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Bonnie K. Goodman
Historian, Librarian, and Journalist

Antisemitism in the Diaspora is a real danger; having a spine will not stop it

Source: SPHR
Source: SPHR

This week, North American Jewish students are starting to go back to campus, at least at McGill University in Montreal. The New Year 2024 barely began, and the antisemitic attacks began anew, or is it just a continuation of 2023? Authorities in Toronto are investigating a fire that occurred at a deli in North York on January 3. The incident is being treated as a potential hate crime due to the presence of graffiti and damage to the building. Toronto Fire successfully put out the fire, and graffiti was discovered on the outside. The building suffered some damage, including broken windows and graffiti on the exterior that expressed a strong sentiment. The owner of a Jewish-owned store, with the entrance displaying the acronym “IDF” for International Delicatessen Foods, believes that the vandalism was motivated by antisemitism. Everyone seems to agree that this crosses a line to the criminal as a clear threat to the Jewish community.[1]

Despite this violence, the tide of public opinion might be turning towards the Jewish community and Jewish students. The day before, on January 2, Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, stepped down amidst allegations of plagiarizing and not correctly citing her doctoral dissertation and her inadequate response to antisemitism in the wake of the recent Hamas-led attacks on Israel. [2] Less than a month before, she would not admit pro-Palestinian students calling for genocide for Israel and supporting Jewish students as a red line and considered bullying and harassment when testifying to Congress. Gay’s whole fall semester and tenure was embattled first over her lax response to antisemitism on Harvard’s campus after the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. A plagiarism scandal going back to her doctoral dissertation. The backlash was from the students, parents, donors, and the media. Now, two of three prestigious Ivy League presidents have resigned, with one more to go. Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Claudine Gay of Harvard University are gone, but Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology remains. The trend seems to be academics need to be on the right side of the debate when it comes to antisemitism and anti-Zionism on university campuses.

Pro-Israel students on university campuses have few advocates, especially among the professorial class. Professors and staff have always been supportive of the pro-Palestinian student faction on campus, whether it is pushing their position and criticizing Israel in the classroom, in petitions, or even in protest rallies. In contrast, Jewish students can barely get support from professors or even Jewish professors. In his Jerusalem Post article from December 26, 2023, entitled “Israel stopped apologizing on October 7,” dismisses the wave of violence and antisemitism in the Diaspora.

In the article, he dismisses the wave of violence and antisemitism in the Diaspora. Troy argued that Israelis are on the front lines and found the fear after anti-Semitic attacks in the Diaspora not as significant, going as far as laughing at Diaspora Jews.

Troy wrote, “But many Israelis keep cringing, too. We wince when a synagogue relocates its Saturday afternoon services, fearing protesters across the street. We squirm when Jewish students avoid Hillel or their kosher dining hall because of some online threat. We blush when Jews – especially young, healthy students – cower at home because some cowards hiding behind their masks launched yet another ‘Thugs for Palestine’ rally. Grow a spine! You cannot equate the danger Israelis confront in Gaza or on the border facing Hezbollah, when patrolling hostile Palestinian towns, with threats on leafy campuses or at La Cienega Park.” However, the point he does not realize is that we are not trained in the military, and violence is violence no matter where in the world it is.

The Jerusalem Post article is not the first time Troy told Diaspora Jews, especially students, to “Grow a spine!” In an October 19 National Post article entitled “Students, it’s time to find your courage and confront Hamas apologists on campus,” Troy argued, “The terrorist butchers, their cheerleaders, and their enablers are banking on your silence. You must prove them wrong.” The article, however, had an alternative title: “Students, it’s time to grow a spine.”

Troy mocked the students, “I was surprised, however, by many of the snivelling responses to these amoral bullies. I was embarrassed by reports of students turning to administrators because pro-Palestinian demonstrations frightened them. Warnings not to go to class during last week’s “Day of Jihad” also made me squirm… It’s time to grow a spine. If you feel “uncomfortable,” don’t whine to grownups, but act. Invite your friends to accompany you. If they say it has nothing to with them, then you know they don’t get it. Invite beefy friends from the football and lacrosse team along, too – not to confront (we’re not the violent ones), but simply to deter.”

However, students should feel safe on campus; the university should ensure it, and they should not have to find make-shift bodyguards to go around to their classes; it is absurd. The reality is that students do not know when the harassment can become violent. Such as a story I heard about a Carleton University student whose car was attacked by pro-Palestinian students because he had an Israeli flag on it.

