By Rebecca Rubin
Photo by Janine Wolf
Last week, a man stood in Turlington Plaza, the most populated area on the University of Florida’s campus, and donned a swastika on his sleeve. His actions, although clearly provocative, were ultimately protected under the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
UF by population ranks fifth in universities to have the most Jewish students. When an emblem associated with Jewish genocide is displayed so openly in a place where we cannot avert our attention, we have no choice but to feel targeted. But when taunted with hate, instead of retaliating with more hate, UF students rallied together to promote peace. For this reason and many more, I am proud to be a Jewish Gator.
A fellow UF student and friend Tyler Ellman organized the UF Liberation Rally on Jan. 27, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day serves as the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Students and faculty gathered together in Turlington, the same spot a man had stood just hours before to foster animosity, and instead promoted love, peace and acceptance regardless of religion. We don’t know what that man’s intentions were, but through passive protest, we were able to show him and like minded individuals that their appearance is not welcomed on our campus.
That day, I felt especially connected to my religion. I watched students physically gather on campus, and I saw individuals take to social media platforms to share their thoughts and feelings in regards to last week’s events on campus. It was comforting to see my fellow Jewish community make their voices heard rather than submissively accept these acts.
In my three and a half years at UF, I have never been made to feel uncomfortable, scared or embarrassed by my religion. In fact, I’ve always been proud to be Jewish. The Jewish community at UF is prominent and welcoming. With unfortunate hostility toward minorities becoming more and more common in society, I feel lucky to have the comfort of such a supportive network.
The Liberation Rally ended with attendees joining together to sing a rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon. This song inspires listeners to imagine a world unfettered by limitations of gender, religion or nationality. Anyone can align with the optimistic message of this song. Singing it in Turlington Plaza did exactly what it needed to, which was to connect people from all walks of life.