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November 20, 2016 9:51 am

Jewish Groups at Northwestern Say Recent Study Labeling School ‘Antisemitic Hotspot’ Doesn’t Reflect Students’ Experience

avatar by Lea Speyer

Northwestern University campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Northwestern University campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish groups at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois expressed ill ease with a recent Brandeis study that labeled the school an antisemitic and anti-Israel “hotspot,” the student newspaper The Daily Northwestern reported on Friday.

This finding, said Northwestern Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon, “is just not born out in the lived experience of our students.”

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, head of the Tannenbaum Chabad House at Northwestern, said that though it’s hard to empirically measure Jew-hatred on campus, “Obviously, there are many Jews who are willing to come forward to say, ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortably Jewish here.’ And that’s something as a Jewish leader [that] concerns me.” 

Asserting that Northwestern is indeed a safe place for Jewish students, Klein said that the school nevertheless must increase its efforts to address concerns over antisemitism. He also expressed disappointment in the university’s lack of response to the Brandeis study, which found that 70 percent of Northwestern respondents perceived a hostile campus environment towards Israel, with 28% saying they “somewhat agreed” that there is hostility towards Jews at the university.

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According to the Daily Northwestern, university president Morton Schapiro said he “didn’t feel a need to issue a statement because there was no validity to the report.”  

Hillel student Executive Board president Tamar Eisen said that though life for pro-Israel students can be “challenging,” the overall atmosphere at the school does not impinge on their ability to become involved in campus life.

“The fact that it’s called a hotspot — it really just paints a picture that we are [an] environment just rife with hate and fear,” she told the Daily Northwestern. “That’s just not how Jewish students live on this campus. That’s just not their daily experience.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, among the findings of the Brandeis study, titled “Hotspots of Antisemitism and Anti-Israel Sentiment on US Campuses,” was the revelation that Brooklyn College, Northwestern University and many schools in the University of California system are cradles of both antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Over 20% of students surveyed at those schools said they were “blamed for Israel’s actions because they are Jewish,” while approximately one-third reported witnessing antisemitic harassment, often related to Israel. Three out of four students claimed to have heard hostile rhetoric used in relation to the Jewish state.

The study, conducted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, reflects the on-campus experiences of some 150,000 American Jewish undergrads.

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