July 6, 2022
My Empowering Summer Internship Fighting for Digital Activism

I know the sinking feeling you get from seeing so much hate on the internet, and when it targets you personally, it scares you.

For many American students, the ideal college experience is one where they can reinvent themselves – discover and become the people they want to be. College is meant to be a symbiotic and encouraging space where students, faculty, staff, and more, support one another and help each other grow.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case when it comes to Jewish students on campus. Due to the rise in online and in-person antisemitism, many students in universities across the United States face hate in these communities and have no place to seek help.

From my own personal experience, I know how hard it can be for Jewish students at a small university to find resources and help when faced with antisemitism on either social media or out in the world. Many private universities with small Jewish populations don’t have organizations like Hillel that work on campus to fight antisemitism. Expanding on this, statistics from the ADL show that, “one-third of Jewish students personally experienced antisemitism directed at them on campus or by a member of the campus community” in 2021.

The ADL goes on to say, “The most common forms of antisemitism were offensive comments or slurs online or in-person.” The full experience of Jew-hatred today consists of online and in-person antisemitism – especially, for college students, who are harassed for their Jewish identity in every space – digital and physical. I know the sinking feeling you get from seeing so much hate on the internet, and when it targets you personally, it scares you. There’s no escaping this hate because it’s on the platforms that are supposed to be your comfort zone – friendly spaces to connect with friends and family, share with your community, and express your identity and personality. These hateful messages not only tear you up inside, they also make you feel threatened and afraid.

This fear bleeds into the real world as well. It puts you in a state where you question if you’ll get verbally harassed for wearing a kippah or wonder if your mezuzah will make it the whole semester without getting ripped down. (I am writing from experience. The hate I experienced online was mirrored by targeting my identity on campus.) These fears are why it is so important to me to speak out against antisemitism and why I am proud to actively fight it by interning at Global ARC this summer.

By addressing online antisemitism and being a part of the movement that’s fighting back against online Jew-hatred, I feel like I’ve been given an opportunity to show that I have power over the hate speech that has affected me in the past. Alongside working towards a goal that I’m very passionate about, I’m gaining vital work experience and learning about the ins and outs of tech-based non-profit organizations.

All of the tools that I’m learning through my time at Global ARC are equipping me to help in my college career and beyond. When I return to Malibu, I plan on confronting threats of antisemitism head-on and working on setting up organizations that help support Jewish students. I hope that, in the future, Jewish students at Pepperdine University can genuinely feel at home on campus and never have to sacrifice their identity in exchange for safety.

Written by Joseph Heinemann, Pepperdine University Class of 2024

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I know the sinking feeling you get from seeing so much hate on the internet, and when it targets you personally, it scares you.

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