College was always promoted to me as a tolerant and accepting environment for everyone, regardless of one’s beliefs and ideology. Meetings with high school guidance counselors and participating in campus tours seemed to affirm my impression. I presumed that I would be free to advocate for my beliefs and freely express my religion without fear of intimidation or backlash from my fellow students.
If only that were true.
Since the beginning of 2016, the number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses has surged, increasing by 45 percent compared to 2015, according to a study by AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at universities. The AMCHA report includes every type of incident from swastikas being engraved in bathrooms to students being harassed on campus.
I was astonished at how ubiquitous anti-Semitism has become at practically all universities. I had always assumed that college was immune to the world’s intolerance, that college was an oasis for Jews.
Even schools as prominent and well-known as New York University did not escape these appalling incursions; on Nov. 12 four students at NYU awoke to large, dark swastikas graffitied on their doors. When I saw the photos posted online of these students’ doors, my heart tightened and my stomach constricted. Questions and concerns raced through my head: What if that was my door? How could I cope with the realization that my religion made me a target of abuse? How could a diverse campus such as NYU host such a hostile dormitory environment? Can the school remain a viable college choice for me?
These questions circled through my mind with an absence of answers. Despite the president of the New School condemning the swastikas on the door, his words did nothing to prevent another swastika being posted on another student’s door just five days later. Other colleges such as University of Maryland, Hunter College, Georgetown University, and Swarthmore College have all been victims of similar heinous attacks. (Photo courtesy Sam Lichtenstein)
Hundreds of hate crimes against Jews have been reported on college campuses in 2016, yet there’s no national outrage.
At Northwestern University in Ill., a Jewish studies lecturer was asked if he was Jewish by a man in a vehicle. When the professor said yes, the unidentified man raised his arm in a Nazi salute and yelled “Heil Hitler.” Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media made no mention of the anti-Semitic salute and offered the story little to no coverage.
If the assailants at NYU scrawled anti-Muslim threats on the doors of NYU students, the story would have received national attention. If that lecturer was a man of Muslim faith who was attacked with hateful, religion-based slurs people would have expressed outrage. The bottom line is that the public does not stand with the Jewish community, leaving Jewish students defenseless in the face of hate.
The evolution of college into a platform for anti-Semitism shakes me to my core. I am frustrated by the lack of public concern regarding discrimination against Jews and becoming a victim of anti-Semitism is my greatest college fear. There will always be anti-Semites in the world, and no one can change that, but the fact that no one would shed an ounce of concern if I was attacked is chilling.
As a high school junior college is practically around the corner. After I apply to different universities and await decisions, the supposed “time of my life” commences. But what indubitably waits for me, a 16-year-old Jewish boy, beyond my high school walls — Swastikas on my door? Racial slurs from other students? Physical assaults? I can only hope that conditions will change in the coming time, but as of now, this appears to be my reality and the reality of Jewish students across the United States.