De Anza comes together against anti-semitic posters

Watch the full video of the forum here.

De Anza College refused to stay passive in response to the anti-Semitic posters, rebuking them in the “De Anza Stands Against Anti-Semitism” forum, hosted by College President Brian Murphy Feb. 23.

Murphy said that although De Anza is considered “an inclusive and welcoming community,” these kinds of actions could occur and the community had to respond.

Photos courtesy of English department chair Karen Chow’s Facebook

The posters contained statements such as “Jews are controlling what you believe” and “The Holocaust is lie.”

Political science professor, James Nguyen decided to turn the posters into a topic of discussion for his students.

“As an instructor, it was a teaching moment, and I wanted to start a conversation about free speech, hate speech, and in this case, anti-Semitism in our society,” Nguyen said. “We are studying the current administration in my political science classes and my students are very concerned about the increase of discrimination and hate in the current reality.”

Nguyen said, “Things like this remind us that hate is on the rise in this country, and no place is completely free of it, even here.”

Murphy sent out a school-wide email in response to the posters that did not tolerate the anti-Semitic acts and invited the community to the forum. According to the email, the administration has also launched a police investigation.

“Incidents like the anti-Semitic postings demand more than condemnation,” Murphy wrote in the email. “We need to stand together now, too, to respond to hatred when it assaults anyone among us.”

The conference room was filled with students, faculty and administration who came to hear what people had to say.

Murphy delivered a passionate speech about the history of anti-semitism and the importance of the role Jewish and non-Jewish people play when it comes to what he called “bigotry.”

“You can’t sit down when this stuff happens. If you don’t stand up they’ll take it for granted that they can move again,” he said.

Murphy said the anti-semitic posters were a wake-up call. “What it did is confront ourselves with ourselves,” he said. “Who are we in this? What is our role?”

Murphy said when Hitler took power, the universities of Germany did not oppose him. “Worse, they were collaborators,” he said. “You can’t sit down when this stuff happens. If you don’t stand up they’ll take it for granted that they can move again.”

He said providing support is not only a good and ethical thing to do, but also a political necessity.

De Anza College president Brian Murphy talks about the historical context of anti-semitism. Photo courtesy of Nick Girard.

Director of VIDA Cynthia Kaufman said she “was Jewish enough for Hitler,” referring to the Nuremberg Laws defining someone with a Jewish parent as having Jewish identity.

“Those of us who are Jewish carry deeply within our bodies the memory of the reality that acceptance and assimilation can turn into nothing under the quickest of circumstances,” she said.

Vice president of the Muslim Student Association Anisa Chaudhry, 20, communications major, delivered an emotionally charged speech on understanding the pain of marginalized groups.

“When I heard and saw these flyers, it broke me. I couldn’t stop shaking that entire day,” Chaudhry said. She said she wasn’t surprised anti-semitism exists, but because she understood and knew the feeling of fear.

“Why are we suffocating and feeling imprisoned while walking on the land that’s supposedly the land of the free?” Chaudhry asked. She said it wasn’t about politics anymore, but human rights.

“Even after a life of racism, I still can’t fathom how we actively hate those we don’t even know. Where is our humanization of individuals?” she said. “Where is our humanization of individuals?

Chaudhry said being strong all the time does not make anyone weak. “You are allowed to hurt. You are allowed to be afraid. Not being strong all the time does not make you weak,” she said.

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, or MECHA, club member Diego Gomez, 26, philosophy major, delivered a statement on behalf of MECHA.

“We deeply believe in sustaining a safe space for our community members and oppressed people of colonialism,” Gomez said. “In these present times of great uncertainty, we must trust and rely on each other for our safety.”

DASB presidential candidate Cialysiah Washington, 19, political science major, said the Bay Area needs to step up. “We can’t just be in this bubble of diversity and not use this to our advantage,” she said. “Unity really is key.”

Director of the Euphrat Museum, Diana Argabrite, said her mother was a Holocaust survivor and she grew up in a family where anti-semitism was talked about all the time. She said the stickers were heartbreaking.

Argabrite read her mother’s poetry about the war. “She puts her seed into the dark earth so something will grow after the bombing. She looks forward to the splash of blue violet flowers that will grow from the skeletal remains of 45 children lost in this raid,” Argabrite read.

Other speakers included Foothill Trustee Hal Plotkin, former Senior Policy Advisor Office of the Department of Education; Women Empowered member Bernice Silverrain; Dean of intercultural studies Edmundo Norte.


Photo by Terry Pon. Director of VIDA Cynthia Kaufman stands against anti-semitism.