How is Troy’s response better than the Jewish professors who stay silent or argue for the pro-Palestinian students? The most relevant aspect of this scenario is that Troy publicly declared in a Canadian national magazine that he was afraid of anti-Zionism in Montreal! During the second intifada, in May 2002, Macleans Magazine feared Troy on their cover in a feature entitled “The new solitudes.” The article was written a year after Troy publicly declared he was a Zionist in his Montreal Gazette opinion piece for Yom Ha’atzmaut entitled “Why I Am a Zionist” and the expanded book, a Zionist Manifesto.

In an interview for the article with author Jonathan Gatehouse, Troy declared his fear. A grown man and professor of ten years admitted he is “scared,” then shouldn’t students be scared? During the 2002 Yom Ha’atzmaut rally in downtown Montreal, which Troy attended with his then-small children, he told Macleans in an interview:

“I never used to feel scared,” says Gil Troy. Marching with the crowd down the centre of Rene Levesque Boulevard, balancing his toddler son on his shoulders, the 40-year-old McGill University history professor says the e-mails, phone calls and letters he received in response to an opinion piece he wrote for the Montreal Gazette a year ago — entitled “Why I Am a Zionist” and since expanded into a book — changed all that. Hateful words, religious slurs, threats — he’s still so spooked he requests that the names of his wife and children not appear in print.” [3]

I was Troy’s student and used to be his research assistant. I posted all his articles from this period on the website I designed and maintained for him. Most of his pre-2008 articles are not readily available online, so unless people remember this article or have paid database access, they might not have or ever find it—Troy’s words about his fears of antisemitic reprisals. To recycle one of Troy’s favorite quotes from former New York Mayor Ed Koch, “If you agree with me on 9 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.” While I agree a lot with Troy and still consider him one of my mentors, as he indicates, one cannot always agree with someone, even if you respect them. Troy advises students to “Stand up” so I decided to write this article for no other reason.

I am an expert in the history of antisemitism and anti-Zionism on university campuses, especially McGill, having written the recently updated A Constant Battle: McGill University’s Complicated History of Antisemitism and Now anti-Zionism and covered the incidents for nearly ten years, while since graduate school my research area has been the history of antisemitism in North American Jewish history. I have just written about my experiences with campus anti-Zionism this past semester. I know the threats and fear are real. As a historian, professor, and expert in presidential politics, Troy knows consistency is key in viewpoints and writing.

Troy criticizing pro-Israel students for being afraid on campus counters what he said in articles written in between those two others. In a November 24 Jewish Journal article, “It’s Time for Professors Who Support Israel to Proclaim their Zionism – the Toronto Way,” he acknowledges the campus antisemitism. He criticizes professors who do not publicly support the students. At the same time, he praised “555 Jewish Physicians in the University of Toronto’s TFOM – Temerty Faculty of Medicine” who signed a petition supporting Israel, denouncing antisemitism, and declaring they are Zionists. [4]

Troy wrote:

The result, on too many campuses, is a poisoned-ivy league, a new network of universities where half the Jews on these campuses report feeling scared, more than a third report witnessing acts of violence against Jews in their universities, and more than a third have felt compelled at one point in the last few weeks to hide their Jewish identity from their peers. So much for safe space!”… “When I challenge professors to take a stand, too many of them shrug. They don’t want to disrupt their careers. They worry about a few fanatic colleagues or students shouting them down or trashing them on social media. They act as if it’s not their responsibility to make sure that everyone on campus feels comfortable, respected, free to think independently — even if the students dare to be pro-Israel. And many of these paralyzed professors simply wonder, what are they supposed to do?”

Adding to this flip-flop, depending on the audience, is Troy’s latest Jewish Journal article, “Open Letter to Jewish Students.” In his “Dear Jewish Students” letter, Troy again champions flips and champions Jewish students, telling them, “You students need tremendous spiritual courage to embrace Israel and Zionism on campus. The fact that you get the opposite—cold shoulders, social ostracism, online hostility, even harassment—increasingly requires physical courage, too.” Instead of telling students to grow a spine, Troy tells them they need courage. “You students need tremendous spiritual courage to embrace Israel and Zionism on campus. The fact that you get the opposite—cold shoulders, social ostracism, online hostility, even harassment—increasingly requires physical courage, too.” [5]

