College campuses

We are back to the days when Jewish students kept a low profile.

Rabbi Berel Wein,

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Recently there have appeared in a number of newspapers throughout the United States articles detailing the appalling anti-Semitism that exists currently on many American college campuses. American Jewish youth attend colleges and universities in greater proportion to their population than any other segment of the American public. It can be maintained that theoretically and proportionately speaking, these Jewish students are more subject to hate speech and abuse than any other segment of the American student population.

This comes as a distinct shock to American Jewry which somehow believes that institutionalized anti-Semitism in American education is a thing of the past. Since there are no longer quotas on Jewish enrollment in American higher educational institutions and active discrimination against Jewish students by faculty, administration or other students, prejudice it seemed was a fast disappearing relic of the darker past.

However this rosy picture of Jewish attainment and acceptance is no longer true. From the upper echelons of the Ivy League schools to the almost unknown community colleges, the ugly truth is that anti-Semitism on the college campus is not only present but is accepted and sometimes even glorified.

The disease of anti-Semitism defies any known cure or palliative. It is unreasoning and unreasonable, destructive of all civilized norms and eventually leads to terrible political and social consequences. Any reasoned view of the history of anti- Jewish speech and behavior will reveal the dire consequences that eventually engulfed all of the societies that tolerated such hate and bigotry. One could expect that the intellectual bastions of society – its colleges and universities – would be the places least likely for anti-Semitism to flourish. Sadly, that is not the case at all.

There are numerous reasons advanced to help explain why this troubling and dangerous phenomenon exists today. Some say that it is fueled by the Israel – Arab confrontation and the natural sympathy of the intellect to side with the poor underdog no matter who that underdog may be. Others have pointed out that there is a strong undercurrent of jealousy, especially among other minority groups, at the success, wealth, achievement and influence that the Jewish community has acquired in the United States today.

Envy is a very strong emotion that often leads to hatred and violence. And college campuses, traditionally, are the hotbeds of envy - intellectually, professorially and otherwise. All of this creates an environment where the age-old scourge of anti-Semitism can thrive and grow.

Another factor that is often mentioned is that colleges and universities always attract people who yearn for utopian ideals. But, since not one of these ideals has ever been realized in practice, there is always an active search for the scapegoats who somehow prevent the utopia from arriving. It is what the Soviet Union glorified as being “wreckers” and “saboteurs.”

The Gulag was filled with millions of these hapless victims of the failure of Marxism to bring forth the brave new world that it had promised. In the eyes of many intellectuals today, for some unknown reason the Jews remain the obstacle to world peace, the eradication of poverty and misery for all and the great new world of the future.

Anti-Semitism hiding behind the right of free expression is an existential threat to the American Jewish community and therefore indirectly to American society itself.
It is the state of Israel, not North Korea, Iran, Venezuela or any of the other nations of the world, which is the reason why the world does not live in peace and harmony yet. And unfortunately on most college campuses, this nonsense is expressed, taught, validated and accepted. Is there any wonder therefore why anti-Semitism is so strong and virulent on college campuses?

The American Jewish community, if not American society generally, is awakening to the depths of this problem. It is beginning to realize that anti-Semitism hiding behind the right of free expression is an existential threat to the American Jewish community and therefore indirectly to American society itself.

Student campuses today are unruly places with the presence of all sorts of fringe organizations and wacky causes. Jews have obtained rights and stature on those campuses that previous generations of American Jews never dreamed of even asking for. Yet Jewish uncertainty and insecurity on American college campuses is real and palpable.

Young Jews have earned the right to wear a kippah on college campuses and in their classrooms but today many feel that they do so at their own peril. Jews have hunkered down and assumed a low profile attempting to avoid the confrontations with the militant campus organizations that promote and advance anti-Semitism. Whether or not this tactic is the correct one, and will prove successful in the long run, remains yet to be seen.