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January 1, 2017 6:17 am

For Jewish Students, Life at College is Better Than You Think

avatar by Hayley Nagelberg

Email a copy of "For Jewish Students, Life at College is Better Than You Think" to a friend
The campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Photo: Herbert J. Brant via Wikimedia Commons.

The campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Photo: Herbert J. Brant via Wikimedia Commons.

I have lost track of the number of times that I have been asked to address the “Israel issue” at my campus, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Over the past few years, researchers have poured countless dollars into quantifiably measuring the amount of “anti-Israel” activity on campus.

It is worth noting that there is more to the college experience than the “Israel issue.” University students get four years to prepare themselves for the “real world” — four years to make incredible friends, to develop all the skills needed for their future professions, and four years to learn how to live on their own.

In the forward to The Algemeiner’s “The 40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students,” there is reference to surveys researching antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campuses. These surveys focus on a few measures, including public displays of antisemitism and whether or not the BDS movement is present on campus. But tallying up these numbers does not give an accurate picture of life at our colleges.

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The Jewish grassroots movements and administrative support on university campuses are not a footnote to these statistics. On the contrary, they tell the main story of student life on campus. They tell the story of pro-Israel organizations such as Hillel, Chabad, Stand With Us, Hasbara, ZOA, CAMERA, the ICC, AIPAC, etc., which work daily with Jewish students at schools across the country. These groups work to ensure that strategic programming, effective messaging and impactful experiences take place as needed on each campus — and that the pro-Israel community’s voice is heard.

We shouldn’t vilify those students who are uneducated, or misinformed, about Israel. The millennial generation of campus activists today are some of the most forward-thinking and peace-seeking individuals in decades. Highlighting their flaws and diminishing our attempts to engage with people who see things differently than us will not help the overall goal of peace.

Having a “first annual” list of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish campuses implies that there will be a second such list. This is hardly something we should encourage. By stressing the negative, The Algemeiner article not only gives unnecessary voice to the anti-Israel platform, but also fails to recognize the irony that many of these campuses are actually places where the pro-Israel voice is heard.

In order for a school to make the list of “the worst colleges,” a campus first had to have at least one event at which there was hostility towards Jewish or pro-Israel students. On one hand, this says that there has been an act of antisemitism or anti-Zionism. On the other, this says that this is a campus at which discussion takes place, and at which students are exposed to multiple points of views.

To a parent reading a list entitled “the worst colleges,” the thought of sending a child there must be terrifying. But would you rather your child attend a school where apathy runs rampant — or a place where the important issues of the day are debated and discussed? College is an opportunity to broaden horizons, not to stifle dissent and dialogue.

It is wonderful that adults in the pro-Israel community care so much about the condition of university campuses. But as students, we don’t need their protection. We need help understanding our legal rights, sifting through the news, and learning how to organize our ideas and rationally persuade other students about our views on Israel and every other issue. And sometimes, we just need to know that you are listening to us.

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  • brynababy

    Well, it’s not a good sign when Palestinian organziations scream and yell and block students trying to hear a speaker. That is not listening to others and getting a look at all sides of an issue.

Algemeiner.com