Jonathan Davis

Rising Tide of Antisemitism on Campus: A Call to Action for Jewish Philanthropists and Advocates

Jonathan Davis, Head of the Raphael Recanati International school at a student pizza lunch at the university Dorms on Reichman University campus surrounded by students from Holland, the USA, UK, Italy, South Africa, and Argentina.

From the early days in a public elementary school in the USA, I remember facing discrimination for being Jewish, and it even escalated to physical violence. High school wasn’t much different, though I learned to stand my ground. It was a classic form of antisemitism, perhaps fueled by age-old prejudices.

Then came my time at Columbia University in the late sixties, where antisemitism blended with anti-Zionism. Radical left-wing groups labeled Israel as an Apartheid State, and expressing a view against Palestinian violence in my Middle Eastern Studies class led to ostracism from a professor. The toxic mix of anti-Zionism, antisemitism, and radical ideologies began to brew on campuses, fueled further by substantial funds injected by Qatar into top world universities.

Over the years, the Jewish community had somewhat adapted to these challenges. However, October 7th, 2023, marked a turning point. Thousands of students at leading universities supported a massacre, condoned by university leadership in many cases. This was not just antisemitism; it was an endorsement of the destruction of the State of Israel, justifying the murder of innocent civilians.

In the recent testimony to the House Committee on campus antisemitism, University presidents from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania, seemed disturbingly uncertain and evasive when asked about their position on whether endorsing genocide against the Jewish people should be classified as harassment on their campuses.

The reactions from faculty and administration has shocked many Israeli academicians who have ties to Ivy League institutions. It is a campus tsunami, leaving Jewish students feeling unsafe and relationships strained. The problem that had been simmering for years had reached a critical juncture.

While some university administrations backtracked under pressure from Jewish philanthropists, the underlying antisemitic and anti-Zionist structures persist. The events of October 7th, 2023, present opportunities for strategic actions.

Philanthropists could earmark funds for exchange programs, sabbaticals, and scholarships in Israel at top universities. Campus organizations advocating for Israel and Jewish identity should receive increased budgets, alongside additional funding for short-term programs like Birthright, Masa, Gap years, and more. It’s crucial to prioritize what benefits us, as now is not the time to shy away from proudly proclaiming, “Jewish lives matter.”

A harsher approach involves influencing future employment prospects for individuals condoning terrorism and promoting hate. Companies valuing inclusivity could tag such individuals as “problematic.”

Now is a crucial time for Israeli and overseas youngsters to forge bonds, fostering understanding through shared experiences on campuses and social media. Education becomes paramount in dispelling misinformation among students overseas.

In summary, the challenges are significant, but opportunities exist to reshape the narrative and promote understanding between communities.

About the Author
Jonathan Davis is head of the international school at Reichman University (formerly the IDC) and vice president of external relations there. He is also a member of the advisory board of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Mr. Davis also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel (Res) in the IDF Spokesman’s office.