The irony of telling students about feeling “your pain” days after the attack, from mocking Diaspora students in the National Post two weeks after the attacks, and understanding that “hooligans menace you aggressively” on campus. Other words that contrast the two articles include calling campus anti-Zionism “this trauma” and “this crisis” and calling it “the bad, the anger, the betrayal.” The only constant is that he still tells students not to “cower,” aka have a spine, and the word “sniveling,” this time, is used for professors who do not support pro-Israel students. These words contrast Troy’s words to students’ in the Jerusalem Post just days before.[6]

The past three months have nothing to laugh at or mock, and Diaspora steady advocates who understand what they are going through regardless of the audience they address. Jews are experiencing the worst wave of antisemitism worldwide since the Holocaust; it is not a time to argue, mock, or belittle what Jews are experiencing in the Diaspora. Irwin Cotler, former Liberal Cabinet minister, McGill Law professor, and human rights lawyer, and serving most recently as Canada’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Remembrance and combating Antisemitism, expressed after the attack, “We’re witnessing the highest rise of antisemitism in 50 years.” Cotler told Postmedia, “We’re experiencing and witnessing the highest rise in antisemitism since audits of antisemitism began in the 1970s. This is true in Canada. It’s true in the United States, and it’s true in Germany… antisemitic beliefs – the number of Americans who believe in six or more antisemitic tropes, tropes such as Jews control the media – has doubled. I found that quite disturbing because beliefs can lead to action.” [7]

Historian and antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt, who is serving as the Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy, explains, “I don’t care one where it comes from. What is so frightening is that it is coming from everywhere — right, left, center. It is a most ubiquitous form of hatred, not just the oldest.” Speaking of anti-Zionism as antisemitism, Lipstadt expressed that it is “An insidious form of antisemitism is holding Jews accountable and punishing them for what Israel does. When there are antisemitic incidents in Germany or Jews are attacked at a Hillel on campus, ‘That is not pro-Palestinian. That is antisemitism.'” Lipstadt finds that social media creates a new danger because “‘There is a delivery system unlike anything we have seen,’ because social media spreads and deepens antisemitic myths.” [8]

Whereas Israel is fighting back, Jews in the Diaspora are the minority, and they do not have the luxury to do the same. Let us not have a war where antisemitism and violence have been worst for Jews in Israel or before Eretz Israel or the Diaspora. We are supposed to be one united, not in a competition because antisemitism and violence against Jews have always been more virulent, dangerous, and deadly in the Diaspora. Since October 7, the attacks, often violent, have been non-stop in the Diaspora, North America, and Montreal, Canada, where McGill and Troy lived for over 15 years and taught for over twenty years. [9]

In his article, Troy contradicts another of his long-time arguments that Israel is safer than anywhere else in the world for Jews when he claims Jews in Israel are in more danger than in the Diaspora. However, the Times of Israel just reported on December 23 that in the Diaspora, Jews still believe, “‘The safest place to be Jewish’: 2,600 people have moved to Israel since Hamas invaded.” The TOI argues that Diaspora Jews feel more threatened by antisemitism, “New arrivals cite incidents of being spat on, bullied, and a general rise in antisemitism; many had intended to make aliya and accelerated plans; authorities predict many more to come.” [10]

Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry reported that since October 7, “2,662 people have made aliyah including 1,635 from Russia, 218 from the United States, 128 from Ukraine, 116 from France, and 106 from Belarus.” Jews that are immigrating believe “Hezbollah could attack now, they could attack in six months, they could attack in six years. You can’t plan it.'” Diaspora Jews from countries with increased antisemitism are inquiring more about making aliyah, and organizations believe immigration will only increase after the war ends as Jews flee the rise of antisemitism in their present countries. Nefesh B’Nefesh has helped 384 Jews from the US and Canada immigrate to Israel since the war started; most started the process before the attacks.

