Young American Jews hiding their Jewishness in fear

Antisemitism on campus is leading many students to hide their identities, said a Jewish agency official who is backed by a recent survey on the issue.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

American Jewish youth are hiding their Jewishness out of fear of antisemitism, said a Jewish Agency official in an interview aired Tuesday on Arutz 7.

There is both fear of antisemitism and concern about being linked to Israel, “especially among the young generation,” said Sigal Kanotofsky, the quasi-governmental organization’s representative to the American northeast. “If there is this anti-Israelism in the North American public, then the youth, especially those in universities, want to hide their Jewish identity because it’s a barrier in some ways. And how is this happening in North America, the place where it’s safest to be a Jew? But it’s also happening here.”

Kanotofsky made her statement on the sidelines of the Israeli American Council conference that took place over the weekend in Florida. She is working with Jewish federations and communities to strengthen both their Jewish identity and ties with Israel, she said, since the “wave of antisemitism” that occurred in May during Israel’s 11-day operation against Hamas “rang a bell for everyone, with the understanding that the connection to Israel is not a barrier but the tool to deal with this whole challenge.”

Read  Axis of evil: The Soviet-Nazi pact

A good part of her work is to advise organized Jewry’s representatives on how to fight the “wave of antisemitism that [Jews] experience here in universities, in schools and on the street,” she said.

In September, a survey done in April of thousands of members of Jewish sororities and fraternities revealed that about half of them have hidden their identities at least once when on campus. The Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law poll also found that 65% had “felt unsafe,” with a whopping 69% of those belonging to Jewish sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi having personally experienced an antisemitic verbal attack.

These most often included offensive remarks about Jews and the Holocaust and accusing them of being complicit in alleged crimes committed by Israel. Over 50% have stopped themselves from giving their opinions on Israel, although colleges are ostensibly the foremost arena for the free exchange of ideas and beliefs.

Seniors are more likely than the freshman class to hide their Jewishness. This seemingly indicates that their experiences over the last four years has taught them that it would not be a good idea to express their religious or ethnic identity.

This accords with a smaller survey of several hundred enrolled students and college alumni released in August by Alums for Campus Fairness. Fully 95 percent of the respondents said that antisemitism was a problem on their current or former campus, with three-fourths characterizing it as a “very serious” problem. Just under 70% reported that they avoided certain places, situations, and events for fear of being outed as a Jew, while even more had experienced or heard first-hand accounts of antisemitic hate speech.

Read  Axis of evil: The Soviet-Nazi pact