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Alarming News For Back-To-School Jewish Students

Anti-Semitism is rising dramatically worldwide and, with the start of the new school year, we as American Jews need to educate ourselves about an alarming fact: anti-Semitic activity on US college campuses has skyrocketed.

According to the nonpartisan watchdog group, AMCHA, during the first six months of 2016, 287 anti-Semitic incidents occurred at 64 campuses that have the largest Jewish population…a 45% increase from a year ago! What’s significant to mention is that this spike does not reflect an anomaly, but rather, a trend.

Below are just a few hate-filled incidents that happened on US college campuses last year, as reported by the Anti-Defamation League:

  • Davis, CA: Vandals spray-painted swastikas on the exterior wall of a Jewish fraternity at UC Davis on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz from the Nazis.

  • New York, NY: Anti-Semitic slogans were chanted at a protest at CUNY-Hunter College in Manhattan after organizers on Facebook called for participants to oppose the school’s “Zionist administration.” Protesters, who ostensibly gathered to fight for free tuition and other benefits, shouted, “Zionists out of CUNY!”

  • Berkeley, CA: The phrase “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found in a campus restroom soon after a swastika was found on a university owned building.

In 2015 more than half of Jewish students at American colleges testified to personally experiencing or witnessing anti-Semitism. The Brandeis Center/Trinity College survey also discovered that women - now a majority among American Jewish college students - are 40% more likely to report these incidents than men.

AMCHA confirmed the growing correlation between anti-Semitism and activism by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. “The growing problem of campus anti-Semitism is no doubt a serious threat facing the Jewish community. But this disturbing and dangerous spike and the bolder, more brazen methods of those perpetrating this hate are particularly alarming,” warned Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA director and co-founder.

Suppression of free speech is among the more disturbing activities revealed in their study. This makes Jews the largest group of university students coming under systematic attack…with an increasing number seeing their civil rights infringed. Jewish students are subjected to both traditional prejudice and new political bigotry.

Don’t we send our children to college to cultivate creative and critical thinking, to broaden their vision of the world and to learn how to thrive within the society’s mores? As disheartening as these figures are, we have to rely on ourselves to lead a righteous life and find ways to combat other people’s ignorance and hate.

Our new series, America Undiscovered, is an important and timely program designed to showcase uplifting stories about Jews throughout North America. Our mission is simple: to travel across our nation sharing inspiring profiles about Jewish Americans who embody acceptance, kindness and our unique tikkun olam. These stories will inspire Jews and non-Jews alike, and, hopefully, create a more positive dialogue to help reduce these hateful actions that especially impact our young people.

As our production team treks across the country, I’m reminded of the quote by poet Maya Angelou: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

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