Rise of antisemitism can affect college decision process


Abby Hyken

Picture taken at the University of Chicago while touring the campus.

Abby Hyken

In recent years, incidents of hatred towards Jewish Americans have risen dramatically. This hostility towards Jewish people, known as antisemitism, is not a new problem in the U.S. However, it is more prevalent now than ever before. As high school students, such as myself, start their college search, religious safety is now something that needs to be taken into account more than ever. 

An article published by Stop Jewish Campus Hatred lists the top 10 most antisemitic colleges: University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and University of California-Los Angeles, to name a few. The article lists multiple reasons for the high levels of antisemitism on these campuses, but cites the rise of campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine as one of the main causes. While groups like these do not always have bad intentions, they often end up promoting hatred towards Israel’s actions, and in turn results in hatred unfairly directed towards Jewish people. Often, students connect Zionism to Judaism but do not seem to understand that not all Jewish people support Israel’s actions. Clubs like Students for Justice in Palestine can cause an increase in antisemitism, leaving Jewish students feeling scared to practice and show their religion. 

This is the sad reality of a Jewish American teen, that I have to take into account the religious tolerance of a school before visiting or applying. Out of the 10 schools on the list, four of them are on my interest list. In fact, Boston University and University of Chicago are two of my dream schools. It is upsetting that I have an added stressor of my religious and personal safety during an already stressful time in my life. All teens, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, should not have to worry about their safety when applying to a college.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in partnership with Hillel International, found that in 2021, “one in three [Jewish college] students personally experienced antisemitic hate directed at them in the last academic year.” This goes to show just how pressing the issue of antisemitism is, especially on or around college campuses. In addition, the ADL found that, “Fifteen percent of Jewish college students reported that they felt the need to hide their Jewish identity from others on campus, and 12 percent said they had been blamed for the actions of the Israel government because they are Jewish.” The idea that Jewish students need to hide their religion at school is alarming and something that needs immediate addressing. College is supposed to be a safe place for all students, but oftentimes, it isn’t. 

The presence of a strong Jewish life on campus can help curb antisemitism at school. If students feel as though they have a community they can turn to for support, this will help prevent and mitigate antisemitism. When I toured University of Chicago and Northwestern University, I visited the Hillels on campus. I did this to ensure that the colleges I was interested in supported and promoted Judaism, and to make sure that I would feel secure practicing my religion on campus. Having a prominent Hillel on college campuses is a solution to the pressing problem of antisemitism because it provides Jewish students with a community and safe space on campus. 

In the future, as I visit college campuses, I will continue to make sure to look for resources available for Jewish students. Even in this current progressive day and age, I would not consider a college that did not have a strong Jewish community and culture.