In the wake of the recent attack, Aliyah organizations have experienced a “vast surge” in applications. Comparing the numbers to the previous year, there has been “an unprecedented increase” of over 100%. The recent surge in commitment from Diaspora Jewry to the construction of Israel during challenging historical events has been identified as a significant contributing factor. In a bold projection, the chair of the Jewish Agency foresees a substantial influx of Jewish immigrants shortly, potentially reaching a staggering one million individuals. This prospective wave of newcomers has the potential to bring about a significant transformation in the demographics and societal fabric of the nation, currently comprising approximately 10 million inhabitants. [11]

This anti-Zionist phenomenon started on North American university campuses for over twenty years. However, only since October 7 has the world been paying attention to what has been happening to cohorts of students for a long time. An Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Hillel International poll revealed that 73% of Jewish college students and 44% of non-Jewish students have experienced or witnessed antisemitic incidents since the start of the 2023–24 school year. The ADL also reported on December 11 that there were “more than 2,000 incidents reported in the U.S. since the Hamas massacre, a 337-percent increase.” [12]

After the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel, antisemitism on university campuses has reached a fever pitch. Antisemitism in North America has increased by over 300 percent. ADL reported that between October and December 2022, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 2,031 antisemitic incidents, a 337-percent increase from 465 in 2022. This included 40 incidents of physical assault, 337 vandalism, 749 verbal harassment, and 905 rallies with antisemitic rhetoric. On average, Jews in America experienced nearly 34 antisemitic incidents per day over the last 61 days. [13] The data indicates a notable rise in antisemitic occurrences at Jewish establishments, synagogues, and within university settings. A single death occurred during a demonstration against Israel in Los Angeles, while 250 instances of harassment or attacks were directed toward Jewish establishments. A minimum of 1,411 occurrences can be attributed to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The attacks and harassment of the Jewish community throughout the continent are unprecedented. However, nowhere has the attacks been more callous, and there have been more celebrations for Hamas than on university and college campuses across the continent. According to the ADL, 400 incidents were documented on campuses, unlike the 33 incidents reported in 2022. The situation in Canada has become dire in the last few weeks. Antisemitism is on the rise in Montreal, where two months after the attack, there have been over 300 hate crimes, and other similar events have been reported to the police. The community is afraid—afraid to show they are Jewish, afraid even to have their mezuzahs on their house. The police are constantly driving through predominantly Jewish neighborhoods.

The Montreal Jewish community is in a panic for good reason, as firebombings and shootings of schools, synagogues, and community organizations have become everyday occurrences. Parents of Jewish children are afraid to send them to school; rabbis want armed police to protect Jewish buildings. Two Jewish schools were shot at, and one of the schools was targeted on two separate occasions. Bullying is prevalent among schoolchildren, workers face harassment from their colleagues, and university students are targeted based on their pro-Israel stance. Additionally, businesses owned by individuals of Jewish descent were subjected to acts of vandalism as well as online harassment and provocation. Police in Montreal say they have control, but only one person and only twenty people in Canada have been charged.

University administrators’ tepid responses have forced students and faculty to go to the courts to seek protection and resolutions. [14] There have been several intense protests directed towards Israel, which a surge in antisemitic sentiment has accompanied. Almost every other weekend, the city is witnessing protests against Israel, calling Israel’s actions “genocide” and chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free,” to obliterate Israel’s existence. One extremist imam called upon Allah to address the “Zionist aggressors” and eliminate the “enemies of the people of Gaza.” [15]

The following Postmedia description of antisemitic incidents in Montreal, Canada alone, since October 7 hardly sounds as laugh-worthy as Troy claims Diaspora antisemitism is. The description, which ran in all of the country’s major papers, describes, “A Jewish school for boys has been shot up twice. Another Jewish school, for children as young as Grade 1, has also been hit with bullets. A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue. A Jewish community centre was firebombed. Another Jewish community centre – and another synagogue – were firebombed. A Muslim cleric spoke at an anti-Israel rally and called for God to kill Jews ‘and spare none of them.’ Scores of Jewish businesses have been targeted for boycotts, threats and graffiti – including Nazi swastikas.” These are the major incidents reported, and there have been no arrests in the most serious and violent of the crimes. Other Jews within the community spoke to Postmedia journalists anonymously about more incidents and “crimes” they did not report because they feared “retribution.” These are serious and hardly something that should be shaken off, and “growing a spine” is hardly the solution. [16]

Montreal has had more antisemitic incidents and crimes than any other in North America since October 7. Postmedia indicated, “This city has experienced more hate crimes against Jews than any other North American city. No other city seems to have it as bad.” Postmedia asks, “What the hell is happening here? Why is it happening in Montreal, of all places? “The reason that Montreal is the only city in North America that has had multiple violent, targeted attacks against Jewish institutions and people – from gunshots to Molotov cocktails – is because there is no condemnation of jihadist behavior taking place on the streets of Montreal. None.” Quebec historically has higher anti-Semitic rates than other places in Canada and North America, partially because it was a predominantly French Catholic minority with a large Jewish population, up until the late 1970s, the largest Jewish center in Canada.

