Jewish students battle rising anti-Semitism on campus
Brianne GarrettUSA Today
November 3, 2016
Kat Kolin, a Boston University freshman, wants to set the record straight: “I am Jewish. I am not a Zionist.”
Some think “Jewish” and “Zionist” are synonyms, but there’s a difference. People who identify as Jewish practice or adhere to the Jewish religion — some primarily or only culturally as opposed to practicing the faith. According to the World Zionist Organization, “Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a legally assured home” in the land of Israel. In other words, the basic difference is that Judaism is a religion and a culture, and Zionism is a nationalist movement.
According to Kolin, people often assume that being Jewish means being a Zionist, which she says is definitely not the case. Why does it matter? Because of this assumption, Kolin recalls various instances of being harassed by pro-Palestinian students on BU’s campus, who automatically assume she is the enemy.
But Kolin says she actually agrees with some of the opinions of the Students for Justice in Palestine.
“I was even interested in joining their organization, but it really seemed like they didn’t want me,” she added.
Kolin is among the high number of students experiencing hostile behavior and backlash on their campuses for being Jewish. A 2014 study by Trinity College found that over half of Jewish college students have experienced anti-Semitism on their campus.
The Jewish community ushered in the new year in October, and many Jewish students across the country have a common resolution: Fighting swelling anti-Semitism.
ANTI-SEMITISM ON CAMPUS IS ON THE RISE
Anti-Semitic activity on U.S. campuses continues to be on the rise. A 2016 study conducted by the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that seeks to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses, found the number of incidents involving “the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly” doubled from last year.
“We’re really concerned for this new year,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s cofounder and director. “(Anti-Semitic behavior) really tends to completely shut down and obliterate the presence, the opinion and the safe space for one particular group. It’s not a matter of incivility, it’s a matter of intolerance.”
As reported by Newsweek, more than a dozen Jewish student events were violently disrupted this year at schools coast to coast, including Boston University, University of Maryland and University of Florida. And on the University of California campuses, anti-Semitic graffiti reading, “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” has appeared on the walls of buildings, and a UCLA student’s impartiality on a judicial board was questioned due to her involvement in the Jewish community.
If you are concerned about anti-Semitism on your campus, or if you seek advice about best practices, contact us.