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October 26, 2021 10:03 am

One in Three Jewish Students Experienced Antisemitism Last Year, Says New Campus Climate Survey


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University, after the school asked its students not to return to campus after Spring Break and said it would move to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A new survey released Tuesday found that a third of Jewish students on US campus had experienced antisemitism in the last academic year, and that most of those impacted did not report the incidents.

The joint Anti-Defamation League and Hillel International survey, “Antisemitism on Campus,” found that 32% of Jewish students personally experienced antisemitic incidents — including offensive comments, vandalism, and physical threats and assaults.

Offensive comments or slurs were the most common incident cited, with 79% who were insulted in-person saying that it happened multiple times.

“I’ve had swastikas drawn on my notes [and] been called a ‘k*ke’ downtown … while I was wearing my hamsa,” said one anonymous student from a northeastern university.

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“I’ve seen an increase in people making judgements about me for being Jewish due to the current political climate with Palestine,” the student continued. “People keep tying Jews that have nothing to do with the conflict to the Israeli government. Anytime it is mentioned that I am Jewish to someone who doesn’t know that already, the topic of Palestine is brought up, which is intrinsically antisemitic.”

Most students said they did not report antisemitic incidents, the report said, with 41% are unsure of how. Students are likelier to report physical threats and assaults, but 37% reported crimes of vandalism, and under a quarter reported offensive comments. 3% of all incidents were escalated to law enforcement, and a third of the 12% of students who asked school officials for help said their complaints weren’t taken seriously.

“While we may not expect students to report offensive comments and slurs to the police, we would hope that students would feel comfortable and empowered to report these encounters to other professionals, such as campus employees, Hillel staff, or the ADL,” the report argued.

“Nearly half of Jewish students want changes to be made in how antisemitism is addressed on their campus,” it continued. “Of those, 91 percent want student governments to do more, 85 percent want campus employees to do more, and 67 percent want campus faculty to do more.”

Administered by College Pulse, the survey was conducted online from July 7-August 21, 2021, with 765 Jewish undergraduates from 270 four-year colleges in the United States.

“Jewish students are facing more antisemitism and hate on college campuses than we previously thought,” commented ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt. “We need to ensure that every Jewish student feels safe and empowered to express their Jewish values and their whole selves when they are in the classroom, residence halls and throughout campus life.”

Adam Lehman, President and CEO of Hillel International, said that growing hate for Jewish students needs “serious attention” from school officials across the country.

“These findings underscore the importance of our work at Hillel engaging with university administrators to address the campus climate for Jewish students and ensuring that all students can live and study in a safe and welcoming environment,” he said.

Lehman also pointed to a correlation found between participation in Jewish life and feelings of safety on campus. Three-quarters of survey participants took part in some form of Jewish life over the past year, and of those students, 74% reported feeling safe on campus as a Jew, compared to 65% overall.

“We know the best way to prevent and mitigate antisemitism on campus is to build strong, engaged Jewish communities everywhere, so Jewish students know they have a safe space, and to provide them with the tools and resources to combat hate if they experience it,” Lehman said.

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