Approaching Antisemitism in College

Galia Wechsler
August 25, 2022

Starting college is challenging; you may not know what to expect in a lot of cases and your campus’ attitude toward Jews is no exception. The climate of antisemitism is different on every campus, but whether your school has frequently reported antisemitism or remains relatively calm, almost 80% of Jewish students have experienced or heard firsthand about antisemitism in some form. Here’s what you need to know:

Know what to expect.

Every campus is different. It may seem like anti-Israel sentiment is most prevalent, but historical antisemitism often rears its ugly head. 29% of incidents recorded by Jewish on Campus in 2021 were perpetrated by professors or administration, which changes the scope of the issue: the people responsible for your education project antisemitic rhetoric to their entire class from the position of the teacher. By anticipating the issue, you can be prepared to handle it.

If you have to ask if it’s antisemitic, it probably is.

This is a game you’ll probably catch yourself playing. Jews have been manipulated to believe antisemitism isn’t real or as threatening as we make it out to be. While we attempt to resist this notion, it will naturally still get the best of you sometimes – but try to resist. Trust your gut. And if your gut tells you what you’ve encountered is antisemitism, do something.

Don’t be shy.

Being struck by antisemitism is always a test. Do I even react? How do I react? What do I say? Who do I talk to? Deciding what feels right is something you discover on an individual basis – there’s no universal answer to dealing with antisemitism, but the important thing is that you react. If you let the situation pass, you give up a teachable moment and allow the antisemitism to continue spreading. It’s not your responsibility as a Jewish student to end antisemitism but to mitigate it for the safety of yourself and your community when you have the opportunity. Everyone finds themselves in situations where they look back and regret not saying something; don’t let antisemitism be among those situations.

Know you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, antisemitism at college is not rare, but finding a supportive community can make a huge difference. Experiencing antisemitism in a place that is supposed to foster your learning and growth can feel isolating, but finding a support system can provide comfort amid a particularly challenging time for Jewish students.

Find the resources available to you.

There’s no need to make antisemitism harder by struggling alone. The Jewish organizations on your campus — Hillel, Chabad, and Jewish Student Unions/Associations can provide community and resources. Jewish on Campus is also available to help: when you submit an incident to JOC, we can connect you with resources and help you pursue any action you wish to take. For so long, Jewish students have been lost and without a voice regarding antisemitism on college campuses, but now that you have it, use it.

Don’t let antisemitism be at the forefront of your Jewish college experience.

Sometimes it feels like antisemitism is all around us. Our Jewish identity pops out most when we are confronted with hate. This creates a cycle in which negativity becomes the center of our experience as Jewish college students, but try not to let it. Embrace all the positive things that come with being a Jewish college student: from Shabbat and holidays with friends to finding your own Jewish community for the first time as a young adult. When you return to campus this fall, seek positive Jewish experiences.

The prospect of returning to campus this fall may be daunting. Antisemitism on college campuses is a constantly-developing issue, but knowing what to expect will make the issue a little more manageable.

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