Why an Iranian Jewish College Student Says ‘Never Again’
My family’s story is one of overcoming persecution and antisemitism. You see, my family is originally from Iran. I know firsthand the importance of having Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, because my mom, a Jewish woman living in Iran, was able to escape the horrific Iranian revolution to the safety of Israel — a safe haven for the Jewish people.
Today, as an intern at the Museum of Tolerance, I frequently speak with Holocaust survivors — and their testimonies cause me to say, “Never Again.”
Part of “Never Again” is having a continuous homeland for the Jewish people, so that we can escape persecution no matter where it is in the world. I will always spread the truth about Israel, educate my peers, and combat antisemitism for the sake of the survivors, for the sake of my mom, and for all of us.
Pro-Israel students should not need to spend their college experience combating antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Antisemitism, or antisemitism masked as anti-Zionism, has no place on college campuses. I dream of a future where my peers can be normal college students, just like anyone else.
I participated in the StandWithUs (SWU) “Israel In Focus” international conference, held January 17-19 in Los Angeles, where we were asked to raise our hand if we had ever experienced antisemitism. Nearly 500 hands instantly rose, and I was no exception. During my years at Santa Monica College (SMC), I have been harassed, cyber-bullied, and made to feel unsafe on campus. I am on the Board of SMC’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter, and our events were protested; we were called white supremacists and Nazis; and we were excluded from the progressive community on campus.
During the conference, I was not only inspired by the speakers, but also by the over 500 high school and college student leaders. I was inspired by a high school student who finally gained the courage to wear a “mem” around her neck to represent her identity — based on an Instagram campaign “Why I Wear My Star,” conceived by two SWU high school interns after the Poway synagogue shooting. I was also inspired by my friend Ryan Ang, who although not Jewish, wears a kippah everyday to experience the reality that Jews face.
As New York Times writer Bari Weiss, wrote in her book, How to Fight Antisemitism, the antisemitism we face today is a three-headed monster: the far right, the far left, and radical Islam. Campuses are no exception. From seeing students walking around with swastikas tattooed on their heads to hearing misinformation such as calling Israel an apartheid state and blatant anti-Zionism from my peers in the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club, the antisemitism I face today is not the same antisemitism my family faced in Iran. It has morphed from being blatant and clear to everyone back then, to unrecognizable to many people today.
The SSI chapter at my college will implement over a dozen educational events this semester. I am planning a two-day seminar on antisemitism during the week of Yom HaShoah. We’ll have a Holocaust survivor share their story, and conduct a panel on contemporary antisemitism showcasing the ADL, Jewish World Watch, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and SWUs’ new Center for Combating Antisemitism. My goal is to inform my campus community about how the rise of contemporary antisemitism has its roots in Nazi Germany.
I’ll also lead a tour at the Museum of Tolerance for the student government leaders at my school, which will include a Leadership Workshop about free speech, assuming responsibility and recognizing the impact and consequences of passing a BDS resolution. Despite administrative and anti-Israel activists’ resistance, I am also working on passing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA’s) definition of antisemitism as a resolution at Santa Monica College.
My goal is to not only empower myself to educate my community, but to motivate them to get involved and lead. Together, we can truly always say: Never Again!
Chloe Levian is the StandWithUs Emerson Fellow and on the Board of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles.