AMCHA Initiative: “an insidious phenomenon that has taken root on college campuses of late: a pervasive and relentless assault on Jewish identity that is likely to have dire consequences for the Jewish community in the years to come.”
Today’s left-wing anti-Semites frequently claim they don’t hate Jews, just the Jewish State. A new report by AMCHA Initiative gives the lie to that old saw.
Founded by University of California academics Leila Beckwith and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the AMCHA Initiative monitors and combats anti-Jewish activity on hundreds of college campuses across the United States.
The report comes at a time when the American Jewish community has been increasingly concerned about its future. That’s not due to anti-Semitic violence, but to (seeming) lack of interest within the Jewish community. Based on data collected in 2020, a 2021 Pew study of the American Jewish community revealed that:
“Religion is not central to the lives of most U.S. Jews.”
“45% [of U.S. Jews] say caring about Israel is essential.”
“Older Jews are more likely than younger generations to see certain things as essential to being Jewish. Compared with Jewish adults under the age of 30, larger shares of those 65 and older rank… caring about Israel… as essential parts of their Jewish identity.”
How much of young Jews’ lessened interest in Israel is an effort to protect themselves from the hatred of their peers?
The AMCHA report suggests the latter is at least partly responsible. The report basically says the climate on U.S. college campuses threatens Jewish self-identity by anathematizing Israel and its supporters. By pretending their hatred of Israel and “Zionists” has nothing to do with Jews and Judaism, anti-Zionists seek to put a wedge between Jewish students and their Jewish identity. Think of Chariots of Fire, when the Duke of Sutherland explains that by pressuring Eric Liddell to run on Sunday, “We sought to sever his running from himself.”
PRESS RELEASE: AMCHA Annual Report Unearths Never-Before-Revealed Campus Trend: Attacks on Jewish Identity Doubled https://t.co/3vxbAPUw2l
— The AMCHA Initiative (@AMCHAInitiative) November 16, 2022
AMCHA’s press release explains:
Santa Cruz, CA, November 16, 2022 – AMCHA Initiative’s annual campus antisemitism report, released today, unearthed an insidious and never-before-exposed phenomenon taking root on college campuses: a pervasive and relentless assault on Jewish identity.
Unlike other campus studies released this year and in previous years, which examine whether campuses are safe or unsafe for Jewish students, this study investigated the nature, scope and trajectory of the threats to Jewish student identity on U.S. campuses, and it found a staggering doubling of such threats at 60% of schools most popular with Jewish students. The threats uncovered in the report include attempts to dissociate Zionism from Judaism, pit Zionism against progressive values, accuse Zionist Jews of undue privilege, power and control, and purge Zionism and Zionists from campus life.
As highlighted by a recent Pew survey, which found that more than 80% of Jews view Israel as integral to their Jewish identity, the threats documented in AMCHA’s study constitute a direct assault on the identity of many Jewish students. This is because whether understood as a religion, an ethnicity, a peoplehood, or some combination of these, Israel has played an integral role in the formation, history, observance and continued safety of Judaism and the Jewish people.
AMCHA Initiative’s annual campus antisemitism report, released today, unearthed an insidious and never-before-exposed phenomenon taking root on college campuses: a pervasive and relentless assault on Jewish identity.
— The AMCHA Initiative (@AMCHAInitiative) November 16, 2022
The report’s executive summary puts it this way:
However, it is crucial that the Jewish community understand that hidden within these numbers is an insidious phenomenon that has taken root on college campuses of late: a pervasive and relentless assault on Jewish identity that is likely to have dire consequences for the Jewish community in the years to come.
The current study investigated the nature, scope and trajectory of the threats to Jewish identity on over 100 college and university campuses most popular with Jewish students and the potential sources of those threats, with a particular focus on faculty and anti-Zionist Jewish groups and individuals. Our major findings include:
- Incidents involving the suppression, denigration or challenges to the definition of Jewish identity were found on over 60% of the campuses most popular with Jewish students, with several schools playing host to 10 or more such incidents in the 2021-2022 academic year, including Harvard University, University of Chicago, Tufts University, UCLA and Rutgers University.
- Incidents involving attacks on Jewish identity increased 100% to 200% in the academic year following the Israel-Hamas war, with the number of affected schools also increasing dramatically.
- Faculty and academic departments played a significant role in attacks on Jewish student identity: schools with academic BDS-supporting faculty were three to seven times more likely to have such attacks, and more than one-third of anti-Zionist challenges to well-established definitions of Zionism, Judaism and antisemitism took place in programs sponsored by academic departments.
- Jewish anti-Zionist individuals and organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) played a significant role in attacks on Jewish identity, with the presence of a JVP or similar Jewish anti-Zionist group more than doubling the likelihood that a campus will play host to incidents involving the redefinition or denigration of Jewish identity.
In the short term, the pervasive and well-coordinated attacks on Jewish identity will undoubtedly result in increasing numbers of Jewish students feeling the need to hide their Jewish identity on campus, or to detach from Jewish life partially or completely. In the long term, the sheer scope of the assault on Jewish student identity – which is negatively affecting the level of communal identification and participation of an entire generation of young Jewish adults – presages a major crisis for American Jewry.
It is critically important to find effective strategies for tackling this profoundly alarming problem. Efforts focusing on using anti-discrimination law such as Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ensure that Jewish students are recognized and treated exactly as any other “protected class” group when it comes to addressing anti-Zionist motivated harassment face considerable challenges because of the nature of the current assault on Jewish identity. Widespread attempts to redefine Jewishness and its relationship to Israel directly challenge the recognition of anti-Zionist harassment as a violation of anti-discrimination law. In addition, the pervasive denigration of Zionist Jews with antisemitic tropes of Jewish power and privilege threatens the assumption that Jews constitute an identity group worthy of “protected class” status.
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