Sara Mason Ader
Life Member, Hadassah New England

US Colleges Should Not Be Dangerous for Jews

Photo supplied by Hadassah
Photo supplied by Hadassah.

If you had told me when I was a college student that my future kids would face antisemitism when they went to college, I would have thought you were crazy. The antisemitic mayhem we’re seeing right now at universities around the US was unimaginable then.

Antisemitism was something that my parents and grandparents worried about. When my parents were growing up in New York City alongside immigrants from all over the world (some more accepting of Jews than others), World War II was recent history and still on everyone’s mind.

When I was growing up in Kentucky in the 1970s and 1980s, our small community of Jews felt more like extended family. The non-Jews around us seemed either oblivious to or accepting of our differences. They sometimes made insensitive comments or asked awkward but innocent questions. With a few notable exceptions, they were mostly polite. The kind of antisemitic hate that has become commonplace on college campuses today was most certainly not evident at that time.

When I became a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., I felt comfortable immediately in my college community. The non-Jewish students were both knowledgeable about and accepting of Jews. My learning environment was more diverse than I had ever experienced before. At the same time, I enjoyed having close Jewish friends as part of my everyday life for the first time–and taking classes taught by Jewish professors.

Today’s college students are by no means living that same reality. As New York University Prof. Scott Galloway recently said on Chris Cuomo’s News Nation TV show, “Free speech is never freer when it turns to hate speech against Jews.”

Recent events at Columbia University, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have exposed alarming levels of antisemitic rot, rooted deep within the Ivies. In California, pro-Palestinian protestors at both the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California have hosted encampments and rallies spouting Hamas rhetoric such as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will  Be Free.”

What really cuts me to my core, however, is the climate on my alma mater’s campus. Jewish students are being openly ridiculed and harassed with impunity at Northwestern — in some cases by faculty members. Offenders are defacing property without consequences. Most shameful of all, the administration recently sat down and cut a deal with the bullying and offensive campus protesters, agreeing to re-establish an advisory committee about university investments and other commitments — essentially rewarding the protesters for being antisemitic rule breakers.

The Anti-Defamation League, StandWithUs and The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law have issued a joint statement calling for the immediate dismissal of Northwestern president Michael Schill. Referring to his dealings with the protestors, it states, “Rather than hold them accountable—as he pledged he would—President Schill gave them a seat at the table and normalized their hatred against Jewish students. It is clear from President Schill’s actions that he is unfit to lead Northwestern and must resign.”

I couldn’t agree more. Schill—who is Jewish—has turned a blind eye to chilling on-campus examples of antisemitic graffiti and posters, including one of a Star of David with a red line slashed through it and another with a horned caricature of Schill, with blood dripping from his mouth.

Moreover, Northwestern continues to partner with, and accept millions of dollars in donations each year from, Qatar. NU’s vaunted Medill School of Journalism, which served me well as a credential early in my career, is tainted by its association with Al Jazeera—funded at least in part by the government of Qatar and known for its slanted news coverage. In 2008, Medill partnered with Al Jazeera to create a satellite campus in Qatar’s capital, Doha. Meanwhile, a Medill professor was caught on video among the protesters in the Evanston encampment shoving a policeman.

It’s all extremely distressing, but I find hope in US government officials’ coming together to adopt the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)’s definition of antisemitism, which equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism. This definition will help all universities identify and address antisemitism within their own ranks. Our Jewish students deserve support from their college communities. More important, these students rely on the faculty and the administration to provide the same safe campus environment for Jewish students that they take pains to provide for other students.

I am proud to support Jewish organizations that have taken a strong stance against antisemitism, including my volunteer organization Hadassah, which has been in the vanguard of fighting antisemitism since its founding over 112 years ago.



About the Author
Sara Mason Ader, Life Member, Hadassah New England, and a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle, is a Boston-based freelance writer and editor, as well as co-founder and lead editor of For more about her background, visit
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