On December 20, the Angus Reid Institute released a new poll on antisemitism in Canada that found three-quarters of Canadians viewed antisemitism (78 percent) as a significant problem. According to the survey, “Indeed, three-quarters see both as significantly problematic, while just 11 percent of Canadians feel that each is ‘not really a problem,’ However, there are varying perceptions of the severity of the problem, both antisemitism and anti-Muslim attitudes pose.” [17]

The harassment on campus has been non-stop at both universities, with both students and professors instigating the attacks and weak administrations not doing enough to curb them, whether in Montreal, in the rest of Canada, or in American universities. The first week, they brought immense fear to Jewish students. Avishai Infeld, the advocacy coordinator for the Jewish student organization Hillel Montreal, is concerned that campuses are not providing sufficient support to students who are grieving and scared about returning to classes, particularly in light of the pro-Palestinian protests happening in different cities.”They’re literally scared to leave their dorm rooms, to leave their apartments, to leave their houses, to come to events where the community is coming together to mourn and to be together in solidarity,” including vigils and Shabbat dinners.

Canadian university and college Jewish students are experiencing various challenges that are causing them distress. These challenges include receiving death threats, theft of mezuzot, encountering anti-Israel rhetoric during lectures, and facing official statements from academic departments, student organizations, and unions that are supposed to defend all students who condemn Israel. The students who express their support for Israel are facing similar mental health challenges as the broader Jewish Diaspora community. Canadian Jewish students have initiated lawsuits against prominent Canadian institutions such as Toronto Metropolitan University, Queen’s University, UBC, and York University

In Montreal, a $15 million lawsuit-representing faculty, staff, and students claims Concordia University failed to provide students a safe space from antisemitism and “psychologically scarred them. While at McGill University, a student filed for an injunction to stop the Student Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) resolution claiming Israel is committing genocide. These legal actions allege that these institutions have been negligent in their duty to address and combat antisemitism over a prolonged period. University campuses have become sites of tension regarding anti-Zionism, as some progressive educators and fellow students openly express antisemitic views. The lawsuits seek to contest the established systems that have historically endorsed antisemitism.[18]

In a Hillel survey released on November 20, the assault on Israel and the ensuing conflict have had a notable impact on Jewish students at universities, with a significant proportion of the 84% reporting feeling affected. Additionally, a considerable number, 68%, expressed sadness, while 54% reported experiencing fear. More than 37% of students have felt the need to conceal their Jewish identity, while approximately 35% have encountered instances of hate or violence while on campus. Many individuals express dissatisfaction with how their respective universities have addressed these incidents. Nevertheless, approximately 78% of Jewish students believe that Hillel and Jewish spaces on campus have gained increased significance in recent times. Additionally, most students express heightened concern regarding the university’s response to such incidents. [19]

On November 29, Hillel International and the Anti-Defamation League released another survey, which has identified an increase in instances of antisemitism among Jewish students. Jewish students are feeling less secure following the terrorist attack that occurred on October 7. According to the survey before October 7, 67% of Jewish students reported feeling physically and emotionally secure on campus. However, following that date, the percentage of Jewish students who felt safe decreased to 46%. Moreover, most Jewish students, precisely 64%, perceived their university environment as inclusive and supportive. However, a smaller proportion, precisely 39%, expressed a sense of comfort in openly disclosing their Jewish identity to others. The results emphasize the necessity of enhancing safety protocols for Jewish students.[20]

A significant majority of American college students, approximately 73%, reported experiencing or witnessing instances of antisemitism during the current academic year (2023-2024). In comparison, the percentage of non-Jewish students who reported similar experiences was notably lower, at 43.9%. Before the attacks, a significant majority of Jewish students, precisely 70%, encountered instances of antisemitism. The majority of students, precisely 80%, consider Hillel and Jewish spaces to be essential, whereas half of the students, or 50%, express feelings of insecurity in these environments, saying they “feel unsafe on campus.” Approximately 50% of non-Jewish students who were mistakenly perceived as Jewish reported experiencing discrimination due to this mistaken assumption. Since October 7, there has been an increase in the percentage of non-Jewish students who are mistakenly identified as Jewish, rising from 7.2% to 12.7%. Additionally, 29.5% of these students have reported experiencing offensive anti-Jewish comments. About $1 million is required to enhance security measures, provide mental health support, and support programming related to Israel. [21]

Since October 7, the percentage of Jewish students who feel comfortable revealing their Jewish identity on campus has declined by nearly 50%. Many students, irrespective of their religious affiliation, hold the view that their university administration has not effectively addressed cases of anti-Semitic prejudice. A considerable number of students, precisely 48.2% of Jewish students and 38.5% of non-Jewish students, believe that campus administrators are responsible for this issue. A significant proportion, over 33% of Jewish students, encounter unease when engaging in conversations about their viewpoints on Israel and antisemitism.

