JE Editorial: Far From Academic, Anti-Semitism on College Campuses


This school year for college campuses around the United States was fraught with anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israel sentiments.

While Monday’s The Daily Show segment commemorating “The Hate Class of 2015” was a satirically biting look at what may be the last time opponents of same-sex marriage have a chance to assemble en masse before the Supreme Court ruling on the issue, it could very well double as a summation of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for many Jewish students at colleges and universities across the United States.
The affronts, assaults and attacks began even before classes did, when a Jewish student at Temple University was punched and verbally assaulted during orientation by students affiliated with the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement continued its pernicious campaign on campuses across the country, from tiny Earlham College in Indiana, where that school’s Student Senate voted to adopt the BDS platform, to California, where five University of California schools also voted in favor of divestment.
California, long a bellwether for trends in the United States, was ahead of the curve on another issue from the bad old days — blatant anti-Semitism. Both UCLA and Stanford featured student government elections where Jewish candidates were asked how they would handle situations based on their presumed divided loyalties due to their Jewish identity, and whether or not that identity presented a conflict of interest.
Some of the angst roiling the campuses came from within.  Swarthmore’s Hillel decoupled from the national organization to become an Open Hillel, which advocates for the right to invite speakers and hold events that go against Hillel’s national guidelines preventing speakers and programs that delegitimize Israel. 
It doesn’t take a B.A. to see we are no closer to a post-anti-Semitic college life than we are to a post-homophobic society. To ensure we can someday view these incidents, and the survey that found 54 percent of Jewish college students experienced some form of anti-Semitism during the 2013-2014 academic year as the nadir of the Jewish college experience, we need to do something — and nothing. 
Investing in educational programs like Hillel, Birthright and others devoted to this demographic not only gives young Jews a strong sense of identity, but provides them with the tools to stand against and expose the challenges from without and from within.
But we must also remember that there is only so much guidance and advice that can be proffered before it begins to look like attempts to control — something sure to send a headstrong student racing in the opposite direction. With education, vigilance and faith, we can hopefully soon do what Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams did on Monday and have the bigots sign yearbooks dedicated to “The Wrong Side of History — 2015.” 


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