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Joshua Lancman

The Least Unsafe: A Time of Jewish College-Touring

Early on in junior year, I worked out a process to touring colleges: 

  1. Email the rabbi (Chabad or Hillel) ahead of time to find a Jewish student to host me for the weekend. This never failed, and usually my host and I were one to two degrees of separation in Jewish geography. 
  2. Book a tour on Friday before Shabbat. Arrive early that day and ask the tour guide (likely not Jewish) about Jewish life on campus. ‘Chabad’ would usually be pronounced with a ‘chuh’ or ‘hu’ sound, and, when asked about antisemitism, the tour guide would likely respond by saying that it didn’t exist on campus, even if that wasn’t true. 
  3. Enjoy the weekend and become part of the campus Jewish community, if only temporarily.

After repeating this a few times, antisemitism became an important consideration for me when determining which colleges to apply to. Touring colleges as though I was already a student there prompted me to avoid going to schools where antisemitism was an active issue, and where, I felt, I would plausibly be in danger just visiting for a few days. Hearing from a friend at Williams how students would casually talk about hating Jews made me cross that school off. Other small liberal arts colleges, like Amherst and Swarthmore, followed. Back in March of last year, when anti-Israel protesters at Tufts disrupted a talk by a Palestinian peace activist, I quickly canceled my trip. My list shrunk to colleges deemed good to be Jewish at. 

Yet after October 7th, no place, it seemed, was completely fine. My application list became not about safety, but about the least unsafe. Rather than a lack of antisemitism, the strength and resilience of each campus’ Jewish community in the face of hatred became my main reason for applying. Cornell, where my cousin arranged a visit of support from New York Governor Kathy Hochul after a threat on the Center for Jewish Living, quickly shot to the top of my list. My touring procedure, at first a way to have fun, experience the social life, and save some money on hotel rooms, became a way to gauge my prospective community for the next four years, seeing who I could go to when, almost inevitably, I experienced antisemitism.

About the Author
Josh Lancman is a student at Golda Och Academy (GOA). He has been published by the GOA Flame (for which he was also the Editor-in-Chief), GOA Nuts & Raisins Literary Magazine, Youth Civics Initiative, YouthComm Magazine, and is self-published on Letterboxd. He is from West Orange, New Jersey.
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