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Anti-Jewish hatred surges amid university backlash

Meanwhile, families, friends and others continue to advocate for the release of those hostages still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

Protesters bring attention to the crimes and sexual violence against women during the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 massacre, as well as reports of abuse of those taken hostage, outside of U.N. headquarters in New York City on Dec. 4, 2023. Photo by Yakov Binyamin/Flash90.
Protesters bring attention to the crimes and sexual violence against women during the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 massacre, as well as reports of abuse of those taken hostage, outside of U.N. headquarters in New York City on Dec. 4, 2023. Photo by Yakov Binyamin/Flash90.

In deplorable denials heard around the world, three presidents of elite American universities stated that students and professors calling for the genocide of Jews do not necessarily violate university policies. Anti-Jewish hatred at universities and K-12 schools is reaching historic heights as new data reveals the hostile environment American Jews are facing. Every day brings more reported incidents of assault, harassment, vandalism and pro-Hamas rallies targeting Jews for simply being Jewish. The latest events highlight the importance of countering anti-Jewish hatred across the country to allow U.S. Jews to enjoy the same freedoms and security that every American deserves.

Universities: ‘Lack of Moral Clarity’

The presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania showed how troubled American university environments have become. Examples of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attacks were already growing and increasingly normalized on many campuses before the Oct. 7 attacks. In the past two months, attacks have increased and intensified. Pennsylvania’s Gov. Josh Shapiro condemned the Penn president for failing to “speak and act with moral clarity.” All three claimed antisemitism could be allowed on campus, depending upon the “context” of its expression.

Two Penn students sued their university for violating their civil rights protections and called Penn’s antisemitism an “institutional problem.” A professor gave students a quiz in a mandatory class on racism that ranked Judaism as the most privileged religion. “F**k the Jews,” “The Jews deserve everything that is happening to them” and “You are a dirty Jew, don’t look at us,” are among intimidating slurs targeting Jewish students. Students at Penn and many other colleges and universities are fearful because antisemitism has become the “new normal.”

Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Committee, citing the same “institutional problem.” He said that “the system at Harvard along with the ideology that grips far too many of the students and faculty—the ideology that works only along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors, and therefore intrinsically evil—is itself evil. Ignoring Jewish suffering is evil.” More than 600 faculty members urged Harvard’s governing body to resist calls to oust its president.

The failure of university leaders to act decisively against anti-Jewish discrimination is having repercussions. More than a dozen major donors have closed their checkbooks in retaliation over the calls for violence against Jews on these campuses and the leadership’s failure to condemn it, let alone take action. A Penn donor withdrew a $100 million donation. Penn president Liz Magill and board chair Scott Bok resigned in the wake of Magill’s congressional testimony. Billionaire Harvard donor and graduate Bill Ackman has been leading the charge for reform at his alma mater. He called for president Claudine Gay’s resignation due, in part, to the “explosion of antisemitism and hate on campus that is unprecedented in Harvard’s history.” Harvard’s board unanimously backed Gay, who remains president.

Penn political science professor Anne Norton tweeted that “playing the victim is what Jews are best at” and denied the Oct. 7 Hamas atrocities. Stacey and Henry Jackson, who endowed Norton’s chair, condemned her “endorsement of hatred and violence.” The Jacksons are talking with Penn about ending their association with the professor.

Local Schools: ‘Don’t Want a Jew-Free School District’

A new survey reveals the alarming decline in education among younger Americans. A shocking 20% of 18- to 29-year-olds believe that the Holocaust was a myth. This age demographic also is far more likely to believe other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel statements. Even more young Americans believe that the Holocaust has been exaggerated, support the boycott of Israeli products and hold that Israel is an apartheid state. They are also less likely to believe that American Jews make a positive contribution to American society and that Israel has the right to exist. The trends in survey data suggest that animosity against Jews and Israel is likely even lower among children and teenagers.

A new survey from “The Economist”/YouGov shows an alarming one in five young Americans think the Holocaust was a myth compared to zero Americans ages 65 and older. Credit: Courtesy.

