The past weeks have seen a bubbling up of racial and ethnic bigotry frustrations and anger on campus by Black and other Students of Color on campus resulting in calls for administration change at the University of Missouri and other colleges and universities. Understanding that there are also underlying issues of anti-Israelism, anti-Zionism and Antisemitism on campus on many campuses, our Jewish students and faculty need to learn from these teachable moments and act accordingly.
Despite our internal debates about what can be legitimately defined as antisemitism as distinguished from anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel, we need to understand that whenever Jews are afraid to be Jewish on, they may well be antisemitism because where there is smoke there is fire. We must demand that Jews students and faculty must be free to be Jewish on campus and express their religious and ethnic commitments the same way as any other students and that there be no penalty in terms of employment or study at campus. We must demand that administrations which support the campus ethos of the often not much discussed issue of “who’s a good Jew vs. who’s one of those kinds of Jews” differentiation are supporting both the classical and modern antisemitism. The current iteration of that is that Jewish faculty and students who support Israel’s right to exist and defend itself in a bad neighborhood and only demand the right of Israel to exist in peace and security able to accept the legitimate peaceable aspirations of her neighbors are right wing nuts, something undesirable on campus. This ethos exists and is perpetuated by many “in charge” on college campuses and it is as antisemitic as any classical form, building on the notion that “Jews are clannish and have dual loyalties.”
Jews must join with other minorities on campus and demand an end to bigotry, racism and ANTISEMITISM in all and any forms. It needs to be articulated, codified and enforce in practice for all. Our Jewish leaders must be insistent and forceful that any bigotry on campus can no longer be tolerated and if campus administrators cannot be responsive, students, parents, football teams, chess clubs, debating societies, Hillels and other on campus organizations should step forward. We have an opportunity here, let’s not lose it.