Jewish students celebrate Passover as anti-Semitism persists on college campuses

Jewish students are celebrating Passover as many feel that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment is 'a growing threat' on campus.

'Unfortunately, Anti-Israel activism is a feature of Harvard’s campus,' one student told Campus Reform.

Jewish students are celebrating Passover as many feel that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment is “a growing threat” on campus.

A 2021 Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) report found that 95% of Jewish college students and recent graduates felt that antisemitism is a problem on campus, with at least 80% having experienced it first-hand, and nearly half of the students surveyed felt that campus anti-Semitism continues to get worse. Campus Reform has reported on several anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

“When I first started thinking about celebrating Passover on campus, safety was simply not something on my mind. I was simply excited to have a chance to bring a seder to my community and introduce some of my non-Jewish friends to the holiday,” Zachary Lech, a Jewish student at Harvard University, told Campus Reform.

“Unfortunately, Anti-Israel activism is a feature of Harvard’s campus,” he continued. “I do in general feel comfortable expressing my Jewish identity, certainly much more so than in my home country of Poland. But the anti-Israeli sentiment made me do things I never thought I would.”

“I started questioning myself; should I remove the Hillel’s logo from a flyer promoting my seder? Is it even safe to publicize it in the first place?” Lech said.

Seder is the name of the feast during Passover. 

At Harvard University, students recently put up an anti-Israel display featuring messages that read “Zionism is racism,” “Settler/Colonialism/White Supremacy/Apartheid,” and “Boycott Divest Sanction.”

Harvard is not the only one featuring anti-Israel activism. Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) movements have spread to campuses around the country.

Princeton University, another Ivy League, recently held a referendum to boycott the construction machinery company Caterpillar for its affiliation with Israel. After a heated campaign, 44% of students voted to approve the boycott, while 40% voted to reject it.

[RELATED: Pomona College student government passes resolution supporting the defunding of clubs supporting Israel] 

Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN) Miriam F. Elman told Campus Reform that the timing of holding this referendum as the Jewish community on campus prepared for Passover was “completely obnoxious and disrespectful.”

At the University of Chicago, the Students for Justice in Palestine club started a campaign urging their peers “DON’T TAKE SH*TTY ZIONIST CLASSES” the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day, calling on their classmates to boycott any classes “on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows.”

After two Jewish students wrote an op-ed in The Chicago Maroon condemning this campaign, the article was removed from the website followed by a letter of apology from the Viewpoints editors.

“I’ll never hide my faith because of the history of Judaism and memories of my grandfather, but I could also completely understand if others felt differently,” a Jewish student from California Lutheran University named Ryan told Campus Reform.

He noted, “I always feel like people look at you a little less for being different.”

[RELATED: Rutgers chancellor apologizes to community for daring to condemn anti-Semitism] 

A 2021 poll found that 65% of students in the leading Jewish fraternity and sorority have “felt unsafe” on campus, while 50% of students surveyed have felt “the need to hide their identity.”

Following the release of that poll, Brandeis Center founder Kenneth Marcus, which conducted the poll alongside the Cohen Research Group, told Campus Reform “What we found is not only that anti-Semitic incidents have been going way up, even now during the age of Joe Biden, but that they are having an impact on Jewish students that had never been recorded before.”

A Jewish student who wishes to keep her name anonymous told Campus Reform that while she “would love to be able to celebrate Jewish holidays on campus,” she feels as though she is “the only Jewish student that goes here.”

“I have considered starting a ‘Students Supporting Israel’ club here, but I just know there is no point because it would be faced with immense backlash,” the student said.

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