The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

A lack of Jewish representation leaves me isolated at my college

Sunny Silverstein
UCSB and City College students gathered at the Santa Barbara Chabad on Wednesday, April 5 in Isla Vista, Calif. Jewish students came together to celebrate Passover, a holiday that focuses on telling the stories of the triumphs Jewish people have gone through.

The voice of 400 Jewish women rang out in our camp arena as the humid summer heat came down in waves, creating droplets of sweat beneath our thin white clothing. We held each other’s hands as the sun warmed our backs while we sang the songs our mouths have been familiar with for years.

The warm feeling from that moment has resided in me ever since and I long for the connections I made with my Jewish community at that camp. Wherever I am, I look for Jewish people around me and try to indulge in my tradition and culture. 

I’ve struggled to find opportunities or spaces to connect with the other Jewish people at City College and it’s caused me feelings of isolation, and a disconnect with my own ethnicity and culture. 

According to Student Program Advisor Amy Collins, there is no history of a Jewish student union here at City College and 2019 was the last time there was an active Jewish club on campus. 

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Will Olive, a 19-year-old engineering major, is a Jewish student at City College who has noticed the lack of inclusivity when it comes to Judaism on campus. 

When asked if he felt that it was easy to meet other Jewish people at City College he expressed that for him, it was the opposite. 

“There’s the christian club constantly going up to everyone and that’s all people talk about. It feels like that’s the only religion represented on campus,” Olive said. 

Although there is a prayer and meditation room on campus that is open to all religions, there are no clubs or organizations affiliated with Judaism and there have been zero events held for Jewish students since I started my time at City College in August of 2021.

This directly takes away from my college experience as I find a sense of comfort and safety when I am with other Jewish people. It makes me feel less isolated and more understood. 

With the recent anti-semitic events that have taken place in Santa Barbara on our college campuses, along with rising rates of anti-semitism in this country, now more than ever it’s important that Jewish people have a safe space. 

“With everything going on, it would make me feel a little safer and not as alone,” the City College student said. 

In contrast to City College, University of California, Santa Barbara has a multitude of Jewish affiliated groups located in Isla Vista such as their Hilell chapter and SB Chabad

Ephraim Shalunov, a 19-year-old member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a UCSB Jewish fraternity, has experienced the benefits of being able to connect with other Jews and expressed his disappointment about these benefits not existing at City College.

“There’s a strong Jewish community at UCSB, so it’s really troubling to hear that’s not something that gets reflected back to City College,” Shalunov expressed.

As he continued on about the benefits he encounters at UCSB, he explained that Jewish people feel the most Jewish when around each other. 

Throughout history, Jews have faced extreme adversity and have been on the brink of extinction multiple times. 

In the end, our togetherness has been our lifeline.

Community and connection serves as the backbone of our people, and it has dictated our survival for millions of years. 

“When anti-semitism happens, jews almost instinctively feel the need to close in and retreat to their community and that isn’t possible if they don’t have a Jewish community,” Shalunov said. “I think that at SBCC when antisemitism happens, increasingly, Jews are going to feel alone and that’s of course the point for anti semites.”

The passionate student explained the advantages of having a Jewish community to lean on when anti-semitic events take place in our community and expressed that at UCSB, “We can come together. We have places and we have people.”

I think a huge reason that Jewish communities and groups haven’t been initiated at City College is our fear of anti-semetism. While this is a valid fear to have, It’s exactly what anti-semites want. 

Shalunov made it a point that anti-semites benefit from our fear by limiting our expression, and that it’s necessary to directly combat this by unifying, especially during hard times. 

“If people are scared of antisemitism, that’s the best possible reason to start a strong Jewish community and we’re here to support you through that fear,” the 19-year-old said.

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