When I first saw the headline that Steve Bannon would serve in the White House as a chief strategist and senior counselor to President Donald Trump, I felt sick to my stomach. I experienced this dark, terrifying moment of deja vu — the phenomenon of Bannon is not new. We have seen this before.
It was as if I was witnessing this political moment through the eyes of my Jewish, Polish ancestors, watching a nationalist movement sweep the country and a hateful anti-Semite take his spot just a breath away from the presidency.
Make no mistake about it — Bannon is an anti-Semite and a white nationalist. Oh, and he is a Hoya, graduating with a master’s degree from the School of Foreign Service in 1982.
As a Jewish student at Georgetown, I have always felt spiritually nourished, supported and welcomed. I have never felt like my religious difference was merely “tolerated,” but rather that my existence here as a proud Jew allows Georgetown to better live out its Jesuit values of interreligious understanding, faith and justice and community in diversity.
However, as a Jewish woman in the United States, I have never felt more afraid, thanks in no small part to my fellow Hoya Steve Bannon. Through his role heading the white-nationalist website Breitbart News, Bannon propagated a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic agenda. His website frequently targeted Jewish journalists with hateful slurs, spurring waves of death threats and shockingly offensive images directed at their Twitter accounts.
Bannon maintained and directed one of the most hateful, terrifying and stomach-churning dark corners of the internet. But the impact of what he says and does has ramifications far beyond the internet, especially now that he sits in one of the most powerful seats in the country.
Following the presidential election, Jewish communities across the country have been terrorized by a sharp uptick in anti-Semitism. This year alone has already seen more than 50 bomb threats to Jewish community centers and synagogues, and it is only February. The New York Police Department found that hate crimes against Jews in New York City have increased threefold since the election. If you do not see a connection between Bannon and the rise in anti-Semitism, you are not looking close enough.
Bannon’s statements and actions are so far outside the realm of what we are taught to value at Georgetown that to discuss them in the same sentence feels unnatural. My experience as a Jewish woman at Georgetown has been characterized by moments of pluralism and tolerance: taking a class taught by a rabbi, imam and priest, hearing a Jesuit give the d’var Torah sermon at a Shabbat service and praying on Yom Kippur — our holiest holiday — in Georgetown’s historic Gaston Hall.
Clearly, Bannon did not graduate from Georgetown with the same moral foundation or appreciation for diverse expressions of spirituality and faith that so many of us learn alongside our curriculum. We can either consider Bannon’s Georgetown degree a fluke, a blip on our otherwise successful record of producing honorable, service-oriented graduates — or, we can make a point of proving that Hoyas are better than Bannon.
As Georgetown students, we have the privilege of an excellent education in history and politics. We have the ability to attend religious services and cultural celebrations different from our own.
So when Bannon peddles hate and fear and attempts to turn our country down a dark and horrifying path, we can prove that our Georgetown education really does make us men and women for others, and speak out against him — not just now, when Bannon is in the headlines, but every day for the next four years.
Because whether he is making news, Bannon’s presence in the White House is an attack on my Jewishness, a threat to the future of our country and an embarrassment to Hoyas everywhere.
Jenna Galper is a senior in the College. She previously served as the president of the Jewish Student Association.
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