school?
How can the women of your school turn around and hate the most marginalized group to have ever been?
Barnard has taken the horrific role of leading the charge against Jewish-American students.
Your Jewish students have so much to offer your college and the world. Brilliant and talented Jewish women want to go to your school. There are, however, other colleges, with similar opportunities that offer a safer environment. As evidenced in Twitter posts and comments following the vote, many of the 33% of your school are considering their options, including transferring to schools that will not only protect them, but respect them. They are exhausted from constantly defending [out of necessity] who they are, particularly in a space that is supposed to accept and celebrate them as part of the diverse culture at Barnard.
I have wanted to attend your college since I was twelve years old; since I learned about Columbia, but then found Barnard and wanted to attend there even more. Barnard, the school Jewish women raved about and beamed at me for when I said it was my dream school. Barnard, the school my friends oohed and ahhed at. Barnard, the school I would have been proud to mention in my author’s letter on my first book. Barnard, the school I looked at online nearly every night. Barnard, the school that helped mold Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African- American women on New York’s highest court, Ann Bernays, a novelist, Katherine Boo, a journalist and recipient of the Pulitzer, Ann Brashaes, an author, Elise Clews Parsons, the “founding mother of anthropology”, Edwidge Danticat, an author, Helen Gahagan Douglas, the first Democrat women elected to the USA Congress, Delia Ephron, an author, playwright, and screenwriter, Muriel Fox, founder of NOW, Cristiana Garcia, a journalist and novelist, Greta Gerwig, an actress, screenwriter, and director, Mary Gordon, an author, and countless others.
Barnard, the school that I have removed from my college list.
Barnard, the school that has become yet another unsafe space.
Barnard, the school that could have been.
With great sadness,
Rachael Severino is a quirky eleventh grader, aspiring author, tiny feminist, and cat enthusiast.