(December 30, 2016 / JNS)
This week, I was able to talk to many Jewish students from around the world (including a friend from my alma mater who is visiting Israel) about what it is like to be a Jewish student on their university campuses.
I graduated from college just about a year and a half ago, and although much has stayed the same, it’s getting more difficult for Jewish students.
When I entered college in 2010, my professors were accommodating when I needed to miss class for the high holidays. Yet there always seemed to be a bonding event on Yom Kippur, and I had to miss tennis practices if I wanted to be on the Hillel board and attend Shabbat services and dinner. These little things made me feel different from the other students, but by far the greatest source of difficulty as a Jewish student on campus was the way I related to Israel.
I remember receiving a terribly inaccurate email, passed through my school’s list serve, calling Israel an apartheid state that commits war crimes. I remember getting an eviction notice put on my door, “mocking the eviction notices sent to Palestinians by the IDF.” I remember someone coming up to me in the dining hall asking me how “you [Jews] could do all of those terrible things to the Palestinians.” I remember being ostracized in a class and receiving a grade less than I deserved because the paper had pro-Israel content. I remember sitting in a meeting hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine, the group leader asking all the other students to disregard my opinion and that of my friend because we were from the pro-Israel group. I remember when I found swastikas drawn in the bathroom stalls on multiple occasions.
It was difficult being on a campus that was dogmatically critical of Israel, with an undercurrent of anti-Semitism. I have surmised that nearly all Jews around the world face the same problems that I faced in college. And on my campus, the Claremont Colleges, it is only getting worse.