Preparing Our High School Students (and Ourselves) for College

By Myra Clark-Siegel, Regional Director, AJC Westchester/Fairfield

Headlines about the situation facing many Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses over the past few months highlight the reality that college students continue to be deeply affected by antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred on campus: 

“White House Slams ‘Grotesque’ Displays of Antisemitism on College Campuses” (Times of Israel) 

“New Study Highlights Campus Antisemitism ‘Hot Spots’” (Inside Higher Ed) 

“Some Jewish Parents Rethink Elite Schools Amid Antisemitism Concerns on Campus” (CNN)

As White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates noted in an interview, “Amidst the rise in poisonous, antisemitic rhetoric and hate crimes that President Biden has fought against for years, there is an extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitism messages being conveyed on college campuses.” 

AJC’s (American Jewish Committee) State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report found exactly that: 4 in 10 current or recent college students were affected by antisemitism during their time on campus. 

Respondents indicated that students experienced or avoided at least one of four behaviors queried: 

• Nearly 1 in 4 Jewish students reported feeling unsafe or uncomfortable at a campus event because they are Jewish. 

• Students are changing their behavior as a result of these fears: 1 in 4 college students avoided wearing, carrying, or displaying things that would identify them as Jewish. 

• More than one in four college students avoided expressing their views on Israel on campus or with classmates. 

• Fully 25% of students reported being told they could not miss class for Jewish holidays; and 

• One in five of current and recent college students reported feeling or being excluded from a group or event because they are Jewish (some more than once) – up from 12% in 2022 – and nearly one in five felt or were excluded from a group or campus event because of their assumed or actual connection to Israel. 

The bottom line: campus fears for Jewish, pro-Israel students are more intense and more widespread than previously reported. 

Indeed, parents of high school students are on WhatsApp and Facebook groups asking about where Jewish students feel safe, and in some cases, students are changing their college campus application lists. 

This, in 2024, across the United States of America. 

Campus administrators must do better for their Jewish students to ensure they feel safe on campuses and students need to be prepared to be upstanders for Israel and the Jewish people. 

Parents of high school students and students themselves must be prepared and engaged before they arrive on campus. 

AJC has tools and resources for parents, students, and college administrators to help Jewish students feel safe and welcome on college campuses, available at AJC.org: 

For Campus Administrators: Confronting Campus Antisemitism: An Action Plan for University Administrators (available at AJC.org) 

For High School Parents: Ensure you and your student reach out now to campus administrators and ask what plans they have in place and how they are actively implementing them to ensure campuses are safe for Jewish students. Share AJC’s Action Plan for University Administrators (noted above). 

For College Students: Confronting Campus Antisemitism: An Action Plan for University Students 

For High School Students: Calling all 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade students for the 2024-2025 academic year: AJC’s award-winning LFT (Leaders for Tomorrow) program application is now LIVE. Taking place once a month on Sunday afternoons during the school year, this interactive program prepares high school students to be strong Jewish, pro-Israel advocates. Contact us at westchester@ajc.org for more information.

Together, we can be informed, prepared parents and students and we can urge college administrators to do more – and do better – to ensure that Jewish students feel safe and can thrive on campus. 

Myra Clark-Siegel is AJC Westchester/Fairfield regional director. To get involved or request an AJC speaker: AJC@westchester.org.