In California, the Oakland Education Association teachers union recently led an anti-Israel teach-in at local schools. Union leaders encouraged teachers across all grades to take the day to teach supposedly pro-Palestinian lesson plans. The curriculum failed to condemn Hamas. Organizers sponsored a speaker panel shown in some classrooms. One speaker described Israel’s war against Hamas falsely as a “project to exterminate Palestinians.” Other speakers encouraged students to become involved and to boycott companies supporting Israel. This new initiative builds on the troubling anti-Jewish ethnic studies curriculum being taught in several California schools.

Oakland parent Megan Bacigalupi called the teach-in “an attempt to indoctrinate Oakland kids to hate the State of Israel and by association, Jewish students.” The superintendent warned educators to “take seriously their responsibility to adhere to principles of education, and to keep their personal beliefs out of the classroom.” Jewish families already are threatening to flee the school district. Jewish Community Relations Council CEO Tyler Gregory: “All of these developments are leading to an atmosphere of fear for the Jewish community. We don’t want a Jew-free Oakland Unified School District.”

The Oakland City Council is one of many city councils becoming battlefields in the Hamas war against Israel. Palestinian supporters are pushing resolutions condemning Israel in California, including San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose. The San Jose mayor indicated that city policy prevents his city from taking foreign policy positions. The Oakland City Council took a balanced approach, passing a resolution calling for a ceasefire and condemning the Hamas atrocities. However, other councils like Richmond falsely accused Israel of ethnic cleansing. Many so-called Palestinian supporters denied the Hamas 10/7 atrocities at city meetings, despite the GoPro video footage filmed and released by Hamas. Police were forced to escort Jews to their cars following a city council meeting.

Surge in Attacks Against American Jews

ADL California condemned theone-sided resolutions that sow fear in the Jewish community that encourage extremists to co-opt public comment period at local government meetings.” The ADL also released a report documenting an alarming 337% increase in anti-Jewish incidents since the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. There have been more than 2,000 documented instances of harassment, vandalism, assault and anti-Israel rallies with overt expressions of antisemitism. These are preliminary numbers of verified incidents; actual numbers are thought to be significantly higher. Nearly 40% of American ultra-Orthodox Jews are considering immigrating to Israel because of these attacks.

As Jews celebrated Shabbat and the second night of Chanukah, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters marched down a street in a Los Angeles neighborhood with a large Jewish community. Anti-Jewish chants were heard and graffiti sprayed on buildings, including synagogues. The next day, a man assaulted an elderly Jewish couple in Beverly Hills. The attacker called out the couple as Jews and struck his 75-year-old victim in the back of his head with a belt, drawing blood.

Other instances of recent anti-Jewish attacks include a man yelling “Free Palestine” after firing shots towards a New York synagogue that houses a preschool; a man climbing up a 30-foot menorah in Connecticut to desecrate it with a Palestinian flag; swatting threats against 25 schools and nine Jewish community centers in Minnesota; and antisemitic comments against Jewish singer Pink after she posted a picture of her menorah with a Happy Chanukah message on Instagram. In California, three staff members at a cafe barred a Jewish woman from entering a bathroom to film anti-Israel graffiti and even defended the statements. The cafe apologized and fired its workers.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations co-founder and executive director praised the Oct. 7 Hamas atrocities as “self-defense.” The White House condemned the “shocking, antisemitic statements in the strongest terms.” CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorism case. The U.S. Justice Department announced it is investigating the more than 30 Americans that Hamas murdered or kidnapped on Oct. 7. Five years after a terrorist killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, their relatives unveiled a design for a synagogue attack memorial there.

Jews Targeted Around the World

Unfortunately, threats to Jews also are increasing worldwide, most notably in the United Kingdom. A woman was kicked unconscious in London as her young attackers laughed; children were prevented from boarding a bus; a soccer fan was removed for holding up a banner of his friend kidnapped by Hamas; and British universities stripped titles from a retired professor who called for a Jewish conference to be “blown up.” Despite the threats they face, more British Jews are showing their Jewish identity: “We’re all wearing jewelry that says we’re Jewish and proud.”