Around 32% of Jewish students feel hesitant to voice their concerns about antisemitism at their educational institution, while only 17.6% of non-Jewish students feel the same way. A significant number of Jewish students on campus experience a sense of insecurity regarding their physical safety. Around half of non-Jewish students who are mistakenly identified as Jewish have encountered discrimination as a result of this misperception. Since October 7, there has been an increase in the proportion of non-Jewish students who are being erroneously classified as Jewish. The percentage has risen from 7.2% to 12.7%. Furthermore, a considerable proportion of these students, precisely 29.5%, have reported encountering derogatory remarks targeting the Jewish community.[22]

Before October 7, a majority of Jewish students, 66.6%, reported feeling “very” or “extremely” physically safe on campus. However, this percentage decreased to less than half, precisely 45.5%, after the attack. Before October 7, a significant majority of Jewish students, specifically 65.8%, reported feeling a high level of emotional safety, characterized as “very” or “extremely” safe. However, following October 7, this percentage decreased significantly to one-third, 32.5%. Students, particularly those who identify as Jewish, may hesitate to report incidents of antisemitism on campus due to a lack of knowledge about appropriate actions and concerns about potential negative consequences. A significant number of Jewish students, approximately 55%, chose not to take any action in response to an antisemitic incident. Many of these students cited fear of facing negative consequences as their primary reason for not responding. For instance, a study found that 14.8% of Jewish students who experienced anti-Jewish comments chose not to respond out of concern that the perpetrator might target them again. [23]

Commenting on the survey, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, noted, “Jewish students are experiencing a wave of antisemitism unlike anything we’ve seen before, but shockingly, non-Jewish students barely see it. Since the October 7 massacre in Israel, Jewish students feel increasingly threatened on campus – but college leaders are not doing enough to address this very real fear of antisemitism. No student should feel threatened or intimidated on campus. No student should feel the need to hide their religious or cultural identities. No parent should ever have to wonder whether it’s safe to send their kids to certain schools – but that’s the sad reality for American Jews today. University administrators need to wake up and recognize that Jewish students uniquely need protection now – and policymakers must step up, provide resources, and enforce Title VI.” While Adam Lehman, President and CEO of Hillel International, remarked, “The data in this survey presents a disconcerting picture of the state of hate on campuses nationwide.” Widespread experiences with antisemitism, as reported in this survey, are driving Jewish students to hide their identities. This data reinforces the critical importance of Jewish spaces on campus and our mission at Hillel to build vibrant Jewish life.” [24]

Graham Wright, Sasha Volodarsky, Shahar Hecht, and Leonard Saxe conducted the Brandeis University research study “In the Shadow of War: Hotspots of Antisemitism on US College Campuses.” The report highlights the varying perceptions of Jewish students regarding the campus climate at different institutions. The Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies published the study. Their objective was to survey Jewish students at colleges and universities and identifies areas where incidents of antisemitism were particularly prevalent following the commencement of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The survey inquired about participants’ perspectives regarding hostility towards Jewish individuals and Israel, as well as their general level of concern regarding antisemitism.

The results were used to assign each institution a quartile ranking. They investigate the viewpoints of Jewish students regarding antisemitism on 51 college campuses in the United States after the Israel-Hamas conflict. The study seeks to examine the frequency of unfriendly school environments by analyzing survey responses from approximately 2,000 Jewish undergraduate students who attended the free Birthright Israel trip. The research merged data on negative attitudes towards Jewish people and Israel, as well as concerns about antisemitism, to create a comprehensive assessment of how Jewish students perceive a hostile and antisemitic environment in their schools.

