UF Jewish community members found hope after Hamas attacks, despite rising anti-Semitism

The University of Florida is home to one of the largest Jewish student populations in the United States.

Campus Reform spoke to various Florida Jewish students following Oct. 7 to gain a greater insight into how they are adjusting to recent anti-Semitic attacks.

Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens, Jewish students at the University of Florida in Gainesville have stayed strong by finding hope and encouragement in their communities, families, and faith.

UF is home to one of the largest numbers of Jewish students in the country with campus organizations like UF Hillel and Chabad UF, in addition to a large Jewish presence in some fraternities and sororities.

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In the months following the Hamas terror attacks, vigils have been held around the U.S. to remember the lives of those who were attacked and killed in Israel. On Oct. 9, Jewish UF student groups held a candlelight vigil in Turlington Plaza to stand in solidarity with the people of Israel.

Isaac, a member of Chabad UF, told Campus Reform that, “The Jewish community can be a resemblance of one big body. This is a time to be in greater unity, greater joy, greater pride.”

He also told an older story of a Rebbe who had a heart attack during a major Jewish holiday gathering, but did not want the celebration to stop because of him. “If Israel is suffering the same way the Rebbe did,” Isaac explained, “it’s our job to rise up stronger and have the floor shaking from it.”

Another student, who preferred not to be named due to connections to the IDF, expressed her thoughts as well. “My people have faced adversity with unwavering strength … through persecution, displacement, and hardship, the Jewish community has shown the world the true meaning of resilience,” she said.

“In these trying times, our enduring spirit continues to inspire, reminding us all of the remarkable power of human tenacity, unity, and the unwavering belief in a brighter tomorrow,” she continued.

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President Ben Sasse has also helped create a feeling of hope among the UF Jewish community. Following the Oct. 7 attacks, he told UF Jewish alumni that “We will protect our Jewish students from violence. If anti-Israel protests come, we will absolutely be ready to act if anyone dares to escalate beyond peaceful protest. Speech is protected – violence and vandalism are not.”

In spite of ongoing increases of anti-Semitism, other students on American college campuses continue to support Israel. On Nov. 14, over 200,000 individuals gathered in Washington D.C. to publicly support the country in the largest Jewish rally in U.S. history.