It was difficult for Concordia University student Ora Bar to hold back tears Thursday afternoon during a rally outside the downtown campus.
“It’s very sad that we need to be here in the first place,” she stated.
Bar and others gathered to deplore what they say is growing antisemitism at the university, with some Jewish students saying they fear for their safety.
“Last week at Concordia somebody told me, ‘Don’t worry, I have your face don’t worry,’” she told Global News. “Another person told me they recognize me now and they’ll find me.”
Others like Eitan Kovac say the concern is so great many are skipping classes.
“I have as well, a hundred percent,” he said. “A hundred percent. I’ve had a professor that told me that all Israelis are colonizers. How am I supposed to feel safe in a class like that?”
The protest was held in the wake of a confrontation on campus a week ago between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups, which led to the arrest of one person. That incident and recent gunshots fired at Jewish schools caused many at the rally to fear that increasing tension over the Israel-Hamas conflict could boil over.
“Certainly, people are nervous,” observed Rabbi Reuben Poupko who attended the rally. “People are looking over their shoulders and people should be vigilant, but Jewish life continues in Montreal.”
Police have reported an increase in both antisemitism and Islamophobia, and Concordia has said both Muslim and Jewish students have expressed fears for their safety. Students at Thursday’s event believe the university could do more to make the campus safer.
Anastasia Zorchinsky of Startup Nation Concordia, the group that helped to organize the protest, was emphatic.
“We need investigations, expulsions, arrests, policy changes,” she insisted.
In response to a request for comment, the university pointed to a message issued to the school community on Wednesday. The message states that following last week’s confrontation, two non-Concordia individuals have been banned from campus, and that “investigations into other possible violations of our code of rights and responsibilities by individuals both internal and external to the university community are ongoing.”
The message also says university officials plan to meet with student and faculty groups to find solutions.
Kovac stresses that dialogue is critical to reduce tensions pointing out, “it’s important to listen to one another and not deny the atrocities or the feelings of others or whatever is going on. It’s important to be fair.”
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