This content is developed by The Focus Project in partnership with Mercaz USA. The Focus Project distributes weekly news and talking points on timely issues concerning Israel and the Jewish people, including antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of Israel. It represents a consensus view across a spectrum of major American Jewish organizations. Mercaz USA recognizes and respects the diversity of views on these issues among its readers and the community at large.
In deplorable denials heard around the world, three presidents of elite American universities stated that students and professors calling for the genocide of Jews do not necessarily violate university policies. Anti-Jewish hatred at universities and K-12 schools is reaching historic heights as new data reveals the hostile environment American Jews are facing. Every day brings more reported incidents of assault, harassment, vandalism and pro-Hamas rallies targeting Jews for simply being Jewish. The latest events highlight the importance of countering anti-Jewish hatred across the country to allow U.S. Jews to enjoy the same freedoms and security that every American deserves.
Universities: ‘Lack of Moral Clarity’
The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT showed how troubled American university environments have become. Examples of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attacks were already growing and increasingly normalized on many campuses before the 10/7 attacks. In the past two months, attacks have increased and intensified. The Pennsylvania governor condemned the Penn president for failing to “speak and act with moral clarity.” All three claimed antisemitism could be allowed on campus, depending upon the “context” of its expression.
Two Penn students sued their university for violating their civil rights protections and called Penn’s antisemitism an “institutional problem.” A professor gave students a quiz in a mandatory class on racism that ranked Judaism as the most privileged religion. “F–k the Jews,” “The Jews deserve everything that is happening to them” and “you are a dirty Jew, don’t look at us,” are among the intimidating anti-Jewish slurs targeting Jewish students. Students at Penn and many other colleges and universities are fearful because antisemitism has become the “new normal.”
Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from Harvard’s Antisemitism advisory committee, citing the same ‘institutional problem’ at Harvard: “The system at Harvard along with the ideology that grips far too many of the students and faculty, the ideology that works only along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors and therefore intrinsically evil, is itself evil. Ignoring Jewish suffering is evil.” More than 600 faculty members urged Harvard’s governing body to resist calls to oust its president.
The failure of university leaders to act decisively against anti-Jewish discrimination is having repercussions. More than a dozen major donors have closed their checkbooks in retaliation over the calls for violence against Jews on these campuses and leadership failure to condemn, let alone take action. A Penn donor withdrew a $100 million donation. Penn President Liz Magill, and Board Chair Scott Bok resigned in the wake of Magill’s Congressional testimony. Billionaire Harvard donor and graduate Bill Ackman has been leading the charge for reform at his alma mater. He called for President Claudine Gay’s resignation due, in part, to the “explosion of antisemitism and hate on campus that is unprecedented in Harvard’s history.” Harvard’s board unanimously backed Gay, who remains president.
Penn political science professor Anne Norton tweeted that “playing the victim is what Jews are best at” and denied the 10/7 Hamas atrocities. Stacey and Henry Jackson, who endowed Norton’s chair condemned her “endorsement of hatred and violence.” The Jacksons are talking with Penn about ending their association with the professor.
Local Schools: ‘Don’t Want a Jew-Free School District’
A new survey reveals the alarming decline in education among younger Americans. A shocking 20% of 18-to-29-year-olds think that the Holocaust was a myth. This age demographic also is far more likely to believe other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel statements. Even more young Americans believe that the Holocaust has been exaggerated, support the boycott of Israeli products and hold that Israel is an apartheid state. They are also less likely to believe that American Jews make a positive contribution to American society and that Israel has the right to exist. The trends in survey data suggest that animosity against Jews and Israel is likely even lower among children and teenagers.
A new survey from The Economist/YouGov shows an alarming one-in-five young Americans think the Holocaust was a myth compared to zero Americans aged-65 and older.
In California, the Oakland Education Association teachers union recently led an anti-Israel teach-in at local schools. Union leaders encouraged teachers across all grades to take the day to teach supposedly pro-Palestinian lesson plans. The curriculum failed to condemn Hamas. Organizers sponsored a speaker panel shown in some classrooms. One speaker described Israel’s war against Hamas falsely as a “project to exterminate Palestinians.” Other speakers encouraged students to become involved and to boycott companies supporting Israel. This new initiative builds on the troubling anti-Jewish ethnic studies curriculum being taught in several CA schools.
Oakland parent Megan Bacigalupi called the teach-in “an attempt to indoctrinate Oakland kids to hate the state of Israel and by association, Jewish students.” The superintendent warned educators to “take seriously their responsibility to adhere to principles of education, and to keep their personal beliefs out of the classroom.” Jewish families already are threatening to flee the school district. Jewish Community Relations Council CEO Tyler Gregory: “All of these developments are leading to an atmosphere of fear for the Jewish community. We don’t want a Jew-free Oakland Unified School District.”
