As the members of Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh grapple with the grief caused by Saturday’s deadly shooting, U.S. colleges and universities continue to combat a growing number of incidents of anti-Semitism. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), such episodes nearly doubled on college campuses between 2016 and 2017, from 108 to 204.
In recent years, members of alt-right and neo-Nazi groups have made college campuses targets for the spread of hateful propaganda and the recruitment of young students to their cause. ADL reports that there were 292 cases of white supremacist propaganda on college campuses during the 2017-2018 school year compared to 165 cases during the previous academic year.
Earlier this month, for example, a man disseminated fliers at Vassar and Marist Colleges as well as Dutchess County Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., claiming that Jewish people manufactured the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh in order to prevent his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. The man, who was determined not to be a student, was later banned from each of the three campuses.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive and national director of ADL, offers several suggestions for college and university administrators to reassure Jewish students, faculty, and staff that they are safe and welcome on campus. One simple, tangible way that institutions of higher education can send a message of inclusivity to Jewish students is by offering them kosher and halal options in the dining hall, he says. He argues, however, that the most important thing administrators can do is create a system for handling anti-Semitic situations and communicate that system to community members. If anti-Semitic incidents are handled on a case-by-case basis without a broader system in place, students will have to deal with a large amount of uncertainty, he says.
In addition to anti-Semitism from the alt-right, some see anti-Israel sentiments and the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement on college campuses as further evidence of anti-Semitism. Others argue that protesting Israel does not equate to showing bias against Jewish people.