Anti-Semitism a big problem at US colleges, report says

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RNS photo courtesy Rabbi Mendel Bluming

RNS photo courtesy Rabbi Mendel Bluming

WASHINGTON (RNS) A student group in South Africa this month called on all Jews to leave the Durban University of Technology, an act of anti-Semitism that Americans could not imagine on their own college campuses.

But a comprehensive survey of anti-Semitism at American colleges released this week shows that significant hostility is directed at Jews on U.S. campuses, too.

The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, produced by a Trinity College team well-known for its research on religious groups, found that 54 percent of Jewish students experienced anti-Semitism on campus in the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year.

Professors Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar asked 1,157 students in an online questionnaire about the types, context and location of anti-Semitism they had encountered, and found that anti-Jewish bias is a problem for Jews of all levels of religious observance.

“And this is a national problem; it’s not just happening in pockets of areas,” Keysar said. “Hopefully people will read this survey as a wake-up call. Clearly, the students want us to do something.”

The survey, she also noted, was given to students months before last summer’s war between Israel and Gaza, which ignited much anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses, sentiment that at times crossed the line into anti-Semitism.

The question sent to Jewish students on 55 campuses asked whether they had personally experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on campus. Most of the 54 percent who responded “yes” reported one incident. That suggests that “Jewish students are not just being paranoid, because if they were, then we would expect each of them to identify more than one incident of anti-Semitism per year,” the researchers wrote.

Similar percentages of religious (58 percent) and secular Jewish students (51 percent) said they had experienced hostility toward Jews or Judaism. And while 58 percent of those who say they are “always” open about being Jewish on campus said they had experienced anti-Semitism, 59 percent who said they “never” were reported the same.

As for the most common context of the anti-Semitism, 29 percent of students surveyed said the source was a single student, and 10 percent said it happened in a college club or society. Only 3 percent said the anti-Semitism stemmed from the college administration.

Kosmin and Keysar’s survey follows the 2013 Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which found that 22 percent of young Jews reported being called an offensive name in the previous year because they are Jewish, a far higher percentage than older Jews. It also comes 10 years after the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights declared that campus anti-Semitism had become a “serious problem” and called for more research on the issue.

Kosmin and Keysar end their report with recommendations to address anti-Semitism on campus, including the suggestion that administrators let it be known that “the university considers anti-Semitism a serious issue equivalent to other forms of hate and bias.”

KRE/MG END MARKOE

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  • How sad and frustrating. But this makes no sense.

    As young people become less affiliated with religion it should follow that religious prejudices should become less of a problem – not more.

    What is going on? What is the secular argument for anti-semitism?

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  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Max,
    Being old and foolish, I will touch the third rail, and so fully expect to be executed.
    At age 22 I went to work for the Brookmire brothers in Atlanta. I was immediately asked why people in Alabama were so anti-semitic. (I actually ended up working for them two years, quit, and was rehired for two more years.) Naturally, I had no expertise, but had read the Bible and assumed it all stemmed from that. Now, I know a bit more, so here goes.
    Humans are mostly the same everywhere. They live in groups within groups.
    1. Any group which refuses to integrate with the larger society will invite hard feelings. Success breeds jealousy. Failure breeds scorn.
    2. The Jewish religion/tradition claims all other Gods are false and the Hebrews are singled out by the true God for special status. Unfortunately, Christianity has followed this model.
    3. I have been employed by several Jewish firms, and one is always made aware that he is not “in the club”.
    4. Jewish and Christian children grow up together, go to the same schools, play at each others homes, and then the pressure to marry only in the tribe starts. Hard feelings inevitably result.
    5. Even the most secular feel the pressure to conform, especially concerning their children’s
    religious education. They may buck, but ultimately most send them to Hebrew school (“so they can make up their own minds”)
    And so it goes, personal views are expected, but the tribe will enforce conformity, or expel the offenders. All religions reject the primacy of personal judgments. Atheists suffer for this reason.

  • John McGrath

    Meaningful observations. Well stated. But I will want to make an observation about the “one God” claim of Judiasm and the only three commandments (outside the famous 10) in Hebrew Scripture. But first about a recent play I saw.

    I recently went to a performance of “Wrestling Jerusalem,” a quite powerful one man play (but using many voices) about the current Israel-Palestine craziness. I went because whenever i hear the song about Jerusalem being the fount of peace i immediately think of it as the font of hatred. From what i could tell i was the only non-Jew there (but wouldn’t you know I have Jewish cousins). Too bad, it was great poetry and great education.

    First, the presenter said that in Hebrew it is “God is one,” meaning that the one God is universal for all people, not just Jews. All people have the same God. I suppose this one God spoke in a special way to teh Jews. As a child I assumed it was to get rid of human sacrifice, a one time considered teh most pious way to worship God. The rets was curious or nice but the only specialness for the universal God was getting rid of human sacrifice. Of course we haven’t done that, what with war and executions and terrorism and counter-terrorism. So as a child I had an idea of the mission of the Jews, a simple one, get rid of human sacrifice than be your own tribe. The Jews at the time of the Romans were well able to sort out what was universal in their religion (the last 7 commandments, for instance) and what was just for them (the first 3 commandments plus of course the other 7). I never could figure out what Christianity (catholic family) was supposed to do. Maybe reinforce the 3 (plus the 10) commandments as below.

    Command 1: Love God with integrity. OK.

    Command 2: Love your neighbor.

    Command 3: Love the stranger. Ooooh, not easy. As you point out we don’t like them outsiders. So why are the Hebrew Scrioptures and Jesus telling us to lovevthe stranger/the enemy? I don’t know, since most Christians and Jews do not practice this. maybe, as you point out, because it’s not in our nature. I ann if there’s a Natural Law surely one of its principles is, “Love your own, but not them.” Then God will love you more, it seems, or so I learn from observing religion.

