(JTA) – Most Jewish undergraduates have encountered anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic attitudes on campus, but they have not diminished their feelings of connection to Israel, a new study about anti-Semitism at North American universities found.
According to the Brandeis University study released Tuesday, a few schools, among them Canadian universities and schools in the California state system, have “particularly high levels of hostility toward Jews or Israel.”
The online survey of over 3,000 North American college students who have applied for a Birthright Israel trip – but have not yet taken the 10-day journey – found that one-third of respondents reported having been verbally harassed during the past year because they were Jewish. Nearly three-quarters said they had been exposed to at least one of six anti-Semitic statements, including the claims that Jews have too much power and that Israelis behave “like Nazis” toward the Palestinians.
More than one-quarter of respondents described hostility toward Israel by their campus peers as a “fairly” or “very big” problem, while nearly 15 per cent reported the same level of hostility toward Jews.
The study, which was conducted in April by the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis, also found that nearly one-quarter of respondents reported “having been blamed during the past year for the actions of Israel because they were Jewish.”
Despite viewing their campuses as hostile to Israel, two-thirds of students said they felt connected to Israel, levels that “are higher than those found among similar individuals in 2014, before the Israel-Hamas conflict,” the study found. The feeling of connectedness did not mean the students followed Israeli news: Less than a quarter said they had followed news of the Israeli elections, and respondents “appear to have a low level of knowledge and/or few firm convictions about Israeli politics.”
The study comes five months after an online survey of 1,157 American Jewish students conducted by Trinity College professors reported that 54 per cent had witnessed or experienced an anti-Semitic incident on campus. That study was conducted a year earlier, in the spring of 2014.