“Living in fear on campus has become a daily battle.”

It is not just the physical barriers that hinder my sense of safety on campus; it is also the insidious undercurrent of antisemitism.

This essay is part of Hey Alma’s series on what it’s like to be a Jewish college student in response to October 7, the 2024 Israel-Hamas war and campus protests. Click here to read the full range of voices.

Living in fear as a Jewish student at the University of Michigan has become an oppressive reality, suffocating my experience with a constant sense of unease and vulnerability. The encampment and relentless protests surrounding my home have created an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation, making it difficult to feel safe on campus.

Every day, I am confronted with the chilling reminder that my identity as a Jew makes me a target for hatred and discrimination. The encampment near my home has become a breeding ground for antisemitic rhetoric and actions. The mere sight of the encampment fills me with a deep sense of dread, knowing that I am surrounded by individuals who harbor animosity towards me simply because of who I am.

Navigating through campus has become a treacherous journey, filled with the constant threat of confrontation and aggression. The protesters have infiltrated so many central parts of campus, it has become difficult to navigate without risking a walk through hostile crowds. The pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation weighs heavily.

But it is not just the physical barriers that hinder my sense of safety on campus; it is also the insidious undercurrent of antisemitism that permeates the university environment. In class, I am confronted with ignorant and hurtful comments that seek to diminish and erase the experiences of Jewish people. Just recently, during a discussion about global conflicts, a classmate boldly asserted that Jews are not true victims, dismissing centuries of persecution and genocide with callous indifference.

In that moment, I felt a surge of indignation and anger rising within me. I challenged the assertion, sharing the stories of my own friends and family members who were brutally murdered, kidnapped and raped on October 7. So many lives were cut short by unfathomable hatred and bigotry, yet there are people denying that a terrorist attack ever occurred. Even as I spoke out, I was acutely aware of the hostile environment that surrounded me — an environment where antisemitism is not only tolerated but often actively encouraged.

Living in fear on campus has become a daily battle, a struggle to assert my identity and humanity in the face of relentless hostility and ignorance. But despite the challenges, I refuse to be silenced or intimidated into hiding who I am. I refuse to let fear dictate my actions or diminish my sense of self-worth.

What I wish everyone knew is that behind the headlines and political debates are real people, like me, who are deeply affected by the hatred and violence directed towards Jews. I wish they knew my normal route to class has been occupied by those calling for the annihilation of my people. I wish those shouting “globalize the intifada” knew that this is not a progressive call to action, but rather a death sentence. I wish everyone could understand the pain and fear that comes with being targeted simply because of one’s identity. I wish they knew how it feels to be a Jew watching history repeat itself. It is a complete and utter disappointment to watch such esteemed universities not only tolerate, but nearly encourage such displays of blatant antisemitism.

— Kalie Fishman from Farmington Hills, MI; University of Michigan School of Social Work, Class of 2024


Kalie Fishman

Kalie Fishman (she/her) is a Jewish student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work finishing up my MSW degree. She loves to spend time with her friends, family and puppy Micki.

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