Opinion | The 2021 Jewish on Campus Annual Report is out—here’s what we must learn in order to tackle antisemitism - World Jewish Congress

Opinion | The 2021 Jewish on Campus Annual Report is out—here’s what we must learn in order to tackle antisemitism

Jacob Blum
Jacob Blum
Data Scientist, Jewish on Campus
Opinion | The 2021 Jewish on Campus Annual Report is out—here’s what we must learn in order to tackle antisemitism

After months of work, Jewish on Campus (JOC) has released its first Annual Data Report. This publication is a landmark in data-informed insights on antisemitism on college campuses. An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to the World Jewish Congress and Ambassador Lauder—none of this would have been possible without their continual support.

As we know, information about the specific nature of the antisemitic incident is invaluable in determining widespread trends in antisemitism and the steps needed to combat this unique form of bigotry. With that in mind, JOC’s first annual data report divided antisemitic incidents into categories such as the ideology motivating it, type of incident (physical assault, destruction of Jewish property, etc.), and medium of incident (online—including social media—and in-person). As antisemitism continues to rise, it is exceedingly important to form coalitions to combat antisemitism and other types of bigotry.

While gender is an all-important factor in affecting how antisemitism is experienced, we found it to be most significant with regard to the medium in which an incident occurred. Women were 13.1% more likely to experience antisemitism in person, and men were 17.6% more likely to experience it online. These statistics are troubling on two fronts: the former demonstrates that the fight against antisemitism must always be coupled with the fight against misogyny—the two are inherently intertwined. The latter shows that although in-person incidents accounted for a majority of submissions, online antisemitism is still pervasive. To remedy the situation, we need to discuss with our allies the intersection of misogyny and antisemitism (as well as antisemitism and prejudice in general)—and continually act against misinformation and antisemitic online behavior.

It is also important to note that individuals with more outwardly Jewish accouterments tend to face more antisemitism than their peers. This is extremely important, as although much of the antisemitism seen on college campuses revolves around anti-Israel rhetoric, traditional Jew-hatred—for lack of a better term—has not dwindled. Our study showed that Conservative and Orthodox Jewish university students in the U.S. experience antisemitism at a higher rate than their Reform or non-denominational counterparts, likely due to religious attire such as kippot. This means that education on traditional Jewish attire is necessary, and that the hatred of Jews is alive and well on college campuses.

Furthermore, we must be measured and calculated in responding to antisemitic incidents based on their motivating ideology and incident type. Physical assault is the incident variety we decided to examine most closely, as it is widely considered to be the most severe. Among the four types of ideology most espoused by perpetrators of antisemitic incidents, (demonization of Israel, historical antisemitism, condoning terrorism, and denying self-determination), demonization of Israel was the most likely to lead to a physical assault, despite widespread claims that those who demonize Israel on campus are simply exercising their right to be anti-Israel activists. This is interesting, as although physical assault has historically been thought of as linked more to outward hatred of Jews, on college campuses it is most often associated with more stereotypically covert versions of antisemitism. This could signal that many individuals who demonize Israel are becoming bolder in turning that antipathy toward local Jews. Education surrounding what constitutes antisemitic criticism of Israel seems to be the optimal course of action here—if individuals understand the point at which anti-Israel rhetoric crosses the line of acceptable criticism and becomes antisemitic, incidents can be prevented before they even happen. To do this, we can’t simply lecture from the classroom; we must build meaningful relationships and have difficult conversations.

It is clear that far more work remains to be done on college campuses. Both historical and modern forms of antisemitism are prevalent and will continue to be without the necessary advocacy. Jews need to have discussions regarding experiences with antisemitism and formulate plans toward improved education and the global struggle against antisemitism. With this data being made widely available, there is an unprecedented opportunity to make data-informed change on college campuses everywhere—and to continue making college campuses a safe space for Jews.

In October 2021, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Jewish on Campus (JOC) announced a joint partnership to amplify the voices and strengthen the actions of college students who identify antisemitic occurrences at their schools. The two organizations will provide support to Jewish student communities internationally, which expands the Jewish on Campus network as well as WJC’s relationships with Jewish student communities.