Austrian police arrested a 16-year-old for planning a terrorist attack on a Vienna synagogue. Fearing attacks, the small Egyptian Jewish community in Cairo canceled its public Chanukah celebration. Jewish educators around the world report that students and parents feel unsafe, betrayed and isolated. Jewish and Israeli TikTok employees are facing anti-Jewish harassment from colleagues. In Ottawa, Canada, about 20,000 supporters endured below-freezing temperatures for a pro-Israel rally; unfortunately, similar to America, drivers of 17 buses refused to transport Jews to the rally. Thousands of non-Jewish Germans marched together at a rally: “Never again is now—Germany stands up.”

Chanukah: ‘Light Overcoming Darkness’

Jews are continuing to celebrate Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights.” An American actor launched Project Menorah to support Jews fearful of displaying their menorahs publicly. His initiative invites non-Jews to download and print menorahs to put in their windows to show solidarity with the Jewish community. The families of Israeli hostages lit menorahs together in Tel Aviv. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris are displaying three menorahs that represent Jewish joy and trauma, and the Hallmark Channel released a new Chanukah movie. American Jewish astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli is celebrating Chanukah in space with a felt menorah and dreidel.

Chanukah in Space, Jasmin Moghbeli
American Jewish astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli celebrated Chanukah in space with a felt menorah and dreidel. Credit: Courtesy.

Points to consider:

  1. Universities are becoming a threatening environment for Jews.

The attacks against Jewish students on campus are not happening in a vacuum. Universities are mandated to provide a safe environment for all students to learn. Penn junior Elan Roth describes how “antisemitism on campus makes it really difficult to concentrate on school normally.” Instead, Jews have been subjected to harassment at universities across the country for many years. Assailants feel increasingly emboldened since the 10/7 atrocities and their attacks against Jewish students have increased in intensity. Professors also are part of the problem as they include anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiment in their lectures. The recent anti-Israel lessons at some K-12 schools in California show that the indoctrination extends to younger children. Discrimination and bias have no place in a learning environment.

  1. Educational leaders must demonstrate strong leadership and moral clarity.

The recent congressional testimony from the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT revealed the presence of clear double standards. Calls for genocide against Jews alone can be explained away rather than outright condemned. If the KKK marched through campuses calling for the genocide of African-Americans, it would be immediately condemned. The growing number of attacks against Jews warrants serious attention and public condemnation. The absence of strong ethical guidance diminishes public confidence and trust in higher education. Parents are wondering if campuses are safe for their children as some students have been forced to hide in their dorm rooms and apartments. Decisive actions must be taken immediately to reverse the downward spiral.

  1. Critical thinking skills must be taught to students.

Young Americans are increasingly being taught what to think rather than how to think. The alarming number of 18- to 29-year-olds who believe in anti-Jewish lies and conspiracy theories is a wake-up call for the U.S. educational system. Students are being fed a steady stream of lies and ignorance. Critical thinking skills are paramount for the future success of students. In an ever-changing world, the ability to analyze information, discern fact from fiction and form independent viewpoints is crucial. Investing in education empowers students to analyze problems and develop into the future leaders of America.

  1. Reported anti-Jewish attacks are only a fraction of the actual threats against Jews.

Since a vast number of antisemitic incidents go unreported out of fear, the surge of anti-Jewish attacks is likely far higher than the actual numbers reported, according to the ADL. This underreporting can distort the true extent of the challenges faced by Jews. This can lead to fewer resources allocated to securing the Jewish community, hindering effective responses. Anyone who is attacked or witnesses an incident must come forward and report it.

  1. American Jews and Israelis want a ceasefire, but only when the Hamas threat is eliminated.

“I don’t know how you can have a permanent ceasefire with Hamas who has said before Oct. 7 and after Oct. 7 that they want to destroy Israel and they want a permanent war. I don’t know how you have a permanent ceasefire with an attitude like that.”

— U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders

Israel’s mission is to secure the release of all hostages and destroy Hamas in Gaza, then there can be a ceasefire. American Jews and Israelis share the universal concern for peace in the region. American Jews often are connected to family and friends in Israel, sharing in the pain and suffering caused by the Oct. 7 attacks. Israelis understand the human toll from living through the daily impact of terrorism, and there is empathy for innocent Palestinian civilians. The answer to ending all the suffering is for the Hamas fighters to lay down their arms, surrender and return all of the hostages.

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