April 9, 2015 at a rally against anti-semitism at the California state Capital Building current president Julia Reifkind gave the following speech
Good evening. My name is Julia Reifkind and I am the President of Aggies for Israel, our pro-Israel student organization, our AIPAC campus Liaison and a Koret Fellow at Hillel at Davis and Sacramento; but more importantly I am a student at UC Davis.
When I first began my academic career at UC Davis, I was eager to begin a four-year long journey of education, leadership, and new experiences at a top public research university. As a former Jewish day school student, originally from Los Angeles, I was eager to see what challenges would await me as I began my journey to the Davis area.
Three years later, I could never have dreamed that I would have felt so empowered and inspired by the Jewish community I have found on my college campus. Through getting involved in Aggies for Israel, Hillel and AIPAC , I found my passion for advocacy and activism on behalf of Israel and the Jewish community in general. At UC Davis, our Jewish community celebrates our heritage through fun and exciting Shabbat dinners and events, we lobby right here at the Capitol, we travel and attend events such as AIPAC’s policy conference, and we outreach and collaborate with other groups on campus to make our community even stronger. I am so humbled and grateful to be elected the president of such an incredible organization.
However, this year our positive Jewish experience has traveled a bit off course. As a leader within our UC Davis Jewish community, I never thought I would have the personal experience of facing anti-Semitism so directly. I come from a very strong Jewish community in Los Angeles, and can’t even begin to describe how the past few months have affected me personally, as well as my family and members of my community at home, my UC Davis community, and the larger Jewish community as a whole.
As you probably know, UC Davis has garnered much media attention for acts of anti-Semitic hatred within the past few months. From the initial passing of the Divestment, Boycott and Sanctions resolution and the blatant disrespect shown to the pro-Israel students as they walked out, to the student government elected senator who referenced a known anti-Semitic terror organization in a positive light, to the drawing of swastikas on our beloved Jewish fraternity’s house; we have truly seen it all. I will never forget the feeling of waking up in the morning, the morning after Divestment, to news that our campus was vandalized with Swastikas. I immediately went to the AEPi house to meet with administrative and Jewish campus leaders. Standing right beneath the swastikas was an indescribable feeling of terror that I will never forget. I immediately thought about my trip March of the Living trip in 2012 to Poland with Holocaust survivors. From standing in the baraks of Auschwitz-Birkenau to standing under the infamous Nazi symbol on my own college campus; I felt hurt, unsafe, and horrified. Any act of anti-Semitism is an attack on my family, my heritage, my narrative and my identity and I believe any onslaught that has that power over an individual is the worst form of bigotry and hatred.
The anti-Semitic attacks that we have seen at our University spawn from centuries of hatred of the Jewish people. We have been marginalized and excluded time and time again, but we have never been silenced. We continue to fight for our identities and to celebrate our beliefs on campus because in the face of hatred and adversity, we stand tall. Our community is a beacon of peace and inclusion. We will always stand up for peace, the state of Israel and the Jewish narrative no matter what obstacles we face, and no act of hatred could ever change that.
In the wake of the anti-Semitic attacks at UC Davis, I am reminded yet again how grateful and honored I am to be a member of a community filled with passion, strength and resilience. These kinds of experiences only add to the power of our movement and bind our community further as students who stand united in the face of anti-Semitism, who wear their Jewish identities with pride and joy on campus. This has made us stronger, and we will continue to channel this strength toward promoting peace on campus.