College campuses saw a significant spike in antisemitism over the past year as universities continue to miss the mark when it comes to protecting Jewish students from antisemitism, according to several Jewish experts and advocates.
In the 2021-2022 school year, threats to Jewish identity on college campuses doubled from 114 incidents the year before to 228 incidents, while incidents of suppression of Jewish identity almost tripled from 37 to 123, according to a report from the AMCHA Initiative, a pro-Israel college campus organization. Experts and organizations that work extensively with Jewish college students told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the attempts to remove Israel from Jewish identity on college campuses is at the root of the spike.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of AMCHA, told the DCNF that she had been tracking antisemitism on campus for over two decades, but that the last few years had been “unprecedented.”(RELATED: Whoopi Goldberg Walks Back More Comments About Holocaust In Spite Of Being Previously Suspended For Same Issue)
“What we found, and what was really frightening to us [when thinking] about what this means in the future, there is a real attack on those Jewish students who support Israel and who feel that is a very important part of their identity,” she noted.
Thom Waye, Chief Strategy Officer of Chabad on Campus International (CCI), told the DCNF that the antisemitism of the past year is not new but that social media created a “hockey stick effect” that pushed the issue on campus to the forefront. Ori Raphael, a Texas-based civil rights attorney and the executive director of the Jewish Justice Foundation, expressed similar thoughts.
“Antisemitism [is] a disease, and college campuses are just the modern-day breeding ground,” Raphael stated.
Rossman-Benjamin and Raphael argued that university administrations have left learning behind and substituted it for indoctrination, with antisemitism being the go-to form since Jews, according to Raphael, are an “easy target.” Rossman-Benjamin explained that university faculty and administrations have continued to push a “redefinition” of the relationship between Israel and Judaism that leads to discrimination and hatred towards Jewish students.
In May of 2021, Hamas and Israel were involved in a conflict that left almost 300 dead, according to Brandeis University. The conflict “opened the floodgates” for faculty and administrations to push anti-Zionist and often blatant antisemitic rhetoric on campus, according to Rossman-Benjamin.
“We saw 160 departments on over 120 schools across the country actually issue a statement ‘we put our full support behind the Palestinians and Israel is an apartheid state,'” she explained. “Many of the statements supported an academic boycott of Israel.”
Waye disagreed on where to point the blame for the rising hate and emphasized his belief that universities have the best intentions for their students, but lack education on the issue.
“I really believe this comes down to education and engagement … engagement and education of administrations, [and] where feasible, to faculty,” Waye said. “Chabad is really focused on trying to live your life through the lens of positivity, so our overall approach to antisemitism is to enable Jewish pride and enable students to understand their history enough that when they are on campus they embrace their right to self-identification and self-determination.”
AMCHA released a report earlier this month detailing how university policies fail to protect Jewish students. The report found that Jewish students were at an increased risk of abuse because they did not belong to a “protected minority” group.
“More than one-third (35) of the schools included in their codes of conduct statements affirming that the harassment of students in protected identity groups would receive more severe punitive sanctions than similar behavior directed against ‘unprotected’ students,” the report stated. “There were no schools where ‘unprotected’ students were guaranteed administrative consideration of and response to harassing behavior equivalent to that guaranteed to ‘protected’ students.”
AMCHA’s report showed that less that 40% of schools define harassment “as conduct that limited, interfered with, or impaired a student’s ability to participate in campus life.” Over the past year, many schools have come under scrutiny for issues similar to the ones addressed in the report.
At Harvard University, a pro-Palestine student group was allowed to host “Israel Apartheid Week” during the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Additionally, the University of California Berkeley Law School is currently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after multiple student groups passed bylaws prohibiting pro-Israel speakers from their chapters.
Two Jewish students at the State University of New York at New Paltz, both sexual assault survivors, were kicked out of a campus survivor group after other members found out the Jewish students supported Israel, according to Campus Reform. The City University of New York assigned a former civil rights director for the Hamas-linked Council for American Islamic Relations to investigate allegations of antisemitism made by a Jewish professor, and George Washington University conducted an investigation earlier this month after a pro-Palestine group allegedly harassed Jewish students and events on campus.
Rossman-Benjamin, Waye and Raphael agreed that over the last year, the intense pressure on Jewish students has taken a heavy toll.
“It has definitely been more difficult for students,” Waye said. “The most insidious aspect of antisemitism on a college campus is when a student is compelled to hide their identity because if you do that then the opportunity to really celebrate your history, celebrate your roots and your religion becomes very negatively impacted.”
StopAntisemitism (SA), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to exposing hatred against Jews, released its annual college report for 2022 and found that 72% of students felt the administration did not take concerns about antisemitism seriously while 73% admitted to hiding their Jewish identity on campus out of fear for their safety.
Raphael told the DCNF that he “has hope” for 2023 because “most people are good” but warned that too often good people wait until a problem reaches a point of no return before doing anything. Rossman-Benjamin expressed that universities have a long way to go before antisemitism will start to decrease on campus.
“Without a sort of game-changing intervention I don’t think that we will find success in shifting this trajectory of increasing antisemitism, and that’s very frightening,” Rossman-Benjamin said. “Ultimately this is only going to happen if we get out of this identity trap where we only address things if they are directed at students who are considered a part of a protected identity group.”
Harvard, GWU, U.C. Berkely, SUNY New Paltz and CUNY did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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