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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Letter to the Editor: The future of antisemitism

Kian+Williams+is+sworn+into+the+role+of+Speaker+of+the+Senate+on+April+26.+While+not+in+SGA+anymore%2C+Williams+now+serves+as+the+president+of+the+Jewish+Student+Alliance.+
Mia Hennen
Kian Williams is sworn into the role of Speaker of the Senate on April 26. While not in SGA anymore, Williams now serves as the president of the Jewish Student Alliance.

In July 2022, Wichita residents woke up to flyers blaming Jews for COVID-19 and equating all Jews to pedophiles. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2022, antisemitic assaults increased 26% in America, partly as a consequence of such dangerous rhetoric.

I happened to grow up lucky, yet also regretfully. I was not raised publicly immersed in Jewish culture but scarcely aware of my ancestry. I say that I am angry, but truth be told, a part of me is relieved. In October 2019, when I was 16 years old, James Reardon was arrested for making threats against a Jewish Community Center not too far from where I grew up in Ohio. A search of his residence found assault weapons, ammunition, and a gas mask. Also in his home was antisemitic propaganda remarkably similar in nature to the flyers found in Wichita.

To combat antisemitism, I submitted a resolution to the Student Government Association at Wichita State that condemned antisemitism, asked the University to incorporate antisemitism into their diversity trainings and called for the study of a Jewish Student Agency. While serving as a Senator in SGA, I experienced more antisemitism than ever. After SGA failed my resolution condemning antisemitism, the Advisors forced me to apologize to the committee for “offending them” because I was publicly frustrated with their decision. The same Advisor explicitly told me that he did not care about helping me get the bill passed because he had “other priorities.” While on an SGA trip, we stopped without prior notice at a fast-food restaurant, and I did not have time to verify its kosher status or bring my meal. After voicing my complaint to an Advisor, I was shrugged off and told that “no restaurant in this town is kosher so not much I can do about that.”

This resolution would have obligated SGA to train its leaders on the prevalence and danger of antisemitism and commit resources to supporting Jewish voices at WSU. It would have prevented all of those incidents. Unfortunately, the DEI committee rejected this resolution and enabled such prejudice. This left us heartbroken and deflated, but we knew we could not stop there. We continued speaking and engaging with these student leaders about the costs of Jewish hate. Thankfully, SGA members found their courage and voted to condemn antisemitism. Since then, we have been able to start a Jewish Student Alliance, get more kosher options in the Dining Hall, and finally feel safe.

It should not have to be this hard for us, however. I should not be forced to acquiesce to the suppression of my identity and culture just to protect myself from xenophobes who relish in the thought of six million of my ancestors dead or who dream about the destruction of the Jewish State and displacement of my family from our homeland. That is why we write resolutions condemning antisemitism. That is why we urge organizations to investigate and take small acts of antisemitism seriously. I fight the small acts to prevent the development of another James Reardon, another Robert Bowers or another Adolf Hitler.

No Jewish student or resident should be subjected to antisemitic attacks on campus. Wichita owes much of its development to Jewish individuals who loved and cared for our shared community. In the spirit of that love and history, all students of Wichita State should raise awareness of antisemitism by sharing the experiences of Jewish students on campus. All students must support one another in reporting incidents of anti-Jewish hate and advocate for inclusive policies and resolutions that protect Jewish students. I invite all students, faculty, and staff to come out in support of the Jewish Student Alliance. It takes all of us to fight antisemitism, and it only takes one action to do so.

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About the Contributor
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing. Hennen uses they/them pronouns.

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