Pro-Palestinian and even pro-Hamas marches on university campuses and new reports of students harassing Jewish students at K-12 schools across the country are increasing at an alarming rate. The ADL has registered hundreds of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attacks in public and private schools and on university campuses since Hamas initiated its war against Israel. There were many incidents before the 10/7 Hamas massacre, but that horrific event has since triggered a record-breaking surge in attacks against Jews. Some teachers are even disseminating pro-Hamas talking points in their classrooms and university students and professors are openly praising Hamas.
Planting Seeds of Hate at a Young Age
Many students arrive at universities harboring anti-Jewish and anti-Israel animosity. They are increasingly influenced by their K-12 teachers at school and friends on social media. Anti-Jewish tropes and blood libels are showing up in classrooms across the country as teachers repeat anti-Israel propaganda to impressionable students as young as five.
At least 30 Jewish families have requested and received a transfer out of the Oakland, CA, school district, with many citing anti-Israel sentiments being a primary reason for feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. Concerned parent Simon Ferber pulled his six-year-old son out of an Oakland school: “Our concern is about the one-sided viewpoints against Israel being pushed into the classrooms, and teachers crossing the line when they go beyond teaching the facts.”
Some Jewish families have publicly expressed anger and fear at the lack of safety and support in the Oakland school district and the strong solidarity with Palestinians among many teachers, even if they don’t understand Middle East history and the dynamics of the region. Outrage surged after a local Oakland teacher’s union declaration falsely accused the Jewish state of genocide and apartheid. The union urged educators to promote and teach a pro-Palestinian curriculum in their classrooms. The declaration called for a cease-fire in Gaza without condemning the Hamas assault against Israel.
In January, a high school basketball game in Yonkers, NY, was canceled after violent antisemitic slurs were hurled at players from a competing team. Swastika graffiti was found outside of a Maryland middle school, “Heil Hitler” was drawn on a school’s bathroom walls in Queens, NY, and “Kill all the Jews” was screamed at an LA public school.
Karen Feldman taught middle school in NY for 25 years and specializes in Holocaust education: “These hateful displays have led to a poisoning of our education system that is beyond repair,” she told The Free Press, founded by former NY Times journalist Bari Weiss. “How do you really promote diversity, equity, and inclusion when you have the leaders of equity trained on propaganda that promotes antisemitism and ultimately, they bring it into the classrooms?”
A Connecticut father described the anti-Jewish taunts that targeted his 11-year-old son: “Hey, I have a fun camp for you. It has great showers. Camp Auschwitz. Another Jewish classmate has already joined.” Months later, the same student, laughed and yelled: “We must exterminate the Jews!” The school took no action, but told the Jewish student to sit at a different lunch table.
A poster displayed by pre-K teacher in her classroom in Dec. 2023. One of the noses depicts the stereotypical ‘Jewish nose.’
In December, a NY public school teacher hung a poster of four different noses and asked her preschoolers why people have different noses, alluding to the ethnic trope that “Jews have big noses.” She was not disciplined by the NYC Board of Education for the offensive poster, but rewarded for being a “liberation-inspired educator.” This same educator published her philosophy for educating students on her Instagram page: “Our work of decolonizing education begins in preschool. It is very much already a political practice.”
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in federally assisted programs and activities. Recent cases have been brought against universities; now the focus is on K-12 schools. U.S. senators are demanding the U.S. Dept. of Education uphold its obligations under Title VI to ensure Jewish and Israeli students in K-12 schools are not subjected to harassment, discrimination and abuse. While the government settled one case involving a Jewish student in Delaware, many similar cases since 10/7 still need to be addressed.
Pro-Hamas Support Spreads at Universities
On the eve of International Holocaust Day, the Columbia Univ. Law School student senate outright rejected a request to form the student group Law Students Against Antisemitism. Marie-Alice Legrand, a non-Jewish African American student supporting the group, stated: “I was heartbroken. I was blacklisted by the Black community, so to speak. I have a different set of friends now, but I don’t want to live in a world where Jewish people are afraid. I am affected by antisemitism, we all are – because hate spreads.”
A billboard truck propagating an anti-Jewish blood libel was parked outside of Columbia University in NY.
Anti-Israel protesters threatened Stanford students attending a forum for combating antisemitism with threats like “We’re going to find out where you live,” “Zionist, Zionist, you can’t hide,” “Go back to Brooklyn” and “Our next generation will ensure Israel falls, and America too, the other terrorists.”
In Nov. 2023, seven universities faced a probe by the U.S. Education Dept. Northwestern Univ. is facing a new federal antisemitism investigation — and criticism of its new antisemitism task force. Middle school and high school principals from all NY state schools will receive training about antisemitism after the system faced criticism for doing too little to address the antisemitism rise after the Hamas war against Israel began.
In a recent national survey, 73% of Jewish university students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the start of the current school year. The top civil rights official at the Dept. of Education is “astounded” by the antisemitic incidents she has seen since 10/7.
The ADL recently announced that it will release an annual report card evaluating the climate of antisemitism on campuses beginning in the spring semester.
