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Facing Racism

Facing Racism

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Published by: JewishResearch on Jun 01, 2012
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06/01/2012

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J
ewish students today face many challenges onAmerican college campuses. On top of the dif‐ficulties common to all students, Jewish stu‐dents are thrust into the middle of an emotionallycharged and often vitriolic “Israel debate” thatdemonizes Israel and its supporters. Over 40% of Jewish students report anti‐Semitism on theircampus and nearly one‐third assert that anti‐Israel protests target Jews.
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Jewish students bearthe brunt of sweeping charges of genocide,apartheid, colonization and racism leveled againstthe Jewish state.Whether they are active supporters of Israel ornot, Jewish students internalize a great deal of the vilification aimed at Israel. Perhaps none of the accusations against Israel, and by extensionJews, is as hurtful and frustrating as the charge of racism. Accusations of racism have become a sta‐ple of anti‐Israel protest on campus and, forJewish students, these charges can negativelyimpact their college experience and raise impor‐tant questions about their Jewish identity.Examples are wide‐ranging, and validated by fac‐ulty who frame Israel and Zionism as “a diseasedideology of ethnocentric nationalism and racismthat we are familiar with from South Africanapartheid and European fascism,” as stated byYale University professor Mazin Qumsiyeh
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or that“Zionism is a racist movement...Israel is a raciststate,” as stated by Columbia University professorJoseph Massad.
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The irony of the racism accusation is that youngJews are firmly committed to the global world inwhich they live. They embrace a world with per‐meable boundaries and multiple identities thatcelebrate and validate diversity, as do most youngAmericans.
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It should come as no surprise thatJewish students are committed to an expansiveand inclusive vision of the world. Many are raisedin homes that reflect the changing demographicsof the 21st century.
FACING THE CHARGEOF RACISM:NEW RESEARCH ON JEWISH STUDENT IDENTITY
A RYEH WEINBERGINSTITUTE FOR JEWISH & COMMUNITY RESEARCH
© 2012 All rights reserved. Instutute for Jewish & Community Research.
1. Aryeh Weinberg, “Alone on the Quad: Understanding Jewish Student Isolation on Campus,” IJCR2. Mazin Qumsiyah, letter to the editor, Commentary, March 2005.3. Joseph Massad, “Post‐Oslo Solidarity,” Al‐Ahram Weekly Online, February 26, 2003.4. Pew reports that Millennials are more racially diverse than previous generations. http://pewresearch.org
INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH & COMMUNITY RESEARCH • WWW.JEWISHRESEARCH.ORG
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Twenty percent of all Jewish students were raisedin families that include at least one member whois Sephardic or Mizrahi. Forty percent grew up infamilies with at least one family‐member who isBlack, Asian, Hispanic or other non‐Caucasian.Combined, nearly half (45%) of Jewish collegestudents arrived on campus having been raised ina family with some level of diversity.If this is surprising, it should not be. Historically,Jews are one of the most diverse and global peo‐ple in the world. Estimates of the percent of American Jews who are ethnically and raciallydiverse range as high as 20% of the total UnitedStates Jewish population
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and, abroad, Jewishcommunities from the Middle East, India, Africa,Asia and Latin America belie the notion of Jewsas solely a European people. Unfortunately, thisaspect of Jewish identity receives less attentionthan it should, not only outside the Jewish com‐munity, but also within.As a result, Jewish students find themselves leftin the lurch. The most effective defense againstcharges of racism is to embrace and celebratethe full spectrum of Jewish identity. Moreover,this is exactly what young Jews want from theJewish community. They want to reconcile theirglobal identity with a Jewish community that theyoften see as insular.Nearly half (46%) of Jewish students respondedthat Judaism would be more appealing to them if it was more ethnically and racially inclusive. Anadditional 20% were unsure. Only one third of Jewish students feel satisfied with the level of inclusiveness in the Jewish community.
INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH & COMMUNITY RESEARCH • WWW.JEWISHRESEARCH.ORG
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5. http://bechollashon.org/population/counting_color/counting_color.php

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