Elise Long thought that, maybe, going to class at the University of Minnesota would give her some respite from the awfulness she watched unfold in the hours after Israel was attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7. In her first class, it quickly became clear that wasn’t going to be the case.
“I had a professor that asked about the news, so I brought up the attack and how I was feeling,” said Long. “The professor went on to claim that Hamas was a political group, not a terrorist organization – despite my attempts to correct him. He then went on to say that everything was a culmination of Israeli policies of the last 60 years, and the British.
“I knew that Hamas was going to try and break us down to our core, so I expected hate. That hate came so much quicker than I had anticipated, and from a source I wasn’t expecting.”
Long was one of the speakers at a Jewish and Ukrainian Solidarity event at the Barry Family Campus Thursday morning, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and the MN Ukrainian American Advocacy Committee. She shared her experiences of antisemitism on campus at the University of Minnesota, from “Free Palestine” spray-painted outside of the Coffman Union, to other posters plastered on campus after the attack, including the genocidal slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Long also mentioned an open letter that professors and students signed that she said was anti-Zionist as well as antisemitic.
“I saw at least one former and one current professor on it,” she said. “The current professor was shocking to me. I thought she was supportive of me: I had talked to her these last weeks and she helped me. But seeing her name on there felt like a betrayal, and that my teachers hated people.”
Long, a junior, said that she was able to find some solace in going to Minnesota Hillel, even to just talk with staff and fellow students.
“There’s no perfect way to help everyone. It’s kind of like we’re all mourning in a way,” she said. “After what happened with the instructor. I just went right there. I feel like I work better just talking through trauma and stuff like this. I’m able to talk through emotions, and it’s a very safe space for all of us to just talk.”
After the incident with her professor, Long left the room in tears and called her mother, DeeDee. Despite being close enough to her daughter from the Minneapolis suburb she calls home, it’s hard for DeeDee to watch her daughter go through this.
“Like most Jews right now, I’m probably not handling it the best,” DeeDee said. “I worry about [Elise]. She knows she can call me anytime and, a lot of time she’ll call me and as she’s walking to class, she’ll use that time to get her feelings out and then she can go to class so she can focus.”
Adding to the stress of the moment is the fact that Elise’s sister, Lindsey, who was at the press conference to lend support, is going through the college application process. Watching some of the ways Jewish students have been targeted across the country is concerning.
“We have that end of it too, where some of the schools she wanted to apply to, she’s now thought, ‘I don’t think I feel safe,’” DeeDee said. “So I have kind of both sides of it here.”
One of the tools Long has come away with from the experience so far is that she isn’t alone.
“I have this knowledge that people are backing me, so I’m able to go to class,” said Elise, who keeps her phone at the ready to video anything that may happen. “But it is hard, and I do have to take deep breaths a lot, but [I] know I have a whole community behind me and that I can go to them and text them.”