New study recommends university administrators take anti-Jewish activity as seriously as other forms of ethnic/racial bias, and that Jewish groups focus more resources on the subject
By Debra Nussbaum Cohen, HAARETZ
NEW YORK – A study of American Jewish university students has found that a majority experienced or witnessed at least one anti-Semitic incident during a single year.
The study’s organizers say that they are surprised and alarmed that 54 percent reported experiencing or witnessing an incident that the respondent defined as anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitic experiences were reported across an unusually wide swath of students. The study found only slight variation in anti-Semitic experiences across different regions of the U.S., “which strongly suggests that anti-Semitism is a nationwide problem,” according to the report.
“We really need people to pay attention to this. We didn’t expect it to be 54 percent,” said Ariela Keysar, associate research professor of public policy and law at Trinity College. Keysar, a Jerusalem-born demographer, conducted the study along with Barry Kosmin, research professor of public policy and law at Trinity, which is a small private college in Hartford, CT, whose roots are in the Episcopalian denomination of Christianity, but is now non-denominational.
The study, via online questionnaire, was conducted from September 2013 to March 2014 — before the Gaza war of last summer, Keysar notes, which is believed to have given rise to more anti-Semitism on campuses than before — and asked students to report having experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism only during the preceding year.
The anti-Semitism finding was plucked out of a larger study of 1,157 self-identified American Jewish college students on 55 different campuses on a variety of topics.
Since just 8 percent of American Jewish college students say they are Orthodox, few are identifiable as Jewish because of external factors like what they wear. While 90 percent said they are proud to be Jewish, 62 percent reported that the majority of their friends are not Jewish. Little visibly separates the overwhelming majority of American Jewish college students from their non-Jewish peers.
And that is what makes the findings about anti-Semitism so startling, said Keysar — that is experienced not only by students who are identifiably Jewish or involved in vocally pro-Israel activities.
“We were surprised how prevalent it is. There are no pockets where it is in specific places, regions or universities. It’s kind of widespread,” Keysar said in an interview.
Ariela Keysar (courtesy photo).
The findings are “a wakeup call to university administrators who have been in denial about this problem,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, in an interview with Haaretz. The Brandeis Center is a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., which monitors and addresses anti-Semitism on campus. Marcus drafted policy recommendations as part of the study report.
“We frequently hear from college students who find that their experiences of anti-Semitism are not taken seriously,” writes Marcus in the report’s introduction. “This report gives substance and data to their experiences.”
“The eye-opening findings should awaken authorities to the need to address …read more