n-antisemitism

Nearly one-third of Jewish college students in the United States have experienced antisemitism on college campuses in the last year, according to a recent study conducted by Hillel International and the Anti-Defamation League. 

The study also notes that 15% of Jewish college students felt the need to hide their Jewish identity and 6% of Jewish students have said they feel unwelcome on their campus. 

Julia Raffel, the president of UNL Hillel, which is the Jewish Student Association at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said she is all too familiar with experiencing antisemitism.

Raffel said she is very proud of her Jewish beliefs and was setting up Jewish decorations around her room in March 2020 and was quickly judged for it by her roommate. She said the roommate, another UNL student, then found her social media account, which displayed the flag of Israel, and confronted her, saying they could never be friends. 

“It was really sad,” Raffel said. “It was depressing.”

Raffel said she is aware of other students in Hillel that have also experienced antisemitism, and each has had a different experience.

Ari Kohen, a professor of political science and the director of the Norman and Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies, said he hasn’t seen much antisemitism on campus but said it’s common for Jewish students to be overlooked because of how small of a minority they are on campus. 

He said it’s common for professors to unknowingly schedule assignments or exams on Jewish holidays, which puts students of Jewish beliefs in difficult situations. 

“I don't think that any of that is driven by anti-Jewish sentiment,” he said. “I think that, you know, it's experienced as a difficulty or a hardship for the students, but it's not intended that way by the faculty.”

Kohen said he has students come to him unaware that they could request an extension to make up the exam or assignment at a different time.

There are also some other times that Jewish students may be at a disadvantage. One example Kohen referenced is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. For this celebration, it is customary to build a temporary outdoor dwelling space where meals are eaten and guests are invited, he said. 

Because of university policies and rules, it is difficult for something like this to be built on campus.

“That's not a problem that is a result of anti-Jewish sentiment, but it's just a challenge that, as a minority group, you know the students are facing,” he said. 

Kohen also acknowledged that the campus has had students that are antisemites or white nationalists but feels the university has reacted really well to those instances. Lincoln has had off-campus instances of antisemitism as well, including the vandalism of a synagogue.  

Raffel said she knows experiencing antisemitism can be a scary thing, and it takes time to process it, but she encourages students who have experienced antisemitism on campus to find resources to help them, which includes Hillel. 

“It can be a really scary moment in that time frame, in that minute, in that hour,” she said. “Hillel is a safe environment.”

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