Jews on Campus - Where Will They Be Safe?
Updated: Nov 6
The Anti-Defamation League has reported a 400% increase in antisemitic activity since October 7, and the news headlines continue to highlight the horrible climate on college campuses for Jewish students. Yet, we just passed 11/1, the Early Decision and Early Action application deadline for many institutions for Fall 2024, and students are having to make choices about where to submit college applications. Current juniors are beginning their research of college campuses and need to assess where they might want to visit and apply come next fall. College counselors and parents everywhere are asking, where can I send my students that will be safe?
This is a highly personal decision, of course. Jews are not a monolith - we are comprised of different races, ethnicities, countries of origin, political, and religious beliefs. An Orthodox Jew who wears a kippah and needs a daily minyan is going to have different needs than a Reform Jew who feels culturally Jewish but is not at all religiously observant. There is no easy answer, and we don't know what college campuses will look like next week, let alone next year. We do know that there are many resources available to help you make the most informed decision that you can at the time you are required to make it.
First, you have to decide how important it is to have a substantive, active Jewish student population on campus. There are many campuses that will be extremely welcoming of Jewish students, but there may not be a Hillel, a Chabad, or many other Jewish students on campus. Right now, given the correlation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, some of the most liberal colleges are creating the most hostile environments for Jewish students. We may see many Jewish students turn towards more conservative campuses and states that historically have shown stronger support for Israel.
If a campus does have a Hillel or Chabad, visit it when you are on campus or call to speak with the Executive Director or Rabbi. Ask what the current climate looks like on their campus and whether these organizations feel supported by the university administration. It can be very revealing to hear what is said. The staff at Hillel and Chabad interact with Jewish students daily - they hear which professors or classes are making students uncomfortable, and what is happening at the student union, in public campus spaces, in dining halls, in dorms, and in sororities and fraternities.
Connect with current students. Ask Hillel, Chabad or the Jewish Student Union to be connected with Jewish students on campus who can communicate how it feels to be a Jewish student on that campus.
You can read about how Hillel is confronting antisemitism on campus and sign up to receive newsletters from Hillel at the bottom of this page.
Be careful about trusting what you see on social media. Sometimes incidents on campus are misrepresented and create a perception of life on campus that does not match reality. Jewish on Campus posts stories about antisemitism on campus through various social media channels. If you see something and are concerned, ask someone at the school to confirm what actually happened so you can assess how representative it is of the campus experience at large.
Subscribe to Laura Hosid's newsletter, Campus Chai-Lights. You can do this on her website. Her goal is to keep you informed about life on campus from a Jewish perspective.
Check out TribeTalk, another great resource for Jewish students evaluating college campuses. It also provides podcasts and blogs to help understand the war in Israel.
As it relates to the war, a coalition of universities has come together to condemn terrorism and stand with Israel against Hamas. I hope to see this list of schools grow.
The American Jewish Committee has a Campus Global Board that is comprised of Jewish students around the world. They recently hosted a webinar called Voices from Campus that you can watch here. AJC has many resources to provide education on antisemitism, Israel, and Iran. The Campus Library has resources to help students become strong Jewish advocates.
If you have current students enrolled in college and they see evidence of antisemitic acts, it is critical that they report this information - they can do so on campus to their campus police and they can do so at reportcampushate.org, a collaboration between Hillel, ADL, and the Secure Communities Network.
*New (11/6/23) - The ADL, Brandeis Center, Hillel and law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher LLP have established CALL, Campus Antisemitism Legal Line, a free legal protection line for students on campus who have experienced antisemitism. Students can visit the website or text "CALLhelp" to 51555.
This is unquestionably a highly stressful and scary time for Jews all over the world. While we are all certainly not the same, as a people, we are strong and resilient. Compassion and loving-kindness are fundamental to who we are. We value education, truth, justice, and equity. As Walter Mead wrote earlier this week in a WSJ article, "Antisemitism Poisons America." Our voices are needed and must be heard not just on college campuses, but in our communities, in our workplaces - everywhere we are.
Am Yisrael Chai.