1. Jewish parents and students are not helpless or hopeless
While hatred, bullying, harassment and violent actions towards Jews of all ages continue to spread in K-12 schools and on university campuses, Jewish students and parents can find help and fight back. From organizations and community programs to strong supporters on social media and active student groups, there are a host of resources available to learn about student rights, how and when to speak up, how to take appropriate action and how to feel safe. Speaking up and taking appropriate action prevents a victim mentality from setting in, which keeps those targeted in a state of paralysis and helplessness.
2. Jewish professors, students and staff – like their peers – must feel safe within their schools
Ensuring that all Jews on campus are protected not only upholds the principles of equality and non-discrimination but also fosters an inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive. Equality shouldn’t require the enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act – but this is increasingly the case for Jews. It is the responsibility of university administrators, deans, professors and students to address all forms of anti-Jewish discrimination, promote tolerance and cultivate an atmosphere that respects the rights and dignity of all students – including Jews.
3. Anti-Zionism = Antisemitism
“When Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable.” – The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism was adopted by dozens of countries, universities and institutions, and by all U.S. executive departments and agencies that enforce Title VI civil rights protections. The definition explains what constitutes antisemitism and why. It includes examples of delegitimization, demonization and double standards against Israel that move into antisemitism and makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” It is common for opponents of Zionism to say that they are merely criticizing Israeli policies and “Zionists” when in fact, they are opposed to the existence of the Jewish state in any form.
A. Connect with organizations that support Jewish students
Many Jewish organizations provide support, education, resources and reporting tools to help Jewish students feel safe and empowered on their campuses.
B. Actions for Parents
C. Actions for Students
D. Say the right thing. Do the right thing.
Speaking out and taking appropriate actions work hand-in-hand. Please use these facts and talking points in your everyday conversations to increase support for Jews and Israelis, counter the deniers and raise awareness and support for Israel, and the innocent hostages Hamas is still imprisoning. Use your voice, your talents, your skills, your connections and your creativity to make your statement in support for the Jewish people.
All rabbis passionate about Israel and the fight against antisemitism are invited to attend the upcoming Rabbis United Conference in Beverly Hills on February 25-26 in Los Angeles. Find out more: https://rabbisunited.com/
Released hostage Dafna Elyakim, 15, recently recounted her 51 days in captivity. Dafna was held hostage with her 8-year-old sister Ela. They were abducted from their father’s home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz – two of 253 hostages forcibly abducted by Hamas. Her dad, his partner and her 17-year-old son were killed in the Hamas onslaught. Dafna and Ela’s dad was shot in front of them.
The two girls were kept in homes of Palestinian families. They were eventually taken to the tunnels and held there for two weeks in a tiny room with a very low ceiling that didn’t allow them to stand up. The Hamas terrorists told her that the hostages would only return in coffins. They met five other female hostages who haven’t yet returned – Liri Albag, Naama Levy, Romy Gonen, Agam Berger and Emily Damari.
It’s scary when I know that whatever we do, they can kill us. Ela didn’t really understand what was going on. She was afraid when at some point she saw a gun in the house, she started panicking, she thought they were planning to kill us.
I was afraid to go to sleep, I didn’t know what would happen in the morning, if I would wake up. I told myself all the time that there’s a chance that I’m going to sleep and won’t wake up, or that I’ll wake up but Ela won’t or the other way around. I also worried that Hamas would destroy Israel and take over.
I think about the female hostages we met in the tunnels all the time. When we were there it was really hard, so what’s happening now?
When I returned to Israel, I thought it wasn’t real, that maybe we were still in Gaza. That suddenly a Hamas member would emerge and take me, that we would be taken again.
Hamas Demands Release of Vicious Terrorists and Continued Rule of Gaza
Israel’s two goals are the return of all the hostages and the destruction of the Iran-backed Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. Interviews with the returned Israeli hostages continue to detail the grotesque nature of their captivity. News reports are swirling about a potential exchange of more hostages in return for Israel releasing Palestinian terrorists and agreeing to a ceasefire.
Families of the hostages held in Gaza recently rallied under the banner: “120 days underground with no air, the hostages are in mortal danger.” Interviews with released hostages detail the dire conditions faced by young girls held by Hamas. The Israeli Health Ministry distributed new protocols for released hostages, including training to treat sexual abuse and torture.
Details of a potential deal focus on the hostages and ceasefire terms. Qatar – a country known for its hostility to Israel – is facilitating talks between Hamas and Israel, with the help of the U.S., France and other nations. The Palestinian Authority president declared that the PA would return to run Gaza but 60% of West Bank Palestinians want Hamas to continue to rule Gaza.
Hamas is insisting that Israel release the most notorious convicted terrorists, end the war and that IDF troops withdraw from Gaza. Israel is reportedly against releasing terrorists with ‘blood on their hands’ and wants a weeks-long pause, before resuming its mission to destroy Hamas – otherwise, Israelis fear another, much worse 10/7 attack will happen in the future.
The Hamas wish list of imprisoned and convicted terrorist masterminds:
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Israeli fencer Yuval Freilich at the Qatar Grand Prix, January 31, 2024 (International Fencing Federation on X)
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.