Going to college has always been and continues to be about more than just getting an education and moving on into the workforce. Going to college is about having fun and growing both academically as well as socially. But how can students’ be expected to grow if they have to suppress a part of who they are out of fear of attack either verbally or physically? There are too many instances of anti-Semitism that are occurring throughout US college campuses and the administration at these schools are doing little or nothing to protect the Jewish students.
There was a recent Pew study done that determined one in five American Jews claim to have no religion, and that number appears to be growing. Though there is no indication of how and why these Jews have decided to leave the religion, I’d like to propose a thought; one which may make you think twice before sending your next child off to just any college. How would you feel if you were attending an event at your college, one planned and put together by a number of students and mid-event hecklers arrived and nearly force the event to be shut down? Worse, how would you feel if you were walking across campus and were physically tackled by a person with an imitation assault rifle, all in the name of simulating what Arabs living in Israel “experience”?
These incidents aren’t just something drummed up from imagination. The first incident occurred on the University of California, Davis campus back in 2012 when a number of Jewish students worked hard to put together a program at which the Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Davis illegally planned and executed coordinated actions to interrupt and heckle the event’s speakers. In so doing they suppressed the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly of the Jewish students and their invited speakers.
The latter incident was part of a massive campaign during “Apartheid Week” at University of California Berkeley, which continues to take place yearly despite a federal lawsuit brought against the school. That lawsuit was settled in court-ordered mediation; the result of that mediation, which the plaintiffs were forced to accept, was that Apartheid Week demonstrators were no longer allowed to use “realistic” assault rifles and now use pieces of paper or other such items as “assault rifles” instead.
How can we expect our kids to go off to college and want to remain strong in their Jewish faith if they are consistently discriminated against, attacked and vilified for being Jewish, and for standing up for Israel’s right to exist?
In the recent studies which show that religious affiliation for American Jews is dropping, perhaps some of it has to do with the fact that while away at college, many young Jews feel the need to suppress who they are in order to go through school with little to no discrimination. Religion is something that we can easily hide it’s not painted on us clearly like the color of our skin.
We need to encourage our kids and push ourselves to take a stand and voice our concerns to school administrators and state legislators. We cannot sit by any longer and watch as our kids are knocked down and attacked for being who they are. Organizations like AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization run by UC Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, whose mission is to raise the awareness of anti-Semitism occurring throughout U.S. college campuses, are out there to bring awareness to these growing acts of discrimination and anti-Semitism. We need to get behind groups like this to help make sure that our kids are protected. By drawing attention to the facts, and the sad standard set by the U.S. Department of Education which refuses to recognize anti-Jewish discrimination as a violation of Title VI laws, organizations like AMCHA help protect our students’ rights to be who they are and keep them safe while on university campuses.
It’s time to stand up and protect the rights of Jews on college campuses.