During a visit to the Knesset in Jerusalem on Thursday, Jacob Klatzker, a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, told JNS his campus has been “rampant with antisemitism” since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel and the ensuing military response by the Israel Defense Forces, now in its third month of battling the terrorist organization based in the Gaza Strip.
As the head of the school’s Israel advocacy club, Klatzker said he has been “verbally harassed and very nearly physically harassed multiple times. My life at the University of Washington has become infinitely more difficult, dangerous and anxiety-provoking.”
In November, the U.S. Department of Education began reviewing the University of Washington, among other academic institutions, for potentially violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The widespread hate and threats directed at Klatzker and at other openly Jewish students on campuses across North America over the past nearly three months have become commonplace.
As a result, several leading Jewish organizations collaborated to organize a “Take Action for Israel” mission inviting 25 North American Jewish student leaders from major universities to gather first-hand testimonies about the devastating events of the Oct. 7 massacre and the subsequent war with Hamas.
In addition, students are strategizing on how to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda on campus, as well as articulate an effective and sustained pro-Israel message to their peers and communities.
The trip is a combined initiative of Hasbara Fellowships and IsraelAmbassadors.com, in conjunction with the Combat Antisemitism movement.
The students were hosted in the Knesset by Knesset member Danny Danon to garner tips on how to stand up for Israel, based on the lawmaker’s experiences in a hostile environment as the Jewish state’s former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. There were also student-led discussions on effective strategies on how to tackle antisemitism and anti-Israel activities on campus.
During the mission, the students met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and other political leaders; toured southern border communities ravaged by the deadly Hamas attacks; and met with families whose loved ones remain captive in Gaza.
During his remarks offering advice to the students when they return to campus, Danon said: “I believe in ‘soft diplomacy.’ Whether it’s inviting non-Jewish students to Friday night dinners or a Passover seder, you should give them these unforgettable experiences to teach them about Judaism and Israel.”
When asked by JNS what the students experiencing antisemitism on campus in North America can gain by a trip to Israel, Danon said: “They can gain confidence that we are strong, we are going to win the fight against evil—and they are also fighting evil on campuses.”
Dinah Elmaleh told JNS that a group of Jewish students at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, who set up a table with photos of the Israeli hostages in Gaza, “were physically attacked by pro-Palestinian protestors who screamed ‘death to the Jews.'” She added that the administration is “not doing anything to protect Jews on campus.”
When asked what she would take back with her from the mission she said the trip taught her “the notion of being prouder, more resilient and attached to my Jewish identity.”
She added: “I will be showing everybody what I have witnessed here, what Hamas did to people in Sderot, the suffering of those who have families being held in Gaza, or who were brutally murdered.”
Klatzker said he felt he already had the knowledge when it comes to the issues, but the experiences on the trip and the speakers he heard from “taught me how to tap into the emotional wellspring of feeling.”
Alan Levine, executive director of Hasbara Fellowships, told JNS: “For years we have been focused on antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda on campuses, and have brought students on missions to Israel to learn the facts and how to communicate them on a campus where there is too much propaganda.
“However, this particular mission during wartime is a little bit different. We are here to educate ourselves and the students, but it’s also about showing solidarity with Israel. Even more so, it’s about showing solidarity for our campuses,” said Levine.
He explained: “We want the students’ peers to see the social-media posts, read the messages, that while they are protesting Israel, we are here and we’re not afraid. It’s very much about making a statement at this time.”