Prospective Jewish collegiates weigh schools according to campus antisemitism – survey

A large majority (64%) said Jew hatred was an “important” factor in their decision on where to apply.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A large majority of prospective Jewish collegiates weigh schools according to their levels of campus antisemitism when making decisions where to apply for higher education, a recent survey by the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) has shown.

Sixty-four percent of the close to 2,000 BBYO members surveyed in North America said it was an “important” factor for them. Antisemitism was not just an amorphous threat, either, as most of the high schoolers – over 60% – reported that they had already experienced Jew hatred in their lives.

Bright teens who had applied or planned to apply to such Ivy league schools as the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard talked, for example, of having backtracked after their presidents’ infamous December testimony at a Congressional hearing saying that campus protests calling for the genocide of Jews may not break their institution’s code of conduct.

They would rather go to schools that have large Jewish populations, where they feel safer. As one teen put it, he didn’t want to have to “worry what somebody was going to do once I walked into Hillel,” the largest organization that promotes Jewish life on campus and has a pro-Israel stance.

In a prescient move, BBYO and the Anti-Defamation League partnered in November 2022 to equip Jewish teens with the tools to effectively respond to antisemitism and hate in communities, schools, and on social media. That was in reaction to already alarming numbers of antisemitic incidents in person and online, as well as physical violence against Jews that was hitting all-time highs.

But after the Israel-Hamas war was sparked on October 7, 2023 by the terrorists’ massacre of 1,200 people in their invasion of Gazan envelope communities, antisemitism exploded across the globe.  In the U.S., the focus has especially been on its manifestation on college campuses and the fear it has engendered in Jewish students and staff alike. So while the training is useful, Jewish students are seemingly preferring to reduce the risk of having to put it into action, according to this poll.

Brandeis University came out with a survey conducted between mid-November and mid-December, that these students might find useful – or not. After polling some 2,000 undergraduates in 51 American schools with large Jewish populations, the researchers grouped institutions according to their hostile environment to Jews. In the twelve worst, a whopping 85% of Jewish students reported at least some hostility toward Jews and 94% reported hostility toward Israel.

However, at the 13 schools that ranked best in the antisemitism category, 49% still said there was hostility to Jews, with the number rising to 63% in the negativity shown towards Israel, and 23% said they were “very concerned” about campus antisemitism. Brandeis itself was in this group of the least hostile universities, as were five universities in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis recently directed his state’s university system to streamline the transfer process for Jewish students seeking to leave a school where they have a “well-founded fear of antisemitic persecution.”

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BBYO bills itself as the leading pluralistic Jewish teen movement reaching more than 70,000 young people in 60 countries.