Jewish Student Leader at USC Quits Over Abuse She Says She Faced for Her Pro-Israel Views
A Jewish student leader at the University of Southern California (USC) has resigned over abuse she said she had faced due to her backing of Israel.
Rose Ritch — the now-former vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government at the Los Angeles school — wrote in an open letter published on Wednesday:
I have been harassed and pressured for weeks by my fellow students because they opposed one of my identities. It is not because I am a woman, nor because I identify as queer, femme, or cisgender. All of these identities qualified me as electable when the student body voted last February. But because I also openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I have been accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student leader. I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist. Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to ‘impeach [my] Zionist a**.’ This is antisemitism, and cannot be tolerated at a University that proclaims to ‘nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance.’
In response to Ritch’s move, USC President Carol Folt wrote a letter to the campus community, in which she said, “In her heartbreaking resignation letter, Rose described the intense pressure and toxic conditions that led to her decision — specifically the anti-Semitic attacks on her character and the online harassment she endured because of her Jewish and Zionist identities. She also challenged all of us to do better in aligning our actions with our stated desire to have a campus culture that is truly inclusive and respectful of racial and religious diversity, and of different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.”
“As president of USC, I believe it is critically important to state explicitly and unequivocally that anti-Semitism in all of its forms is a profound betrayal of our principles and has no place at the university,” Folt added. “We must condemn any bias or prejudice that is based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristic. What happened to Rose Ritch is unacceptable, and we must all take up her challenge to do better.”
Folt also announced the launch of a new initiative, run by the USC Shoah Foundation, called “Stronger than Hate.”
“This program serves as a call to counter hate with tangible action,” she said.
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted on Thursday, “Students should feel safe at college regardless of their views. It’s outrageous that this young woman and @USC student VP felt forced to resign after being deliberately targeted and relentlessly harassed simply because of her Zionism. USC must act immediately.”
Students should feel safe at college regardless of their views. It’s outrageous that this young woman and @USC student VP felt forced to resign after being deliberately targeted and relentlessly harassed simply because of her Zionism. USC must act immediately. https://t.co/RtqozQ7FMd
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) August 6, 2020
Rena Nasar — executive director of campus affairs at the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs — said, “We strongly condemn the anti-Zionist antisemitism that led Rose to feel that giving up her leadership position was necessary for her well-being on campus. Any effort to deny equal opportunities, such as serving in student government, based on an individual’s identity is dangerous and unacceptable. We continue to stand with Rose and other USC students facing antisemitism in all its forms.”