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The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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Opinion: Is The Daily complicit in marginalizing Jewish students?

The Daily has given little space for the experiences of Jewish students to be seen and heard.
Image by Sarah Mai

Since 2017, antisemitic attacks in the U.S. have reached mind boggling numbers, including the well-known murders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Poway, California and the hostage-taking just a few weeks ago in Colleyville, Texas. Jewish community members’ social media platforms endlessly report on swastikas, white supremacist flyers found on campuses and criticism of Israel that crosses a line into something more sinister. Yet, at the University of Minnesota, the school paper is void of reports on any of this.

The message? Either Minnesota Daily decision makers don’t care, don’t think students will care, or subscribe to bigoted stereotypes that Jews are privileged, free from oppression and thus not worthy of their coverage.

It’s not that the Daily leadership doesn’t care about the targeting of minorities. They covered racist attacks against the Asian community in Atlanta, the Black community after the murder of George Floyd and the Muslim community after the New Zealand mosque shooting. But aside from one article about a swastika on a dorm room door in 2017, the Jewish community has been left hung out to dry by our campus paper.

Jews make up just 2% of the population but are on the receiving end of 60% of all religious-based hate crimes. By ignoring this problem, it often feels that the Daily is silently sanctioning it. The deteriorating climate for Jewish students has received little attention despite national data showing that 50% of American Jews say antisemitism on college campuses is getting worse. Sadly, 39% of Jewish respondents reported changing their daily behaviors (attire, event attendance, social media posting) out of fear for their safety.

Here on our campus, according to data collected for official use by the University, “the percentage of [Jewish] University of Minnesota students who said that the Jewish community is respected on campus” ranged from as low as 15.4% in 2017 to as high as 42.3% in 2019. This is significantly lower than the percentages reported by other minority groups on campus. One can draw the conclusion that the Daily’s lack of coverage contributes to these findings, as it erases and disrespects one group more than any other.

Instead of reporting on the attacks the Jewish community has endured in recent years, or even antisemitic incidents at their own University, the Minnesota Daily mentions Jews mostly in the context of their staff’s seeming obsession with demonizing Israel and those who support the only Jewish nation. The mix of non-coverage and demonization from a journalistic source is unacceptable.

Because ignoring hatred bolsters hatred.

If we give the Daily the benefit of the doubt and assume their lack of coverage is not related to a lack of care for Jewish students/issues, then what else could explain this phenomenon?

This fall, when a student group ran a campaign urging the University to cut ties with a study abroad program that included the Technion in Israel, one of the top science and engineering universities in the world, Minnesota Hillel and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Minnesota and the Dakotas submitted a letter to the editor sharing the Jewish community’s perspective. The paper did not run the letter, and four months later, have yet to respond. But just two weeks after submission, the paper ran a counter piece advocating for the boycott.

And last month, just days after a terrorist held a group of Jews hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, that same student group held a program with a speaker known for using antisemitic rhetoric. Instead of covering the attack on the Jewish community, the Daily used their platform to run an op-ed praising the campus program and taking jabs at a pro-Israel group for calling out the issues this program could cause.

These are just two of multiple examples of how the Daily has marginalized Jews. Could it be that the Daily’s bias surrounding Israel has blinded it to the ways in which they marginalize Jewish students? We live in a time when clicks and algorithms tell young people what is newsworthy. The Daily has given little space for the experiences of Jewish students to be seen and heard. And their staff has made clear their bias around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This environment makes it very difficult for Jewish or Israeli students to feel safe or welcome in their surroundings.

Minnesota Hillel, the Jewish student center on campus, has spent the last 82 years supporting students and giving them both outlets for joyful Jewish connections and the tools to fight back against antisemitism and hatred. Yet, after so many decades working to drive change, the Daily runs pieces opposing Jewish efforts to create a safer campus climate.

While University President Joan Gabel has stood against antisemitism and other forms of hate on campus, and former University President Eric Kaler stood against efforts to demonize the only Jewish state, the Jewish community can no longer wait for these words to be followed by action. Following Colleyville, we can no longer pretend that coverage like the Daily’s won’t eventually permit the transition of anti-Jewish sentiment and words into anti-Jewish action.

This letter to the editor was submitted by Sophie Shapiro, Brooklyn Armstrong, Jessica Werner and Josh Berkowitz, all of whom are members of Minnesota Hillel Student Board.

This letter has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

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  • Keep it up!
    Feb 17, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    This is a phenomenally written letter that highlights the blatant disrespect for the Jewish students at UMN. The lack of coverage on the rising antisemitism across the country is shameful for a newspaper that represents a school with a significant Jewish community. I hope to see the paper and the university act meaningfully moving forward regarding the reality of how their bias affects our right to feel safe on our college campus.

  • A Gopher
    Feb 17, 2022 at 10:26 am

    The Daily is not known for taking nuanced stances on really anything. The reporters rarely look at all sides of the issue and they never respond to criticism whether it be through the comment section of their articles or through private emails. It’s just a weigh station, a stepping stone for far-left journalism majors to dip a toe into the murky waters of biased journalism, nothing more…

  • Call It Out!
    Feb 16, 2022 at 9:24 pm

    Glad to see the Daily print an article that challenges itself! The empty space created by silence on hate issues leaves it open for more hate to fill it in. Any story that identifies the growing divide in our country and our world MUST be covered if integrity is to be valued. Now it’s time for the University to recognize that the Jewish students on campus are marginalized except when it comes to being targeted with hate. Anti-Semitism is more than 50% of the hate crimes in the US and yet the Jewish population is only 2%. It’s time to call out these actions for what they are…they are hate and our society has to rise up against all hate. Come on leadership at The U, take a stance!

  • Minnesota Mom
    Feb 16, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    I appreciate the Minnesota Daily publishing this article and accepting this criticism. I am proud of the Jewish students working to create a safer campus climate. I look forward to seeing how this issue can be addressed and improved.

  • recordscractch
    Feb 16, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    It’s gross to use oppression and trauma to silence critics of an apartheid state, a designation recently recognized by a second global human rights organization. In your letter, you intentionally conflate critics of a government, which commits/committed crimes against humanity, and bigoted anti-semites. It is obvious from what you’ve emphasized most in the piece that the dissent is what really upset you. Disingenuous attacks on human rights advocates in the name of one of the most oppressive governments on earth is shameful.