Reports that a group of students held a birthday celebration for Adolf Hitler on UCSC’s campus and other recent antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ+ incidents have drawn widespread condemnation from across Santa Cruz County.
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UC Santa Cruz officials said Sunday that they had received reports of two separate antisemitic incidents on and near the school’s campus. In one incident, a group of UCSC students held a birthday celebration for Adolf Hitler on April 20, where they “sang happy birthday and ate cakes adorned with hateful and horrific symbols.” On April 21, a student found an antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ+ flyer on the windshield of their car.
The incidents have drawn statewide media attention and sparked widespread condemnation from across Santa Cruz County and beyond.
Here is some of the reaction from the community (edited for length):
On Friday, more than a dozen religious and civic leaders issued a statement calling for the community to show mutual respect. The statement echoes a similar statement released Thursday by Rabbi Shifra Weiss-Penzias, Rabbi Emeritus Richard M. Litvak and Judy Yokel, president of Temple Beth El in Aptos:
As leaders from different backgrounds and traditions, we are united in our dedication to building a community that celebrates differences. We call upon all members of the community to stand up and say with one voice: We will not tolerate these violent voices of hatred toward not just the Jewish and LGBTQIA communities but also towards those who pray or look differently. The malicious acts are an effort to make intolerance normal. In doing so they are attempting to plant the seeds of terror and physical violence in our neighborhoods. We stand for normalizing diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect; together we are stronger.
Rev. Beverly Brook
Keisha Browder, CEO, United Way of Santa Cruz
Justin Cummings, Santa Cruz County Supervisor
Ray Cancino, CEO, Community Bridges
Andrew Goldenkranz, chair, Santa Cruz County Democratic Party
Elaine Johnson, chair, Santa Cruz NAACP
Fred Keeley, mayor of Santa Cruz
Rev. James R. Lapp, St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church
Barbara Meister, Holy Cross Catholic Church
Randy Pozos, deacon, Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Santa Cruz
Faris Sabbah, superintendent, Santa Cruz County Office of Education
Cathy Sarto, Peace United Church
Adam Spickler, Cabrillo College trustee
Daylen Degelsmith, associate executive director and director of student life at Santa Cruz Hillel, provided Lookout with this statement by email Thursday:
I believe that antisemitic incidents have been a major problem on campus at UCSC for quite some time, with incidents occurring regularly. Hillel has been working with the university to ensure that they fully and meaningfully respond to the antisemitism Jewish students experience on campus, including conveying to university leaders their responsibility to recognize and forcefully confront this serious threat. In the three years that I have been at Santa Cruz Hillel, there have been dozens of antisemitic incidents that have occurred on campus. I encourage students to report these incidents to the university and continue to ensure that we provide a safe and welcoming space at Hillel for Jewish students to express their thoughts or gather in community.
While there is clearly work to be done at UCSC to create an inclusive environment for Jewish students, there have been some steps in the right direction. This past year, university leaders have started meeting monthly with a group of Jewish students to discuss what Jewish students need on campus and how the university can help accommodate those needs. I am hopeful that we will soon begin to see changes at the university that reflect the needs of Jewish students and will help to eradicate the incessant antisemitism at UCSC.
Statement issued Sunday by Akirah Bradley-Armstrong, UCSC’s vice chancellor for student affairs and success:
We unequivocally condemn these — and all — antisemitic and anti-LGBTQIA+ actions. They are at odds with our Principles of Community and, as such, will be addressed accordingly. The on-campus incident has been referred to student conduct for follow up and adjudication. Likewise, we are reaching out to Santa Cruz city officials to ask for their support and collaboration to address the concerning flyers reported downtown. These disturbing incidents follow a national trend of increased antisemitic rhetoric and violence. Whatever the purpose and wherever they take place, we reject any and all acts of antisemitism. Our Jewish community members and our LGBTQIA+ community members are an integral part of our Banana Slug family, and we stand with them against all such acts of hate.
White supremacy has no place at UC Santa Cruz. Nor does any action intended to degrade, dehumanize, or intimidate another based on identity. We will not tolerate such vitriol; nor will we abide the fear and terror it intends to inspire. United by our shared sense of humanity, we must strive to be a welcoming place for all people. Together, we must continue to reject all expressions of hate.
Elizabeth Abrams, provost of UC Santa Cruz’s Merrill College and vice president of Santa Cruz Hillel’s board of directors, in an interview with Lookout’s Hillary Ojeda on Thursday:
You can’t just say we reject hate. Of course, we reject hate. Normal people reject hate. We have to think about this in terms of a larger systemic issue. We need to think about it in terms of our culture right now and what it enables and allows and encourages [it]. And we need to think about how this impacts the [cultural] climate of our campus. We need to stop thinking, “How do we respond to the next one?” I think that we have a campus full of people of very goodwill. We just need to start thinking together about these things. Antisemitism is real and we’re seeing it.