Stop College Anti-Semitism!

In Yiddish, there is an old saying. “Schwer zu sein ein Yid”—“It’s hard to be a Jew” But today, we could probably say, “It’s dangerous to be a Jew” to our lexicon of Yiddish aphorisms.

This week’s awful shooting at a Jewish market in Jersey City, where six people were killed, and several others injured, only proves that we are living in dangerous times. Synagogues fear for the lives of their worshipers, Jews are attacked in almost every major North American city, Jewish gravestones are desecrated almost everywhere in our country.

Yes, my friends. We have a serious problem.

Now I realize not everyone may like President Trump.

I get that.

But regardless how you might feel about him, you have to give him credit for signing an Executive Order today providing new and stronger protections for Jewish students on college campuses against anti-Semitic attacks and harassment. 

The President’s decision offers support to proposed bipartisan legislation that would mandate protections for Jewish students by amending Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin by schools that receive federal funds.[1] Although the original Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not specifically mention anti-Semitism, Trump’s the Executive Order will now mandate the enforcement of Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism; it will fight vigorously as anti-Semitism as it does against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.

As Jews, we should be cheering that at last, college campuses’ tolerance of anti-Semitism will now be dealt properly. It is a pity it took so long for it to happen. College administrators will have to do more to combat this evil presence at their universities.

In fairness for people who may differ with me, some fear it will stifle free speech and criticism of Israel’s polices. Others don’t like the idea of thinking about Jews as a national group; others but the truth is, Jews have been arguing over “Who is a Jew?” for decades. Are we a nation, a culture, a race, a religion? Probably a little bit of all the above.

Anti-Semitic movements claim they are “merely protesting against the racist and apartheid policies of Israel,” but their hatred against Israel has more often translated into bullying Jewish students. Now, the universities could lose their federal funding if they don’t take action against discrimination targeting Jewish students. Anti-Zionist rhetoric often reveals its true animus: a hatred of all things Jewish.

Every synagogue ought to be happy the President did not allow the bipartisan resolution to this problem to be kicked down the road; such a listless reaction only compounds the problem of anti-Semitism on the campus—it does not solve it.  As the OU proclaimed in its statement, “Those who seek to use our academic institutions as places to stoke anti-Jewish sentiment are now on notice: There will be consequences for their racism.”[2]

Anti-Semitism on college campuses has been growing exponentially since 2015, when the ADL documented over 47 incidents involving anti-Semitic symbols and depictions written against Jews in spray paint. That year, at UC Davis, during the 70th Anniversary of Auschwitz, recorded numerous acts of vandalism on the Jewish fraternity’s walls.

But today, the Anti-Defamation League said it had recorded 201 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses last year, which was down from 204 in 2017. The distinction between a religion and a nationality or ethnicity is an important one in U.S. law, as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars educational institutions that receive federal money from discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin, but does not cover religious discrimination.

Some people in my community claim today’s anti-Semitism derives primarily from white supremacists. They ignore the fact much of today’s anti-Semitism derives from some of the most prestigious universities of our nation—especially those that have strong liberal arts programs. The institutions intended to expand young peoples’ minds is being subverted by radical forces who wish to distort and disfigure the soul of our nation.

 Jewish college students in many of the country’s most respected schools experience an animus not just for being pro-Zionist, but for having the temerity to admit they are proud Jews. One of the most egregious examples can be seen at UC Berkeley, where in March, 2015, Jewish students discovered anti-Semitic flyers, drawings with swastikas, and graffiti urging that “All Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber.”

Most Jewish students I know are afraid to where a Star of David.

In 2018, at UC Berkeley, a Jewish professor receives a death threat; in the message, the writer  “mentioned Hitler and called for killing the professor, using an extremely racist epithet for ‘Jew,’” said Benjamin Brinner, faculty director at the Center for Jewish studies. [3]   

Having grown up in Berkeley, I have seen the radicalism of the UC campus. When UC Berkeley introduced Palestinian Hatem Bazian, as a guest lecturer, in a Tweet, he depicted an Orthodox Jewish male as an “Ashke-Nazi,” with a caption underneath the depiction, “I am chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians *yay*.”[4]  

On Dec 1, 2019 – Jewish students at Toronto’s York University were accosted by a mostly … and Antifa bigots to show up screaming hatred and attacking Jewish … “Go back to the ovens, go back to Europe!” That is exactly what Shar Leyb and two Jewish community members heard in Vari Hall. This ugly comment, marred an event that should have promoted dialogue and understanding between Israelis and Canadians. [5] Instead, the leftist students used it as another occasion to bully Jewish students and progressive people into silence.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is not limited to the college campuses. Like a cancer it spreads its venom throughout the body politic.

Anti-Semitism is rapidly impacting other parts of our society. Less than a week or so ago, Linda Sarsour had the temerity to say, “How can you be against white supremacy in the United States of America … you support a state like Israel that is built on supremacy,” Sarsour said at the 12th Annual Conference for Palestine in Chicago. [6]

For people who hate Jews, Sarsour’s comments is a call for war.

Irresponsible statements like Sarsour’s hateful remark only serve to heighten anti-Jewish bigotry, for Sarsour knows most American Jews have a fondness in their hearts for the State of Israel. Sarsour uses her celebrity status to divide the Jewish community.

Personally, I am astounded and offended by rabbis who support her.

Anti-Semitism behaves like a virus. What develops in one area of society, spreads to another. Hatred of the Jew is an ancient problem, one that is well-documented in the Graeco-Roman literature of Late Antiquity.

The bullying of Jewish students has got to stop. The bullying of Jews in our country has also got to stop. Universities need to champion respectful debate and not use intimidation to keep critics silent.

I personally applaud the President for making this move.

In the final analysis, Hillel’s remark, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” applies to us as Jews living here today.

History will remember how we respond.

===== NOTES:

[1] Legislation to enact this policy has been supported by the Orthodox Union and other major Jewish organizations for years and sponsored by a broad set of bipartisan leaders including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.); and Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and many others. Yet, it has failed to pass Congress.






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