Just before Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, third-year Donna Harel received an upsetting email sent to the campus community.

When she opened her phone and saw the announcement that two antisemitic acts occurred on campus the week prior, she started to cry.

“One of my fears, when I came to UC Santa Cruz, was being targeted as a Jewish student,” Harel said. “I think it’s a fear that a lot of Jewish students have when they move away to college, and it came into fruition.”

On April 28, Dr. Akirah Bradley-Armstrong, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Success, sent an email informing the campus that a group of students reportedly gathered to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday on April 20, and that a student found an antisemitic and homophobic flyer on their car’s windshield the following day, April 21.

In the month since the incidents and announcement, Jewish students on campus find themselves pushing administration to adequately support the Jewish community, while resisting burnout from consistent exposure to trauma.

Harel and fellow third-year Alex Salkin are members of Santa Cruz Hillel and staff for Leviathan Jewish Journal, with Salkin being the editor-in-chief. As Jewish student activists, they’ve been in meetings with administration on how to support Jewish students.

“A lot of the things [the administration] say that are going to happen, I am not going to believe it’s real until I see it personally,” Harel said. “It’s more of just a waiting game at this point to see if they’re actually going to do what they said.”

According to Salkin, administration offered Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS) counseling sessions in response to the incident on April 20.

Harel attended one of the group meetings and thought that it was helpful, but Salkin didn’t take up the offer. Instead, she wanted to go home and take time for herself.

“We have not given ourselves the time to rest. It’s also a problem of, ‘If we don’t do it, no one else will,’” Salkin said. “There really is no one besides Hillel helping us and sticking up for us. If we took a break, nothing would happen. So it’s that struggle of, ‘if we take a break, will we just be letting everyone down? Or if we take a break, will everything just get so much worse?’”

Salkin and Harel say they perceive a pattern of promises from the administration with no follow-through. They also expressed their feeling that UCSC has placed the burden of fighting against antisemitism on Jewish students.

“They’re struggling with how to allow us to have autonomy over what happens and then also just making us do everything,” Salkin said.

Merrill College Provost Elizabeth Abrams found out about both incidents through Vice Chancellor Bradley-Armstrong’s email, in the same way that most people in the campus community did.

Although Abrams personally feels safe on UCSC’s campus as a Jewish person, her initial response was nothing short of revulsion.

“I don’t know how to really convey that [feeling] to people who didn’t grow up as I did, totally steeped in the memory of the Holocaust,” said Abrams. “It’s really a strike to my identity as a Jew.”

These incidents are not the first publicly known antisemitic acts perpetrated at UCSC in recent memory. In March 2022, Crown and Merrill Colleges were defaced with antisemitic, anti-Black, and white supremacist graffiti. That incident also led to a campus wide email informing students and denouncing the actions. The email referred students to CAPS and Hillel for support, but did not specify any action being taken on the part of the administration.

Lookout Santa Cruz reported that the April 2023 incident was not being investigated by the UCSC Police Department (UCPD) since the university hadn’t found any evidence of a crime being committed. Instead, the incidents are being investigated by the Dean of Students’ Student Conduct division. Without evidence of a crime being committed, the acts would not fall under the legal definition of a hate crime.

While the perpetrators may not have committed acts of physical violence towards Jewish students, Salkin said their actions were dangerous and hateful.

“They are celebrating Hitler’s birthday. Who does that?” Salkin added.

Harel agreed.

“I think UCPD should investigate it as a hate crime. You’re celebrating a mass murder of Jewish people,” Harel said. “The fact that the students deliberately chose to go and throw and celebrate this is a hate crime. I think it’s targeted to the Jewish community, and it’s targeted specifically to Jewish students, since it was done on campus.”

On May 18, Chancellor Cynthia Larive sent a campus email update where she reiterated that the campus community continues to support Jewish community members and speak out against antisemitism. But second-year Bodie Shargel felt that Larive still wasn’t offering any tangible actions to help Jewish students.

Shargel said that outside of meetings between Dean of Students Garrett Naiman, Bradley-Armstrong, and groups of Jewish students, he hasn’t seen much action from the administration. He wants to see more material support towards the cost of living for students affected by these acts of hate.

“If you’re emotionally distressed, because there are people on your campus who would celebrate your genocide, a genocide against you, you should be able to work through that without having to worry about paying rent, navigating the campus healthcare system, or whatever other bullshit students here have to go through,” Shargel said.

Jewish students like Harel, Salkin, and Shargel continue to fight back against antisemitism.

For the time being, they’ll continue to support fellow Jewish students and advocate for their needs, even if they feel like it’s a burden that shouldn’t be on their shoulders.

“I’m tired and I have had to reevaluate how much I can carry this,” Harel said. “Because it’s impossible to do it, plus, getting a degree because that’s supposed to be a full-time job. I’m working two full-time jobs instead of just one.”

Ali Noia contributed additional reporting.