OpinionSchools & Higher Education

Targeting Jewish students on campus

My mother was pushed out of university by antisemites and sent to Auschwitz. Don’t let it happen again.

A rally at Tulane University in New Orleans got violent after a pro-Palestinian supporter hit a Jewish student in the face, Oct. 26, 2023. Photo by Bali Levine.
A rally at Tulane University in New Orleans got violent after a pro-Palestinian supporter hit a Jewish student in the face, Oct. 26, 2023. Photo by Bali Levine.
Dr. Alex Sternberg
Dr. Alex Sternberg
Dr. Alex Sternberg, a Jewish activist, is the author of Recipes From Auschwitz.

Horrifying images on every news platform show that Jewish students have become the targets of blatant antisemitic assaults—verbal as well as physical. Not long ago, antisemitic sentiments were obfuscated by claiming they were “anti-Zionist,” but that veneer has been stripped away. Now, Jewish students are the target of left-wing pro-Hamas Jew-haters who make no attempt to sugarcoat their hatred. If you are a Jew, you have a target on your back.

Universities that claim to provide a “safe and nurturing environment” have fallen short when it comes to Jewish students, always citing “freedom of speech” issues. We’ve seen this movie before, even if many do not want to admit it. Alas, history is repeating itself.

My mother was a student at Pecs University in Hungary in the early 1930s. The fact that she, a Jewish woman, was accepted was by itself extraordinary in those times. She set out to study medicine, but Hungary’s strict antisemitic laws limited how many Jews could become doctors. My mother was prevented from studying the subject she preferred, but she was allowed to study education.

The climate in Hungary was growing increasingly hostile to Jews at the time. While some professors were sympathetic to the plight of their Jewish students, most made openly antagonistic comments. The students naturally followed their professors.

My mother was not a fighter. She was a cultured and refined young woman who had studied Greek and Latin. She participated in plays and enjoyed reading poetry. She graduated high school with honors and eagerly looked forward to university life.

But she was no match for the aggressive and hostile atmosphere awaiting her on campus.

During her first year, a rabidly antisemitic student organization, the Turul Society, arose on many Hungarian campuses. They thought that limiting university access to a small number of Jewish students was too liberal. They wanted no Jews on campus at all. To realize their aims, they began to organize anti-Jewish demonstrations that featured speaker after speaker spouting hostile rhetoric. The demonstrations soon led to physical intimidation followed by the beating of Jewish students.

Sounds like what is happening on many of our U.S. campuses today, doesn’t it?

Not long after that, my mother decided to take a temporary leave of absence. Most Jewish students were similarly chased out. A few short years later, with anti-Jewish fervor at fever pitch, the climate was ripe to push my mother, her family, and some 600,000 other Jews into cattle cars headed for Auschwitz.

Is this what awaits her grandchildren today? Some in America believe “it can’t happen here.” Can’t it? For the first time in generations, American Jews are wondering.

On U.S. campuses, the Hamas chorus, led by the virulently antisemitic BDS movement, laid the groundwork for what we see today. The students marching in lockstep with those who celebrate the murder of babies have been brainwashed into believing terrorist propaganda.  Hamas has explicitly told them that they want the eradication of all Jews. These useful idiots are fine with that.

But why do they cover their faces if they think they are so righteous? Do they go home and brag to their parents about advocating for burnt and beheaded babies?

Current events are sobering and require us to ask: Which universities are safe for Jewish students? Who is teaching our children and what are they teaching them? What character, or lack of it, do their professors possess? What about the university leadership? Do they condone mass murder or are they simply too cowardly to speak out? Where is the moral leadership in our elite universities?

A litmus test for universities interested in welcoming Jewish students would be a robust Israel history department taught by pro-Zionist educators teaching a non-BDS version of that history. The expression of different perspectives should be permitted and protected, creating a truly welcoming culture.

My mother barely survived Auschwitz. She never resumed her university education. The haters won and plunged their country into a devastating and destructive war. Hungary helped to wipe out over 600,000 of her Jewish citizens, including my mother’s family. The country never returned to the economic, cultural and educational levels enjoyed while the Jews lived there. It was a steep price to pay to satisfy hate.

Jews of America, we should be alarmed when even some congressmembers scream for more dead Jewish babies. It is time for Jews to rethink supporting a party that does not support them.

President Joe Biden said all the right things after Oct. 7 and has mostly taken the right actions. But with the alarming rise in antisemitism, why did he just start a task force on Islamophobia?

Clearly, the White House does not know who hates whom. But we do.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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