The Oakland City Council is one of many city councils becoming battlefields in the Hamas war against Israel. Palestinian supporters are pushing resolutions condemning Israel in CA, including San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose. The San Jose mayor indicated that city policy prevents his city from taking foreign policy positions. The Oakland City Council took a balanced approach, passing a resolution calling for a ceasefire and condemning the Hamas atrocities. However, other councils like Richmond falsely accused Israel of ethnic cleansing. Many so-called Palestinian supporters denied the Hamas 10/7 atrocities at city meetings, despite the GoPro video footage filmed and released by Hamas. Police were forced to escort Jews to their cars following a city council meeting.
Surge in Attacks Against American Jews
ADL California condemned the “one-sided resolutions that sow fear in the Jewish community that encourage extremists to co-opt public comment period at local government meetings.” The ADL also released a report documenting an alarming 337% increase in anti-Jewish incidents since the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. There have been more than 2,000 documented instances of harassment, vandalism, assault and anti-Israel rallies with overt expressions of antisemitism. These are preliminary numbers of verified incidents; actual numbers are thought to be significantly higher. Nearly 40% of American ultra-Orthodox Jews are considering immigrating to Israel because of these attacks.
A new ADL report documents the alarming increase in antisemitism against American Jews since the 10/7 Hamas attacks
As Jews celebrated Shabbat and the 2nd night of Hanukkah, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protestors marched down a street in an LA neighborhood with a large Jewish community. Anti-Jewish chants were heard and graffiti sprayed on buildings – including synagogues. The next day, a man assaulted an elderly Jewish couple in Beverly Hills. The attacker called out the couple as Jews and struck his 75-year-old victim in the back of his head with a belt, drawing blood.
Other instances of recent anti-Jewish attacks include: a man yelling “Free Palestine” after firing shots towards a NY synagogue that houses a preschool; a man climbing up a 30-foot menorah in CT to desecrate it with a Palestinian flag; swatting threats against 25 schools and nine Jewish community centers in MN; and antisemitic comments against Jewish singer Pink after she posted a picture of her menorah with a Happy Hanukkah message on Instagram. In CA, three staff members at a café barred a Jewish woman from entering a bathroom to film anti-Israel graffiti and even defended the statements. The café apologized and fired its workers.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations co-founder and executive director praised the 10/7 Hamas atrocities as “self-defense.” The White House condemned the “shocking, antisemitic statements in the strongest terms.” CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorism case. The U.S. Justice Dept. announced it is investigating the more than 30 Americans that Hamas murdered or kidnapped on Oct. 7. Five years after a terrorist killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue, their relatives unveiled a design for a Pittsburgh synagogue attack memorial.
Jews Targeted Around the World
Unfortunately, threats to Jews also are increasing around the world, most notably in the UK. A woman was kicked unconscious in London as her attackers laughed; children were prevented from boarding a bus; a soccer fan was removed for holding up a banner of his friend kidnapped by Hamas; and British universities stripped titles from a retired professor who called for a Jewish conference to be “blown up.” Despite the threats they are facing, more British Jews are showing their Jewish identity: “We’re all wearing jewelry that says we’re Jewish, and proud.”
Austrian police arrested a 16-year-old for planning a terrorist attack on a Vienna synagogue. Fearing attacks, the small Egyptian Jewish community in Cairo cancelled its public Hanukkah celebration. Jewish educators around the world report that students and parents feel unsafe, betrayed and isolated. Jewish and Israeli TikTok employees are facing anti-Jewish harassment from colleagues. In Ottawa, Canada, about 20,000 supporters endured below-freezing temperatures for a pro-Israel rally; unfortunately, similar to America, drivers of 17 buses refused to transport Jews to the rally. Thousands of non-Jewish Germans marched together at a rally: “Never again is now – Germany stands up.”
Hanukkah: ‘Light Overcoming Darkness’
Jews are continuing to celebrate Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights. An American actor launched Project Menorah to support Jews fearful of displaying their menorahs publicly. His initiative invites non-Jews to download and print menorahs to put in their windows to show solidarity with the Jewish community. The families of Israeli hostages lit menorahs together in Tel Aviv. Jewish Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and VP Kamala Harris are displaying three menorahs that represent Jewish joy and trauma, and the Hallmark Channel released a new Hanukkah movie. American Jewish astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli is celebrating Hanukkah in space with a felt menorah and dreidel.
