The first poll to specifically examine rates of anti-Semitism among college students who claim a strong sense of Jewish identity and connection to Israel finds that, among this group, students are feeling unsafe and, as a result, are learning that to avoid anti-Semitism they must view their religion as something to hide, not celebrate. In fact, the survey indicates that the longer students stay on campus, the less safe they feel and the more they feel the need to hide their identity.
Nearly 70% of the students surveyed personally experienced or were familiar with an anti-Semitic attack in the past 120 days. More than 65% of these students have felt unsafe on campus due to physical or verbal attacks, with one in 10 reporting they have feared they themselves would be physically attacked. And roughly 50% of students have felt the need to hide their Jewish identity.
The poll is based on online surveys with more than a thousand members of the leading predominantly Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), and the leading Jewish sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi). More than 60% of the students surveyed belong to Hillel and nearly half to Chabad, more than 80% are supportive of Israel, and nearly 60% have visited Israel. The survey was conducted Cohen Research Group in conjunction with The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.
“These findings ring some pretty consequential alarms, more closely resembling previous dark periods in our history, not the 21st century in the U.S.,” stated Kenneth L. Marcus, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Civil Rights and Brandeis Center founder and chair. “They reveal that students for whom being Jewish is a central or important aspect of their identity are feeling increasingly unsafe visibly expressing their Judaism for fear of harassment, social bullying and other anti-Semitic attacks. And they expose that increased anti-Semitic acts, which attempt to hold Jews responsible as a collective, for the actions of the Israeli government, are driving more and more students to hide their support for Israel.”
“There is no question that this upwards trajectory will continue until university administrators stop turning a blind eye to anti-Semitic harassment and abuse and excusing it as political disagreements,” said Marcus. “As students embark on a new school year it is imperative university leaders step up to the plate and take meaningful action or the situation will continue to escalate.”
To stem the rising anti-Semitism, the Brandeis Center recommends universities issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism; incorporate the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism into their discrimination and harassment policies; and provide appropriate training on anti-Semitism to university administrators, faculty, staff and students.