Campus antisemitism affecting Jewish high school students’ college enrollment decisions, new poll finds

A robust Jewish life on campus may ultimately determine where Jewish students choose to enroll, the survey added.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

An explosion of antisemitism at US colleges and universities since Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 is affecting how Jewish high school students choose where to pursue their post-secondary degrees, according to new survey results released by Hillel International, the world’s largest network of Jewish campus organizations.

A striking 64 percent of 427 parents of Jewish high school students surveyed by Benenson Strategy Group said their children have “crossed off” schools to which they would have applied because of concerns about antisemitism, Hillel International said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of parents said concerns about safety have weighed on their child’s decision more than before Oct. 7, and 87 percent noted the atrocities by Hamas had an impact on their approach to selecting a college or university for their child.

“These findings confirm what we’ve consistently heard from Jewish parents since Oct. 7: They are alarmed by the dramatic rise in antisemitism on campus, and they and their children are changing their approach to the college decision-making process because of it,” Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman said in a press release.

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“As a result, parents, students, and families are turning to Hillel as the most comprehensive and reliable source of information and support for their child, and we remain committed to our work to ensure that all campuses are safe and inclusive options for all Jewish students.”

A robust Jewish life on campus may ultimately determine where Jewish students choose to enroll, the survey added.

Seventy-four percent of parents said the presence of “Jewish clubs and organizations” at a school is “more important” after Oct. 7, and 91 percent said they are more likely to encourage their child to actively participate in Hillel, which operates on 850 campuses.

Hillel International’s survey results come amid a time of adversity for Jewish college students, 73 percent of whom have reported feeling less safe at school since Oct. 7, according to survey results issued last month by the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC).

Numerous incidents have heightened their fears.

At the University of California, Berkeley, for example, a mob of anti-Zionist activists, some of whom were not students, in February stormed a building where an event featuring an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier was being held. After infiltrating the building, some of them proceeded to spit on Jewish students and scream antisemitic epithets at them.

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In some cases the targeting of Jewish and pro-Israel students has turned violent. At Tulane University, just weeks after Oct. 7, a Jewish student’s nose was broken during a vicious assault near campus.

US college campuses have experienced an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents — including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students — since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre.

Elite universities have been among the biggest hubs of such activity, with students and faculty both demonizing Israel and rationalizing the Hamas atrocities.

In December, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noted that between the Oct. 7 onslaught in Israel and Dec. 7, the Jewish civil rights organization “recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents ever recorded during any two-month period” in over 40 years of tracking such data.

On college campuses alone, the ADL recorded 470 antisemitic incidents between Oct. 7 and Dec. 18. During that same period, antisemitic incidents across the US skyrocketed by 323 percent compared to the prior year.

Experts have told The Algemeiner that the situation on college campuses would improve if the Biden administration issued long promised regulations that apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to civil rights investigations — a measure which, they argue, would help protect Jewish students from antisemitic discrimination and harassment rooted in anti-Zionism.

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The regulations, based on a directive given in Dec. 2019 by then-US President Donald Trump in response to rising anti-Zionist hatred on college campuses, were scheduled to be issued already but have been delayed and will not be instituted until at least Dec. 2024, after the next US presidential election, according to a copy of the proposed rule on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism — which has been adopted by dozens of governments and hundreds of civic institutions around the world — includes examples of anti-Israel bias, such as “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” “denying the Jewish people their right to self determination,” and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”