A high school student outlines how campus anti-Semitism has affected her college search and, in turn, her life.
When I started my college search at the beginning of 11th grade, there was much to think about: small school or big school, city school or suburban school, coed or single-sex and a possible major. One thing I did not expect to have to think about: anti-Semitism on campus.
But I soon began to hear about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents on campuses all over the country. There have been swastikas painted on Jewish fraternities. Students have been questioned about their Judaism when seeking a place in student government. Other Jewish students have been shouted at and even harassed when they have taken a pro-Israel stand in student government meetings. It seemed as if every week, there was another news story related to this issue.
As a result, my mom, Jill, and I, along with our friends Lauren and Raquel Dunoff and Bruce Risler, decided to create a community event about the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses. Our goal was to help students and parents who are looking at colleges to be better informed about this issue.
The event, featuring the film, Crossing the Line 2, took place May 14 at Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette Hill. More than 300 people came, showing how much people care about this issue.
The movie featured college students from all over the county talking about their experiences. They spoke of the rise of anti-Semitism through the organized BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement and expressed how difficult those associated with it make it for Jewish students on campus. The movie also explained the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and the BDS movement.
A panel discussion following the movie included representatives from Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League, Step Up For Israel, Alpha Epsilon Phi and college students. The panelists spoke about the importance of Hillel and Jewish fraternities as both a resource and a safe haven for college students. The students, from Penn and Temple, provided practical advice on how to deal with a professor who has an anti-Israel bias or how to speak to students who have those same biases.
All the panelists emphasized that knowledge is power — the more one knows about Israel, the more prepared one will be when facing anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism on campus.
As I begin to tour college campuses, I now have some additional questions. I will be sure to ask if the college has a Hillel and how active that Hillel is on campus. I will also find out about other Jewish groups that exist on campus.
It is really clear that it is incumbent on me to learn as much as I can about Israel so I can step up for Israel wherever I decide to go to college.
Samantha Zipin is an 11th-grade student at William Penn Charter School and a member of Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen.