Warning: This article contains content related to antisemitic discrimination.
Santa Barbara Hillel and Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi held a Holocaust Remembrance Day walk on Sunday to commemorate the Jewish lives lost in the 1940s genocide. The march was organized in light of recent antisemitism within the UCSB community.
Roughly 200 people — including students and community leaders — gathered at 2 p.m. for the “Walk to Remember,” marching from Santa Barbara Hillel to Little Acorn Park, then down Del Playa Drive and back to Hillel, a Jewish student life and community space.
Campus groups organized the demonstration in response to two incidents in I.V. and on campus. On Jan. 31, a white supremacist hate group dispersed hundreds of flyers with antisemitic conspiracy theories throughout the streets of Isla Vista, and on Jan. 30, an Israeli politics classroom chalkboard was graffitied with “Fuck Israel” and “From the River to the Sea.”
“The point of this [march] is to take a negative experience that really shocked our community and turn it into a positive impact on the same community,” UCSB student and Hillel Israel Education Chair Tom Hirshfeld said at the start of the event. “The way we do that, historically as Jews, is through education.”
Participants made stops throughout the march to hear the stories of three Jewish people who perished in the Holocaust: Celia Petranker, Nadine Schatz and Thomas Elek.
“In 1942, Nadine and her mother were arrested by French police,” Hillel Vice President of Finance and Alpha Epsilon Pi President Sacha Boroumand said, speaking to the marchers at Little Acorn Park. “12-year-old Nadine was separated from her mother and deported to the transit camp east of Paris. Nadine was deported to Auschwitz on Sept. 23, 1942, and gassed shortly after arriving.”
Their full stories can be read on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s online Holocaust Encyclopedia.
The march’s last official stop was at Pelican Park, where Hillel leadership and community leaders thanked supporters and condemned antisemitism in the university community.
“I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for coming, for standing with us and for speaking out against hatred,” Hillel Co-President and fourth-year chemistry major Jamie Orseck said. “We have seen what can happen when hate and misinformation dominate, and the best defense is education. Antisemitism in all its forms is painful, and it’s what we choose to do with that pain that shows who we are as a community.”
Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Evan Goodman emphasized the significance of Holocaust Remembrance and called for the university to support and protect the UCSB Jewish community from antisemitism.
“The Holocaust didn’t just happen. It happened because people let it happen; because people, good people, did not speak up and didn’t do what was needed to stop the hatred,” Goodman said. “I call upon the university to do everything in its power to protect Jewish students and to protect our students from intolerance and from [those] terrorizing their classrooms.”
State Senator Monique Limón and former state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson were both present at the march and spoke against antisemitism and for uplifting Jewish lives.
“Whether it’s art, whether it’s any of the kinds of things that make this world a deeper, richer place, Jews have been there and we will continue to be there. We must educate others who do not believe that we have a right to exist,” Jackson said.
Third-year political science and communication double major and Associated Students College of Letters & Sciences Senator Tessa Veksler closed the speakers.
“When my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1990, they came here with hope, a hope that they would never be persecuted for being Jewish,” Veksler said. “Years later, to their surprise, I was born. Now they have to live here knowing that their daughter is facing the exact same thing.”
Following the incidents on campus and in I.V., Veksler authored ‘A Resolution in Support of the Jewish Community and the Condemnation of Antisemitism,’ passed by the Senate on Feb. 1. Veksler urged the march participants, Jewish and non-Jewish, to continue advocating on behalf of the Jewish community.
“Showing up today was important, but I really hope that it is just the beginning,” Veksler said. “Show up for the Jewish community before antisemitism happens. Show up for the Jewish community when they tell you something is antisemitic, even if you don’t understand or you may disagree. Showing up today was the first step and I hope you can all continue walking in the same stride.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Feb. 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.