Is it Safe to be a Jew in the U.S. in 2017?

What – you might ask? Has Penny lost her mind – leftover PTSD from hiding in bomb shelters in Israel? Of course it’s safe – or is it? Do you have a kid you’re about to send off to college? Do you know – beyond discrimination, that they are being harassed, bullied and assaulted on their college campuses throughout the United States and Canada? Instead of worrying about the next test or if that cute guy in their class likes them, they are confronted with graffiti of swastikas, and egregious writings like “Gas Jews Die,” or “Kill all Kikes.” Our next generation’s college memories soiled by fear and intimidation.

The Algemeiner just released the 1st Annual List of the US and Canada’s Worst Campuses for Jewish Students. It’s a listing of the top forty worst colleges for Jewish college students. The top five are:

  1. Columbia University
  2. Vassar College
  3. University of Toronto
  4. McGill University
  5. University of Chicago

Disappointing, yet predictable, there were eight California schools on the list including five UCs (#6 UCLA, #12 Berkeley, #18 UCI, #24 Santa Cruz, #29 Davis), #20 Stanford, and two UC State schools (#10 San Francisco, and #19 San Diego).

Combined with the recent reports from Brandeis and Trinity College, where an astounding 54% and 75% respectively, of Jewish students perceive a hostile environment for Jews on campus, it’s depressing.

But what is also clear, is there aren’t broad based strokes that can be made about the campuses – each was unique as to how, or if, anti-Semitism was perceived.

It was also discouraging to find out schools with the largest Jewish populations were more likely to suffer anti-Semitic, hostile environments.  It seems like there aren’t safe havens in numbers.

Where is the outrage? If the same types of incidents were occurring to other minorities, or the rights of peoples’ sexual orientation were being challenged – it would be all over the news.

While at some schools there is a strong correlation between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel proponents, in other schools like at Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Illinois it’s just the same old bigotry raising its monstrous head. However, one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate toward Israel and Jews is the presence of active Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) or Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) groups on campus.

As reported in The Times of Israel, “Members of anti-Zionist groups have carried out an array of intolerant activities to silence Jewish and pro-Israel voices, most frequently through the attempted cancellation, shutting down or disruption of pro-Israel events, but also through the vilification and intimidation of Jewish and pro-Israel groups and individuals, with the clear intention of delegitimizing their perspective or causing them to be too afraid or uncomfortable to express it.”

Does free speech not apply if you’re Jewish? I know it’s hard to believe, but the atmosphere for Jews has changed on college campuses. It seems like almost every Jewish kid I know goes to college. We are only 2% of the U.S. population, yet A disproportionate 35% of today’s Jews with graduate degrees, and nearly two-thirds with at least a bachelors degree, whereas only 27% of today’s non-Jews have college degrees Don’t they have a right to feel safe? We can’t ignore or close our eyes to what’s happening.

One report in The Times of Israel stated that “Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), has been compiling lists of Jewish students on college campuses in North America and detailing their dorm address information, raising fears for the students’ safety.” How scary is that?

AMCHA Initiative’s studies of anti-Semitic activity at more than 100 colleges and universities most popular with Jewish students, have substantiated the survey reports from both Brandeis University and Trinity College claims.

In AMCHA’s 2015 study, they found that 65% of schools hosted one or more incidents involving anti-Semitic language or imagery, and 41% of schools had incidents in which “Jewish students were targeted for harm, including assault, harassment, destruction of property and suppression of speech.”

Not only are students targeted on campus, but also Jewish professors are attacked as reported by Inside Higher Ed:

“Benjamin Kuperman, associate professor and chair of computer science at Oberlin College, and his wife reportedly heard tapping sounds outside their home early in the morning on Nov. 17. They opened the front door to discover smashed seashells and a note behind their mezuzah, a small case that contains parchment with verses from the Torah, which many Jews place on their door frames. The note read, in glued letters, “Gas Jews Die,” according to the local Chronicle-Telegram.”

“Last Monday, Sanford Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin, received a postcard at his office at Harvard University, where he’s currently a visiting professor of law. According to The Dallas Morning News, the postcard referred to a Trump campaign slogan, saying, “We’re gonna drain the swamp at Harvard Law,” used anti-Jewish slurs and closed with “Juden raus!” Juden raus is a Nazi-era phrase meaning “Jews out.””

Groups such as the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement and SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), weren’t the only perpetrators of anti-Semitism on campus – professors have been cited as well. AMCHA published a list of Over 200 Anti-Israel Middle East Studies Professors.

Professors who support these groups, often have free reign on campuses. Dartmouth appointed N. Bruce Duthu as its new Dean of the Faculty – a supporter of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement. The chant of the BDS movement, from the river to the sea, is anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and anti-Jewish. It refers to sweeping the Jews out of Israel.

Why are the college administrators allowing this vitriol under the guise of free speech? What about the free speech and rights of their Jewish populations to be free from harassment and intimidation?

Hopefully this blog has spurred you on to want to know more and help protect our kids. I don’t want to send you away feeling defeated.  There are some campuses that show signs of encouraging news.  The Algemeiner also announced the Best Schools for Jewish Students in North America:

  1. Yeshiva
  2. Touro College
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  4. Brandeis University
  5. City University of New York, Baruch College

Granted the top two are schools for Jews, but I was heartened to see that MIT, with a rating of only 2.5 for its Jewish population, was #3. This was attributed to its long standing collaboration with Israeli academics for over a decade and its fellowship program with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

This is not to say that there are no pro-Palestinian factions on campus.  They do have a “Palestine@MIT” group. Despite this, activity against the Jewish state is minimal.

Other colleges worth mentioning are: The University of Pennsylvania #6 with a substantial rating of 4.0 for their Jewish population, and colleges ranked 7-10, with substantially lower Jewish populations: Tulane University #7, Emory University #8, Washington University, St. Louis #9, and John Hopkins University #10.

Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” These young adults are our next generation, responsible for the continuation of our people. Please speak up. Our kids need us.

As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey….