Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 20 May 2024


Opinion | What It’s Like Being Jewish at Harvard


(3 min)

Students protesting against the war in Gaza at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., April 25. Photo: Ben Curtis/Associated Press

Antisemitism has emerged on America’s college campuses recently in a way that might seem sudden, but it has been growing for years. The Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance last week published a report that compiles testimony, much of it anonymous, from 50 current and former Jewish students and faculty. Here are a few of the disturbing things they said:

• “Harvard signals that Jews are only acceptable so long as they don’t fully embrace Judaism.” The only way to cope is “not to dress ‘too Jewish,’ request the university accommodate Jewish holidays, speak Hebrew, or, God forbid, actually support Israel’s right to exist.”

• “It’s so much harder for the students who are visibly Jewish. I have a friend who wears a kippah who was physically cornered by a group of students demanding he denounce the so-called genocide.”

• “Because of my Jewish and Zionist identity, people think I am a monster. I have heard people say, ‘Zionists should be slain.’ I have heard people say, ‘You can’t possibly believe an Israeli, they are all settlers.’”

• “It’s pretty scary to walk around campus,” and pretty much all the Orthodox guys “have started wearing baseball caps.”

The report says bullying of Jewish students took place well before Oct. 7, when Hamas massacred Israelis civilians and precipitated the current war in Gaza. But since then, the problem has become “louder, prouder, and more visible.” While fellow students have been responsible for much of the problem, the Jewish alumni also document how it’s fueled by the Harvard professoriate and the school itself.

This year 112 Harvard faculty and staff called for a boycott of Israel and all companies that “sustain Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and systematic human rights abuses.” A visiting professor in 2022-23 offered a course called “Jihad, War and Peace in Islamic Law and Practice.” Required reading, according to the alumni report, included such insight as: “The suicide bomber belongs in an important sense to a liberal tradition of armed conflict.”

Harvard’s School of Public Health has a partnership with Birzeit University in the West Bank, which the report says “prohibits Israeli Jews from campus” and “hosts military parades for Hamas.” While students were reluctant to speak on the record, the authors say that faculty were even more so, because they worried it “could get them fired or undermine a promotion.”

The report also reminds readers that after Hamas’s brutality on Oct. 7, the protests at Harvard began long before Israel launched a single response in Gaza. On Oct. 8 more than 30 student groups signed a statement saying that they held “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” The ink was dry before Israel had buried its dead and counted the hostages.

Progressives claim to draw a line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, but the two are impossible to disentangle in these student encampments, amid the chants about freeing Palestine “from the river to the sea.” As one student put it: “Zionist is a code word for Jew.” Harassment is the same no matter the language.

Journal Editorial Report: The week's best and worst from Kyle Peterson, Mary O’Grady, Bill McGurn and Kim Strassel. Image: Michael Reynolds/Bloomberg News


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Appeared in the May 20, 2024, print edition as 'What It’s Like Being Jewish at Harvard'.

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