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Antisemitism Rises Dramatically on U.S. College Campuses Amid Middle East Conflict


Since the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East on Oct. 7, 2023, American Jews have found themselves confronting a resurgence of antisemitism, particularly on college campuses. Reports from the National Education Association indicate a 700 percent increase in incidents compared to the same period last year. In a series of events, universities nationwide have become the focal points of antisemitic acts:

On Oct. 11, 2023, at Columbia University, a Jewish Israeli student suffered physical and verbal attacks, resulting in a broken finger as he attempted to defend himself against an assailant.

Similarly, on Oct.30, 2023, at Claremont Colleges - Pomona, a Jewish student, was physically assaulted while navigating through a Pro-Palestinian rally.

Later that same week, on Nov. 3, 2023, at George Mason University, while at a party, a Jewish student endured both verbal abuse and physical abuse as he had his Star of David necklace forcibly ripped from his neck while being called antisemitic slurs.

At the University of Maryland, on November 9, “Holocaust 2.0” was found chalked on side- walks across campus.

Even institutions, such as Yale University, have been the subject of controversy. On December 11, an individual, believed to be a student, defaced the on-campus Chabad Menorah at New Haven Green and placed a Palestinian flag atop it.

While testifying before a congressional hearing on December 5, Harvard University’s now-former president Claudine Gay controversially responded with “It depends on the context” when asked if calling for the genocide of Jews on campus violates university policy.

These incidents represent just a fraction of the over 800 reported cases of antisemitism that have occurred since the October 7 massacre in Israel.

In response to this surge, advocacy groups and university administrations are mobilizing efforts to address and combat antisemitism head-on. Schools which fail to do so are nowat risk of losing federal funding, according to the Biden administration.

“Educational institutions have a mandate of stopping hate, calls for genocide, intifada and other hateful ideologies no matter who the group is,” said Dr. Daniel Weiss, a local Jewish community leader and educator. “They also must teach civil discourse. It is okay to disagree, but it is not okay to inflict or call for harm on those who do disagree. As an educator and parent, I worry if college environments are safe for Jewish students.”

The Jewish Connection to University of Memphis

Hillels of Memphis, a program in partnership with the Memphis Jewish Federation, is a student- run religious organization on campus. From weekly meetups to High Holy Day celebrations, Hillel is the destination for all Jewish life on campus. The organization’s mission is to not only serve as a Jewish campus connection but to shinea light on the needs of Jewish college students. In Hillel’s mission statement, the organization stands strongly against antisemitism and hatred of all forms.

“It makes me feel like a lesser person. I have since started tucking in my Star of David chain out of fear of confrontation,” said Hillels of Memphis member Aaron Bardos about the outbreak of antisemitism on college campuses.

The University of Memphis’s history is woven with threads of the Jewish community. Countless visionaries, benefactors and distinguished alumni have hailed from this community and have left historic marks on nearly every aspect of university life. From the Fogelman College of Business to the Scheidt School of Music, the Harry Feinstone Chair of Excellence in Molecular Biology and the Moss Chair of Excellence, the Jewish community’s commitment to U of M is present.

When asked to comment on the wave of antisemitism on college campuses across America, University of Memphis President Bill Hardgrave’s office declined to makea public statement. His office stated that this issue is especially sensitive for university presi- dents who have been “put in an impossible posi- tion.” In the same email, Hardgrave’s team linked to the Claudine Gay story to justify his inability to make a comment.

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