A study released today reveals the shocking height and geographic and denominational breadth in anti-Semitic incidents on U.S. campuses over the past year.
The study conducted by two researchers at Trinity College in Connecticut found that 54 percent of all Jewish American university students have either experienced or witnessed acts of anti-Semitism over the past school year.
For a select few the percentage won’t be a shock, but the degree to which geography, gender or even Jewish denomination contradicted generally-held beliefs is startling.
For example, visibly Jewish (i.e. kippot-clad Jewish males) are no more likely to experience anti-Semitism than left-leaning, secular Jews. In fact, non-Orthodox Jewish females are the highest reporters of anti-Semitism, nearly 60 percent. And there is little difference in the occurrence rates of anti-Semitism in the north, south, east or west, or in private colleges or public universities.
The researchers, Dr. Barry A. Kosmin and Dr. Ariela Keysar, are professors of Public Policy and Law at Trinity Colleege and director and associate director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture.
Anti-Semitism, according to the Trinity Study, is “prejudice and/or discrimination against Jews, individually or collectively, that can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religion, their ethnicity, ancestry or group membership.” Anti-Semitism assumes that “Jews share particular characteristics in common and think and act in special or ‘different’ ways from other people.”
Anti-Semitism manifests itself in a variety of forms – words, ideas and actions, and it can involve bigotry, bullying, defamation, stereotyping, hate crime, acts of bias and scapegoating.”
The study followed on the discovery from the 2013 Pew Survey of U.S. Jews that the cohort reporting the greatest incidence of anti-Semitism by a wide margin is young Jews between 18 – 29 years old.
The survey included 55 campuses across the nation. It was conducted between March and April, 2014, and encompassed a six month period. As the authors point out, this was before last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, which unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism through the prism of anti-Zionism.
Kenneth L. Marcus, the director of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and former commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, wrote the study’s foreword. He had wise words to impart, not only about why the study was important, but what steps need to be taken in response.
As someone on the front lines who deals with Jewish students across the U.S. who experience anti-Semitism, Marcus is frequently told by college students that their experiences are not taken seriously by schools. “This report gives substance and data to their experiences,” Marcus notes.
The authors of the Trinity study point out a disconcerting fact that demands public attention.
How is it that on today’s university campus, the site from which “trigger warnings,” speech codes and sexual codes of conduct have sprung, anti-Semitism is rampant and so little attention is paid to this “last acceptable form of racism,” as one respondent described it.
The authors write, “according to our survey, anti-Semitism appears to go under the radar and is largely ignored by the official cognitive system. In the current climate on campus, and under the official cognitive system, Jewish students and supporters of Israel are not perceived as legitimate victim groups. Rather, they are perceived as privileged.”
There is a great deal of meat in the official report which is only 15 pages long, including charts and recommendations. It deserves careful review by government officials, communal leaders, university administrations, students, parents and all educators.
Marcus of the Brandeis Center writes that an excellent first step is for the U.S. government to adopt a formal definition of anti-Semitism. He explains that “the U.S. Department of State has developed excellent tools for addressing anti-Semitism in every country other than the United States. The domestic agencies however have not yet made comparable progress.” He then urges, such “simple, obvious steps should be undertaken without delay.”Lori Lowenthal Marcus