The level of hostility towards Jews and Israel on college campuses varies greatly, with certain schools having a more hostile environment and others having fewer Jewish students. Jewish students enrolled in these educational institutions are at a higher risk of encountering offensive remarks or mistreatment, witnessing antisemitic visuals, slogans, or defacement, and being held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government solely due to their Jewish identity. Nevertheless, the differences among schools are relatively minor in comparison to the general perceptions of hostility. A greater number of students express worry about the connection between criticism of Israel and antisemitism rather than being concerned about traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes. Approximately 45% of individuals who hold unfavorable opinions of the Israeli government express significant concern regarding antisemitism associated with criticism of Israel. In the war’s context, Jewish students exhibit greater concern regarding antisemitism originating from the political left as opposed to the political right. Nearly 40 percent were afraid about letting others know they are Jewish, and half were uncomfortable about anyone knowing their views on Israel.

Jewish students often face anti-Israel hostility from fellow students on campus rather than from faculty or administrators. In schools characterized by high levels of hostility, approximately 80% of Jewish students reported experiencing frequent or occasional hostility towards Israel from their peers. Jewish students attending universities with higher levels of antisemitic hostility experience reduced feelings of safety, comfort, and a sense of belonging on their campus. There was no significant correlation observed between the levels of antisemitic hostility and the reporting of Jewish students regarding the impact of antisemitism on their daily lives. [25] According to the study, the major antisemitic hotspots include: “Boston University, Columbia University, George Washington University, New York University, Ohio State, University – Columbus, Queens College – CUNY, University of California – Berkeley, University of California – Los Angeles, University of California – San Diego, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin – Madison.”[26]

Whether Israelis agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his government or not, they acknowledge the danger of the attacks and are fighting back, defending Israelis at all costs. Diaspora Jewry lives as minorities in governments and institutions who fear alienating the pro-Palestinian factions living among them; there is no one defending Diaspora Jews with the zeal of the Israeli government. Troy once understood and shared the same fears, and he should still have the empathy to respect how Diaspora Jews feel, not dismiss them. With the mounting antisemitic attacks and a community alone, the danger is all the more valid and feels like history repeating itself, that is the most dangerous element; and the past is the most significant indicator of the dangers of the future.

Note: Any mention to academics and professors here is based on facts and analysis and comparison of their words with no personal opinions; I have great respect for them.

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a historian, librarian, journalist, and artist. She has done graduate work in Jewish Education at the Melton Centre of Jewish Education of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in Jewish Studies at McGill University. She has a BA in History and Art History and a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill. She has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.” Ms. Goodman has been researching and writing about antisemitism in North American Jewish History, and she has reported on the current antisemitic climate and anti-Zionism on campus for over fifteen years. She is the author of “A Constant Battle: McGill University’s Complicated History of Antisemitism and Now anti-Zionism.”

 

Ms. Goodman is also the author “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896,” and “The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish Goal of Whiteness in the South,” among others. She contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history, and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu.

[1] Rothman, Jonathan. “The Latest Target of Suspected Antisemitic Vandalism in Toronto Involves a Fire at a Deli Whose Sign Reads ‘IDF’” The Canadian Jewish News, January 4, 2024. https://thecjn.ca/news/not-that-idf/.

[2]Harvard President Resigns After Mounting Plagiarism Accusations,” The New York Times,” January 2, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/02/us/harvard-claudine-gay-resigns.html

[3] Gatehouse, Jonathon. “The New Solitudes.” Maclean’s, May 27, 2002, 20, https://proxy.library.mcgill.ca/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/magazines/new-solitudes/docview/218499184/se-2.

[4] Troy, Gil. “It’s Time for Professors Who Support Israel to Proclaim Their Zionism – the Toronto Way.” Jewish Journal, November 23, 2023. https://jewishjournal.com/israel/365622/its-time-for-professors-who-support-israel-to-proclaim-their-zionism-the-toronto-way/

[5] Troy, Gil. “Open Letter to Jewish Students.” Jewish Journal, December 28, 2023. https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/opinion/366678/open-letter-to-jewish-students/

[6] Troy, Gil. “Open Letter to Jewish Students.” Jewish Journal, December 28, 2023. https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/opinion/366678/open-letter-to-jewish-students/

[7] “We’re Witnessing the Highest Rise of Antisemitism in 50 Years: Irwin Cotler.” Montreal Gazette, Oct 14, 2023. https://proxy.library.mcgill.ca/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/were-witnessing-highest-rise-antisemitism-50/docview/2877037795/se-2.

