Safety Concerns Influence College Choices for Some Jewish Families

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Amid growing concerns over antisemitism on elite college campuses, many Jewish families are reevaluating their college choices and are prioritizing safety over prestige, according to a CNN report. The prolonged conflict between Israel and Hamas has intensified these concerns, leading to a feeling of danger among Jewish students, faculty, and staff due to perceived inaction by universities in addressing antisemitism.

More than a dozen Jewish families who spoke to CNN indicated they had shifted their criteria when applying to colleges amid ongoing campus tensions.

The situation has also affected the consultancy business of Christopher Rim, chief executive officer of Command Education. He notes a trend of Jewish clients removing schools such as Cornell and Columbia from their lists, partly due to investigations by the U.S. Department of Education over antisemitism and Islamophobia incidents. This trend extends to other prestigious institutions such as Harvard and MIT, particularly after the criticized congressional testimonies of their presidents.

The issue of campus antisemitism has reached a point where families are opting for institutions they deem safer for Jewish students, such as Emory, Vanderbilt, and Washington University in St. Louis. The situation has even led to legal actions, with Jewish students suing New York University over its response to antisemitism.

Since October 7, the number of students comfortable with revealing their Jewish identity on campus dropped by nearly half, according to a recent ADL poll. Additionally, 70% of all students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, said they believe their university should do more to tackle antisemitism.

Elite colleges are responding to the concerns of Jewish students through efforts such as Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Group and Columbia’s University Antisemitism Task Force. However, the resignation of Penn President Liz Magill following her congressional testimony underscores the ongoing challenges in addressing antisemitism on college campuses.

“You’re going to be challenged by the diversity of opinion at college,” said Anna, a Jewish high school senior who spoke to CNN. “But as much as I admire resilience, I’d like not to have to be continuously resilient in terms of finding safety. I would like to be safe on the campus.”