Israel / University

“…just because an activist group says dumb and misguided things about Jews and Israel, that doesn’t mean the campus in question is “hostile” or “uncomfortable” for Jews”

…just because an activist group says dumb and misguided things about Jews and Israel, that doesn’t mean the campus in question is “hostile” or “uncomfortable” for Jews. Too often groups, mostly on the outside, seize on incidents like these (and articles like ours) to tar the school or administration as unfriendly or anti-Semitic. Last year, the Algemeiner published a list of “The 40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students,” which was really just a list of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic incidents at various campuses. Missing was any sense of how Jewish students actually experience Jewish life at these colleges.

As the student magazine New Voices recently put it: “If Columbia University — home of kosher dining, multiple minyans and a joint program with Jewish Theological Seminary — is the worst school for Jewish students… you’re probably defining ‘bad for Jewish students’ wrong.”

Indeed, Tufts, no. 23 on the Algemeiner list, has a student body that is 25 percent Jewish. Our article noted that it has a range of Jewish and pro-Israel clubs, including Hillel, the Tufts American Israel Alliance, Tufts Friends of Israel, J Street U, Jewish Voice for Peace, TAMID and IAC Mishelanu. Hillel offers Reform and Conservative Shabbat services, and there’s a Chabad. The Forward, which took into account many more factors than pro-Palestinian activism when assembling its own list of top colleges, named Tufts the 13th best school for Jewish students.

That’s not to say that “Israel Apartheid Week” demonstrations, BDS resolutions and screeds like the “disorientation guide” aren’t upsetting. Or that a strong reaction isn’t called for when anti-Zionists slander Israel, Jewish groups and individual Jews.

But colleges are also places where students are supposed to encounter upsetting or uncomfortable ideas.

Andrew Silow-Carroll, “The Left Has an Israel Problem. Have an Anti-Semitism Problem?”, Jewish Journal (15-20 September 2017), 10.