[8] Rubin, Jennifer. Lipstadt: ‘Antisemitism is Like a Virus for which there is no Cure’. Washington, D.C., United States Washington, D.C.: WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post, 2023. https://proxy.library.mcgill.ca/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/blogs-podcasts-websites/lipstadt-antisemitism-is-like-virus-which-there/docview/2906061776/se-2.

[9] https://nationalpost.com/news/world/israel-middle-east/highest-rise-of-antisemitism-in-50-years-irwin-cotler

[10] https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-safest-place-to-be-jewish-2600-people-have-moved-to-israel-since-hamas-inva https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-safest-place-to-be-jewish-2600-people-have-moved-to-israel-since-hamas-invaded/ ded/

[11]

[12] ADL, Adl Reports Unprecedented Rise In Antisemitic Incidents Post-Oct. 7 |. “ADL Reports Unprecedented Rise in Antisemitic Incidents Post-Oct. 7 | ADL.” ADL, December 11, 2023. https://www.adl.org/resources/press-release/adl-reports-unprecedented-rise-antisemitic-incidents-post-oct-7.

[13] Adl, Adl Reports Unprecedented Rise in Antisemitic Incidents Post-Oct. 7 |. “ADL Reports Unprecedented Rise in Antisemitic Incidents Post-Oct. 7 | ADL.” ADL, December 11, 2023. https://www.adl.org/resources/press-release/adl-reports-unprecedented-rise-antisemitic-incidents-post-oct-7.

[14] Forward. “Gunshots at Montreal Jewish Schools as McGill U Braces for a Pro-Palestinian Rally Advertised with Images of Broken Glass.” The Forward, November 10, 2023. https://forward.com/fast-forward/569071/gunshots-jewish-schools-montreal-mcgill-palestinian-broken-glass/.

[15] Gee, Marcus. A Famous Community, an Ancient Hatred: Montreal Jews are Confronting a Wave of Antisemitism Like Many have Never seen. Toronto: The Globe and Mail, Nov. 17, 2023. https://www.proquest.com/blogs-podcasts-websites/famous-community-ancient-hatred/docview/2890942638/se-2.

[16] Kinsella, Warren. “Weak Political Will Allowing Anti-Semitism to Rise in Montreal.” The Toronto Sun, Dec 21, 2023. https://proxy.library.mcgill.ca/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/weak-political-will-allowing-anti-semitism-rise/docview/2904474667/se-2.

[17] “Indeed, three-quarters see both as significantly problematic, while just 11 per cent of Canadians feel that each is ‘not really a problem,'” the survey explained. “However, there are varying perceptions of the severity of the problem both antisemitism and anti-Muslim attitudes pose.”

[18] https://thecjn.ca/podcasts/we-are-scared-to-set-foot-on-campus-jewish-university-students-give-on-the-ground-account-of-rising-campus-antisemitism/

[19] https://www.hillel.org/more-than-one-third-of-jewish-college-students-are-hiding-their-jewish-identity-on-campus-new-hillel-international-poll-finds/

[20] https://www.hillel.org/nearly-three-quarters-of-jewish-students-experienced-or-witnessed-antisemitism-on-campus-new-survey-finds/

[21] https://www.hillel.org/israel-response/

[22] https://www.adl.org/resources/report/campus-antisemitism-study-campus-climate-and-after-hamas-terrorist-attacks

[23] https://www.adl.org/resources/report/campus-antisemitism-study-campus-climate-and-after-hamas-terrorist-attacks

[24] https://www.hillel.org/nearly-three-quarters-of-jewish-students-experienced-or-witnessed-antisemitism-on-campus-new-survey-finds/

[25] https://www.brandeis.edu/cmjs/research/antisemitism/hotspots-2023-report1.html

[26] https://www.brandeis.edu/cmjs/research/antisemitism/hotspots-2023-report1.html

About the Author
Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a historian, librarian, journalist, and artist. She has done graduate work in Jewish Education at the Melton Centre of Jewish Education of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in Jewish Studies at McGill University. She has a BA in History and Art History and a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill. She has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies. Her thesis was entitled “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.” Ms. Goodman has been researching and writing about antisemitism in North American Jewish History, and she has reported on the current antisemitic climate and anti-Zionism on campus for over 15 years. She is the author of “A Constant Battle: McGill University’s Complicated History of Antisemitism and Now anti-Zionism.” She contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, and her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu where she is a top writer.
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