Despite the growing number of antisemitic incidents on campuses all over the US, American Jews are almost completely mute about it. Either they are afraid or they underestimate the danger. Avoidance is the least desirable solution, but the real remedy for Jew-hatred is solidarity.
The past two years have seen record breaking numbers of anti-Jewish incidents in the US, particularly on campuses. Yet, Jews have largely been silent over this facet of the hatred. There can only be two explanations for this apparent abandonment of Jewish youths to fend for themselves in the face of organized and often institutional Jew-hatred: not realizing the gravity of the situation, or fear that “making waves” will make matters worse.
Antisemitism on campuses did not begin this year. When I was on a speaking tour in the US in 2014, I spoke with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, head of the AMCHA initiative to combat anti-Semitism in US colleges and universities. Although she was well aware of the deteriorating situation of Jewish students precisely because they are Jews, it was clear that she was unaware of how quickly things could deteriorate and to what extent.
Worse yet, when I mentioned this problem in a lecture I gave the following evening in Los Angeles, people left in protest. Now there is at least some understanding that not enough is being done, though there is no understanding what we can and should do about the problem.
The Jewish people are the people who gave the world such noble notions as loving others as yourself, and not doing to others what you would hate if it were done to you. We gave the world such values as mutual responsibility, mercy, and almsgiving. We did all this under the obligation we had taken upon ourselves at the foot of Mt. Sinai when we became a nation: to be “a light unto nations.”
Yet, for centuries, we have been plagued by internal hatred and division that have brought our nation to ruin. Divided, we cannot be the example of mutual responsibility and solidarity that the world expects of us. If we cannot show solidarity, the world cannot have solidarity, and division and hatred prevail. The result is that the world blames us for its wars. This is what is happening today.
Antisemitism on campus is a sore spot. It hurts us where we are most vulnerable: our children. Naturally, we tend to suppress it and pretend that it does not exist.
We should do the opposite. To neutralize antisemitism on campus, Jews, including Jewish students, should acknowledge the hatred and do what all Jews are required to do – unite with each other, no matter how far and how hateful we are to each other. They must do this not for themselves, but for their children, who will not see a relief in hatred toward them until American Jewry unites, and for America, whose society will continue to disintegrate until Jews lead by example toward unity.
If American Jewry rises to the challenge, it will not be the most despised community in the US, but the most venerated. I hope that American Jewry makes 2022 their year of unity. It will benefit them; it will benefit America; and it will benefit the world.