    Which leaves me with a residual belief in God and a residual kind of Christianity. But I much prefer the company of those who do not practice any religion. And I certainly do not want to assemble with people who practice a religion. Not with “them,” lol.

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  • The Great God Pan

    Max, you can safely assume that most of it is coming from Palestine activists. Anti-semitism disguised as “anti-Zionism” and “legitimate critique of Israeli policies” is all the rage among “social justice” advocates.

    See for example:

    http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-student-assaulted-by-pro-palestine-student-at-temple-university/2014/08/21/

  • Garson Abuita

    Spot on – and too often you hear people like Samuel Johnston and Stephen Lewis answering that it’s the Jews’ own fault.

  • @Samuel Johnston,

    “I have been employed by several Jewish firms, and one is always made aware that he is not “in the club”.”

    I love ya man, and thanks for your honest reply.
    But I gotta say it looks like you may have an issue to work out. We must be responsible for our own feelings. One can’t blame Jews for ‘making us feel’ left out – I’m not denying you felt that way in your situation, of course.

    1. Jews are just people like the rest of us. I don’t believe their God is any more real than the Christian Jesus – so I can’t get excited if some of them claim a special chosen relationship with their magic leprechaun.

    2. Jews are blamed for being Capitalist big Bankers running the world economy and at the same time Marxist Communists trying to subvert it – these myths are contradictory and silly and cannot be true.

    Without religion we are all one species.
    If a few hard-line Jewish, Muslim or Catholic people want to exclude me for not being in their club, I know they have no claim to any high ground. Their God isn’t more real for their trouble.

    It therefor cannot offend me nor hurt me personally.

    I appreciate your honesty but Jews are no different from the rest of us. I hope you will consider further examining what is going on under the surface.

    Finding the secular reasons for anti-semitism is an urgent matter. Because if religion isn’t the cause, we would be wrong to think secularism will be an improvement in human behavior.

    We must do better than this.

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Max,
    I make no claim that my response is the last word, but if the subject is not open to any discussion- then what?
    I stand by what I said, but have no control of how it is interpreted. My feelings are not hurt, and I am not anti anybody unless they try to control me without my consent. I am offended by those who think that because they have the “right” to say certain things or behave certain ways that they are not responsible for the foreseeable results and/or should be free from criticism.
    I was not consulted about how the world should be made. Even today we have the horror story of religious fanatics destroying irreplaceable ancient Assyrian statutes and artifacts just out of hatred for all mankind. It is hard for me to remain optimistic about man’s immediate prospects- religion or no. I intellectually agree with Voltaire, and will try to put a lid on my emotions, tend my garden, and spend less time trying to save the world.

  • Samuel Johnston,

    “but if the subject is not open to any discussion- then what?”

    I’m with you for sure. We must never fear to express.
    Kudos for your honesty and willingness to engage, as always.

  • I guess I figured the Palestinian issue was fading just a bit of late in the context of the Arab Spring and the depredations of Iran.
    ISIS seems to be the big story – which one might intuit would help the Israeli argument (a little bit) not hurt it.

  • Matt Westbrook

    If we are positing theories, I’ll throw mine into the ring. Secularists, particularly academics in the social sciences, often use the terms religion and tradition interchangeably. It’s not an oddity and not an accident: informed by a progressive ethic and progressive view of time and civilization, both religion and tradition are seen as vanguards of a fading past. The British sociologist Anthony Giddens does this frequently in his books on globalization, for instance.

    This association, embedded in progressive conceptions of the social order, is also informed by a particular reading of history in which Judaism is, correctly, seen as the oldest form of currently existing religious practice. (Setting aside the construct of Hinduism, which in the form of a world religion is actually quite new.) Judaism is also seen (again, rightly) as the fountainhead of the great monotheistic faiths, with more than 3.5 billion adherents.

    Add to this the radically inordinate attention paid to Israel by the United Nations–the latter seen as the harbinger of a new progressive age of universalism and international cooperation–and you have a potent mix of discourses used to express great antipathies toward Judaism and what is often seen as indistinguishable from Judaism: Israel.

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  • Garson Abuita

    Stephen, you can drop your phony “challenge” anytime. Both I, and from your Internet postings, apparently many rabbis, have given you an answer as to where the word Torah comes from. You just don’t want to hear the answer. Worse, you throw out theories that have absolutely no basis, like Torah coming from the “Egyptian deity Taurowet.” But even worse than that, you lie about that deity as well, switching the phonics from her real name, Taweret, to make it seem closer to Torah. The only fraud here is you.

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Garson,
    Folks who “keep dong the same things and expect different results…….”
    Pardon me for noticing that wherever they go, the Jewish culture makes itself unpopular. It may or may not be just, but to take the stance that “we
    cannot share the blame” is childish.
    I am an Alabamian. In traveling, I often suffer from the assumption that I am a recalcitrant redneck. It hurts my feelings, but I understand that when our culture’s worst side is regularly exposed by our popularly elected representatives public statements – well, I can see why strangers assume I agree.

  • Jack

    It’s obviously not the Jews’ fault when haters hate them, but Jews need to get their heads out of the sand when it comes to today’s sources of hatred. It’s coming increasingly from radical Islamists and their apologists on the Left – and that’s been the case for at least two generations. Yes, of course there are still right-wing kooks who are anti-Semitic, but times have changed and the Islamists and their campus toadies are leading the charge these days.

    Part of the answer for Jews is to become more independent politically of both the right and the left. When the left gets automatic support in terms of votes and dollars, there is no incentive for it to clean out the haters from its midst.

  • Jack

    Stephen, get yourself a real identity one of these days. I don’t think you know who you really are.

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