American Jewish astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli is celebrating Hanukkah in space with a felt menorah and dreidel.
1. Universities are becoming a threatening environment for Jews
The attacks against Jewish students on campus are not happening in a vacuum. Universities are mandated to provide a safe environment for all students to learn. Penn junior Elan Roth describes how “antisemitism on campus makes it really difficult to concentrate on school normally.” Instead, Jews have been subjected to harassment at universities across the country for many years. Assailants feel increasingly emboldened since the 10/7 atrocities and their attacks against Jewish students have increased in intensity. Professors also are part of the problem as they include anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiment in their lectures. The recent anti-Israel lessons at some CA K-12 schools shows that the indoctrination extends to younger children. Discrimination and bias have no place in a learning environment.
2. Educational leaders must demonstrate strong leadership and moral clarity
The recent Congressional testimony from the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT revealed the presence of clear double standards. Calls for genocide against Jews alone can be explained away rather than outright condemned. If the KKK marched through campuses calling for genocide of African Americans, it would be immediately condemned. The growing number of attacks against Jews warrant serious attention and public condemnation. The absence of strong ethical guidance diminishes public confidence and trust in universities. Parents are wondering if campuses are safe for their children as some students have been forced to hide in their dorm rooms and apartments. Strong and decisive actions must be taken immediately to reverse the downward spiral.
3. Critical thinking skills must be taught to students
Young Americans are increasingly being taught what to think rather than how to think. The alarming number of 18-to-29-year-olds that believe in anti-Jewish lies and conspiracy theories is a wake-up call for the U.S. educational system. Students are being fed a steady stream of lies and ignorance. Critical thinking skills are paramount for the future success of students. In an ever-changing world, the ability to analyze information, discern fact from fiction and form independent viewpoints is crucial. Investing in education empowers students to analyze problems and develop into the future leaders of America.
4. Reported anti-Jewish attacks are only a fraction of the actual threats against Jews
Since a vast number of antisemitic incidents go unreported out of fear, the surge of anti-Jewish attacks is likely far higher than the actual numbers reported, according to the ADL. This underreporting can distort the true extent of the challenges faced by Jews. This can lead to fewer resources allocated to securing the Jewish community, hindering effective responses. Anyone who is attacked or witnesses an incident must come forward and report it.
5. American Jews and Israelis want a ceasefire, but only when the Hamas threat is eliminated
“I don’t know how you can have a permanent ceasefire with Hamas who has said before Oct. 7 and after Oct. 7 that they want to destroy Israel and they want a permanent war. I don’t know how you have a permanent ceasefire with an attitude like that.” – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders
Israel’s mission is to secure the release of all hostages and destroy Hamas in Gaza – then there can be a ceasefire. American Jews and Israelis share the universal concern for peace in the region. American Jews often are connected to family and friends in Israel, sharing in the pain and suffering caused by the 10/7 attacks. Israelis understand the human toll from living through the daily impact of terrorism, and there is empathy for innocent Palestinian civilians. The answer to ending all the suffering is for the Hamas fighters to lay down their arms, surrender and return all of the hostages.
A. Report all anti-Jewish attacks
The true number of antisemitic incidents will only be known if they are reported. By sharing experiences, you contribute to raising awareness and promoting community safety. Reporting empowers authorities to investigate, take preventive measures and hold perpetrators accountable.
B. Join school district boards and city councils; attend meetings to make your voice heard
Active civic participation helps encourage changes in your local community. By becoming a board or council member, you gain a direct channel to influence local policies, advocate for educational improvements and shape community development. Attending meetings also is crucial – your voice can add a valuable perspective that is not currently being heard. Check out the ADL Toolkit for Responding to Extremist Disruptions at Public Meetings for recommended actions.
C. Show solidarity with Jews by displaying a menorah in your window
American actor Adam Kulbersh launched Project Menorah to support Jews fearful of displaying their menorahs publicly. His initiative invites non-Jews to download and print menorahs to put in their windows.
FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT: The Woman in the Hamas Video Is My Daughter
Written by Ayelet Levy Shachar, the mother of Na’ama, who is being held hostage by Hamas. Ayelet is a primary care physician for families and for the Israeli women’s soccer team. She is a mother of four and lives in Ra’anana.
There are 17 young females still being held hostage. One of them is my girl, Naama. And time is running out.
You have seen the video of my daughter Naama Levy. Everyone has. You have seen her dragged by her long brown hair from the back of a Jeep at gunpoint, somewhere in Gaza, her gray sweatpants covered in blood. You may have perhaps noticed that her ankles are cut, that she’s barefoot and limping. She is seriously injured. She is frightened. And I, her mother, am helpless in these moments of horror.
