UVM organization shines a light on antisemitism

Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 9:32 PM EST
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BOLTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A national movement aims to raise awareness about how prejudice impacts the everyday lives of people, including Vermont’s Jewish community.

Green Mountain Staters hosted their own event Sunday on the final full night of Hanukkah with a very Vermont twist.

Maya Sobel, a sophomore at the University of Vermont, is joining more than 100 UVM students, faculty members and members of local Jewish groups hitting the slopes at Bolton Valley to initiate conversations about antisemitism.

“I’m really proud to be Jewish. I’m proud to celebrate Hanukkah and be Israeli-American, and I want to share that identity with everyone else,” Sobel said.

“It’s been tough on campus with antisemitism, and it’s really important to have a place where I can come and be proud of my Judaism with my friends. It’s important to me, and it’s great to see it validated,” said Julia Feiler, a sophomore at UVM.

Feiler shares Sobel’s pride and says Hillel has become a second home for her during her time at UVM. Hillel is a religious organization on campus supporting Jewish students.

“Being Jewish in a place like Vermont, there’s not a whole lot of Jews here compared to places like New York and California. It’s a much smaller Jewish community,” said Corey Minkoff, a Hillel leader who spearheaded the event.

Minkoff adds that Hanukkah originated from Jews rising above their oppressors and the miracle of the candles that burned for eight days straight.

“They wouldn’t have needed the miracle of the oil if they had allies at the time. So, to be able to have solidarity with our community now just means the world to us,” said Minkoff.

According to the American Jewish Committee, one in four Jews experienced antisemitism in the last year, and four in 10 American Jews have changed their behavior in the last 12 months out of fear of antisemitism.

It’s situations like these that inspired these students to take a stance.

“Part of the hate against us is trying to make us smaller and trying to get rid of the Jewish religion, so the fact that there’s so many of us here and around the world is pretty meaningful,” UVM freshman Leila Loeb said.

“It’s important to be proud of your religion and who you are and not let people who have hate in their hearts try to stand in their way,” UVM junior Ethan Frey said.

Minkoff says because this event was such a hit in its first year, they hope to do this again next year and the years that follow, hopefully with more and more Vermonters to help shine a light on antisemitism.

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