By Jason Langsner
Georgetown University has fallen victim to three acts of anti-Semitism on campus in the few short weeks since the beginning of the school year. The latest, a swastika painted inside a residence hall bathroom, was found on the evening of Rosh Hashanah, sending shock waves across the university community. It was condemned by President Jack DeGioia as an “abhorrent act of anti-Semitism.”
As a proud Georgetown Hoya, I know that the individual or individuals who committed this act of hate on the Jewish New Year do not represent my alma mater. He, she or they have no place on my campus — or an any campus — and Jewish alumni like myself have a special responsibility to support an inclusive university experience.
On the same day the graffiti was discovered, I was attending Georgetown’s Rosh Hashanah services, where I’ve spent many High Holidays since graduating in 2008. On Yom Kippur, alongside fellow alumni and students, I listened to Georgetown’s director of Jewish life, Rabbi Rachel Gartner, discuss the incident. She chose not to deliver her prepared remarks and instead to speak from the heart about our community because staying silent when faced with such hate is never an option. When speaking of Nazism, the Holocaust and symbols of such hate, “never again” is more than two words.
Rabbi Gartner’s words reflect Georgetown’s strong history of acceptance of all faiths on campus, which I have personally benefited from as a student and am proud to help uphold as a member of an active alumni network. Students are drawn to Georgetown because it supports diversity and alumni stay connected to the school to help maintain that legacy.
We know that the hate we witnessed on Rosh Hashanah doesn’t reflect the values of our Jesuit university, which invests in having a full-time rabbi on campus as well as a rabbinic fellow. It doesn’t represent the values of today or the values of yesterday — such as how in 1968, Georgetown became the first Catholic university in America to hire a rabbi; or how it was once the academic home of the late Jan Karski, the famed Polish World War II resistance fighter.
As the website of Georgetown’s Campus Ministry conveys, “Jewish Life at Georgetown aspires to advance the life and growth of every self-defined Jewish student through building their sense of Jewish Connection, Confidence, and Concern.” This is the Jewish Georgetown experience that I know.
The university’s mission statement seconds this focus, stating: “The university was founded on the principle that serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures and beliefs promotes intellectual, ethical and spiritual understanding.”
I will always feel indebted to Georgetown for helping instill those values in me. In the wake of hate crimes on my campus, it is critical that alumni give back to the institution while sending a message that we will not tolerate intolerance.
For me, giving back means reciprocating the gifts that Georgetown bestowed to me. I choose to volunteer with the alumni association, to mentor undergraduate students, and to support Georgetown financially as not just an alumnus but as a Jewish Hoya. I simultaneously support Israel by performing a double mitzvah of purchasing Israel Bonds and donating them to the university for my annual alumni gift, as well as in the form of a donation toward the incredible university High Holiday services that welcome the public every year. The bonds support the economic development of Israel, and upon their full maturation, the principal is paid out to the university, so Georgetown — and the Jewish community — benefit too.
In response to acts of hate on my campus, I will not cease my giving to Georgetown. I will increase it. I will donate Israel Bonds to Georgetown to support the Jewish homeland, a country that I love and a school that I love. And I will donate Israel Bonds to Georgetown to show that my love for Georgetown and Israel is stronger than any hate that these perpetrators of anti-Semitism have against me as a Jewish American Hoya and against my fellow Jewish brothers and sisters of Georgetown.
Jason Langsner is the volunteer chairman of Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds New Leadership Division in Washington, D.C. He is a 2004 graduate of La Salle University.