On Oct. 7, Naama had been sleeping at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and was awakened by the chaotic sound of a missile barrage. At 7 a.m., she sent me a WhatsApp message: “We’re in the safe room. I’ve never heard anything like this.” That was the last I heard from her.
The next day, I saw the video, but the woman in the footage was so bloodied and disheveled it was hard to tell if it really was her. Naama’s father called and confirmed the terrible news.
Before that day, every video our family had taken of Naama was joyful—dancing with friends, laughing with her three siblings, and simply enjoying life. Naama is only 19, but she’ll always be my baby girl. A girl who truly believes in the good of all people. She enjoys athletics and dreams of a career in diplomacy, and her greatest passion is helping those in need. As a girl, she was a member of the “Hands of Peace” delegation, which brings together American, Israeli, and Palestinian youths to promote global social change.
But now, one video, totally unrepresentative of the life she had led until Oct. 7, is how the world knows her.
It has been deeply disturbing to see the United Nations and feminist organizations refuse to acknowledge that Hamas raped and committed appalling sexual crimes against women, simply because the victims are Jewish. It took two months for some to finally admit the scale and the brutality of the horror. Meanwhile, Israeli experts are gathering the evidence. Shari, a volunteer worker at the Shura military morgue, told The Washington Post about what she documented: “We saw many women with bloody underwear, with broken bones, broken legs, broken pelvises.”
The same monsters who committed those crimes are holding my daughter hostage.
There are seventeen young women still in captivity. They range in age from 18 to 26. I think of what they, and my Naama, could be subjected to at every moment of the day. Each minute is an eternity in hell.
On Monday, State Dept. spokesman Matthew Miller said that one of the reasons Hamas doesn’t want to release the young female hostages “is they don’t want these women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody.”
Everyone knows exactly what he means.
What would you do if your daughter were being held hostage by violent rapists and murderers for two months? Perhaps the better question is: What wouldn’t you do?
Over the last week and a half, dozens of hostages were released. The stories they’ve told about captivity are chilling. Emily Hand, a girl of only nine years, told her father she thought she had been held underground by Hamas for a year. Daniel Aloni was held along with her young daughter Emilia and was forced to participate in a hostage video in which she begged for their release. In it, she famously shrieked the word now, in Hebrew, achshav. The way Daniel uttered that last word, now, that primal scream, is what lies in the hearts of every hostage, and every hostage family. It is the sound that rings in the depths of my soul every moment of every day.
In addition to being Naama Levy’s mother, I’m also a primary care doctor and the team physician for Israel’s women’s soccer team. I work with young women, and I understand the medical risks of spending every day in darkness, without enough nutrition or medical care or even basic hygiene. As a mother, I simply worry: Did my daughter’s captors give her a clean change of clothes, or is she still sitting in the same bloody sweatpants she was abducted in?
There’s a reason why women and children were prioritized first for release: younger women are at greater risk for further trauma. Just as women and girls are more vulnerable to more forms of violence, they are also more vulnerable to suffering from infections and pregnancy from sexual violence.
The longer Naama is held in captivity, the more violence she is subjected to, the more likely she will suffer the consequences of lifelong post-traumatic stress. When she is released, I pray that the image of her abduction, and the experience of what that image represents, isn’t how she comes to see the world.
Meanwhile, time is passing through an hourglass, and the sands are not infinite.
The seventeen female hostages are not bargaining chips to be debated by diplomats. They are daughters, and one of them is mine. My primal scream should be the scream of mothers everywhere. Bring her home now!
Red Cross: ‘Uber service for hostages’
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has not been allowed access to the hostages by Hamas, in violation of international convention. So far, the extent of IRC involvement is in transferring hostages from Hamas in Gaza across the border into Egypt and then on into Israel. This led the mother of a hostage to criticize the Red Cross as an “Uber service for the released hostages.” Recently, the Red Cross reprimanded the families of hostages to “think about the Palestinians.”
There are other concerns over the inability and inactions of the IRC to do more. More than 21 elderly Israelis over the age of 70 were abducted by Hamas terrorists, including 84-year-old grandmother, Elma Avraham. Elma was released and rushed by helicopter to an Israeli hospital in critical condition. Her daughter blasted the Red Cross: “She was abandoned by all the organizations that should have saved her and prevented her condition.” Elma’s children brought her medications to the Red Cross in the hopes that the international humanitarian group would help facilitate their transfer to her mother. The aid group responded: “No, we can’t.”
News on Hostage Conditions