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CU Boulder students: ‘It’s tense on campus’


For Jake Stone, a pre-med student at CU Boulder, the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 was felt 6,853 miles away, almost immediately.

“It has been quite tense on campus,” said Stone, a junior from Edmonds, Wash. “Boulder itself was a very neutral campus before October 7.

“Then, everything turned and switched. A Palestine group popped up with about a hundred students. Then we had the Dept. of Ethnic Studies release a borderline anti-Semitic statement.

“So after that first week of the war, it was carnage all at one time.”

Before Oct. 7, “It was kind of mellow on the grand scheme of things,” said Zoe Mardiks, a journalism and international affairs student at CU Boulder from Brooklyn Heights, NY. “It wasn’t like NYU or Columbia, but we’ve had a couple of protests here and there.

“It’s gotten a bit more uncomfortable since then, though.”

Ever since an Oct. 12 pro-Palestinian event on the Boulder campus, both Stone and Mardiks feel less than secure on campus.

“That first pro-Palestinian protest on campus definitely made me feel that way,” said Mardiks. “I actually had to leave class because it kind of drove me into a sort of panic attack.

“Seeing all these other protests on college campuses where they are shouting, ‘Kill Jews, kill Zionists’ — horrible, horrible things — those things were said at the protests at Boulder.

“I know there was a counter protest by Jewish organizations on campus to try to drown them out, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.

“I have family who lives in Israel and I have friends who are currently fighting in the IDF. This, as for many other Jewish students, really hits close to home and is very personal.

“So it was kind of hard to bring myself to go and scream at other students.”

“I wear a Star of David necklace,” said Stone, “and there are times on certain parts of campus or if I’m seeing certain groups of students, I will tuck it in.”

“Especially if I’m passing by large crowds.”

Both Stone and Mardiks were involved with a letter-writing campaign on the CU campus intended to support IDF soldiers. Some actions during that event jolted both students.

“I was helping set up a table to help any student who wanted to stop by and write a letter to an IDF soldier,” said Stone. “But some people dropped off letters anonymously, referring to us as ‘genocidal pigs.’

“There have been incidences of either hostility or death threats that have come from around the Boulder area to students like myself.”

Mardiks was also struck by that same sentiment during the letter-writing campaign.

“We’ve had sprinkles of that sort of thing.

“For me, it’s more of the unknown. When I walk across campus, it’s hard to tell who supports me and who doesn’t.”

Both Stone and Mardiks spoke at a news conference at last weekend’s JNF Global Conference in Denver, following intense protests by the Colorado Palestinian Coalition.

“There’s been a lot thrown at us in the past couple of months,” said Mardiks, who was a JNF campus fellow last year in Boulder.

“It definitely feels like a sense of powerlesness, something I haven’t felt in a very long time,” she told the IJN. “Before October 7, Boulder had never had any sort of issues with the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.”

Said Stone, a JNF-USA college summit chair, to the IJN:

“I went to the JNF summit last year in Boston, and there was a small counter protest, but definitely not anything to the size that we experienced in Denver this year.

“The magnitude of it and the aggressiveness and the hostility of the protesters was definitely a lot more intense than anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Staff Writer | [email protected]

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