Sophie Kraft

By Sophie Kraft, an incoming fourth-year student at McGill University

The months following October 7th at McGill have been really difficult; Jewish students have experienced a scary and sharp rise in antisemitism and Jew hatred, and we had to learn quickly how to stand up in the face of this hate. When the protests began on campus, it became even more challenging to determine the appropriate approach.

Jewish students counter protested during the Bronfman building blockade, we met with the provosts, I debated Israeli Divestment motions alone in a room of 60 people at AUS (Arts Undergraduate Society) department meetings, yet these protests seem continuous, and at times we feel hopeless.

However, despite all of the hate and antisemitism, I have seen immense growth in myself. I am proud of my involvement in the McGill and Montreal Jewish community and of my role as VP Marketing at The Startup Nation McGill, a club aimed at introducing Israeli technology and innovation to McGill’s campus.

I wear my Magen David and Hebrew name, Simcha, around my neck proudly. I have and always will be a proud Jew and Zionist. This year I have fostered meaningful connections in the Jewish community that otherwise would not have necessarily been explored, and I am grateful for all of the amazing opportunities, events, and people with whom I’ve connected.  We are all stronger together. The power of our community could not be clearer.

A few weeks ago, the Support for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) group at McGill conducted a “die-in” where they lay down on campus, pretending to be dead. They proceeded to bombard campus buildings, disrupting classes, and blocked others from entering buildings. An older man who is not a student held a sign that read: “On October 7th Israel killed its own people & covered it up to justify genocide.” This is just one example of the many antisemitic, hateful protests that have occurred on McGill’s campus over the past few months.

As you can imagine, this made me very emotional, as it did many other Jewish and Israeli students. I called the President’s office and demanded a meeting. The next week, a group of Jewish students met with the provosts and although it was evident that they were also frustrated, they claimed that they were under certain legal and university-related constraints and could not act. We left the meeting at a loss in terms of our next steps. Telling students behind closed doors that you are looking for solutions is different from actually making a change, and that’s exactly what the McGill administration has been doing this entire time. 

One of the most important things that I’ve learned over the past several months has been to have conversations and initiate dialogue with individuals outside of our immediate circles. It is not enough to speak with like-minded individuals, as the world is full of people with different opinions and values. Unfortunately, many of the extreme protesters at McGill, and on college campuses nationwide, are unwilling to have these conversations. In answer to this I say to go onto campus with an Israeli flag, wear a Magen David, and be proud – if we show them we’re scared, they have won. I am very proud of the milestones Startup Nation McGill has achieved: We are the first club in a decade to table with an Israeli flag on campus. We also organized a peaceful Bring Them Home rally and a networking event featuring successful technology, STEM, and businesses with Jewish or Israeli affiliations. These initiatives aim to foster change on campus and create a more united, inclusive student body.

I hope that this situation does not deter Jewish students from attending McGill. As difficult as it is to be on a university campus during these times, it is so important to have strong Jewish advocates and allies at McGill. During my first year here, I took a Sociology class titled “Jews in North America” because I have always believed that Jews in the Diaspora play a vital role in Jewish and Israeli advocacy. Much of the class focused on the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews after their arrival in North America and the differences in their cultures. On my midterm exam, we were tasked with discussing the disparities between the two, and I concluded my essay with the following statement: “If we are not strong within, we cannot be strong without,” and I believe this applies to all Jews coming to McGill from diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. We are the future leaders, and to be on the right side of history, we must unite against hatred and cultivate a community at McGill where Jewish and Israeli students, despite our differences, feel a sense of belonging.

Sophie Kraft is an incoming fourth-year student at McGill majoring in Art History with a minor in Management. She is also the Vice President of Marketing for StartUp Nation at McGill. Sophie is the daughter of Michael Kraft and Lesli Marcus. Michael is the National Chair of the CFHU Board.

We wish Sophie much success in her future endeavours.