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Confronting Antisemitism on Campus

by Virginia Stead (Volume editor)
©2023 Textbook XXVIII, 502 Pages

Summary

Confronting Antisemitism on Campus allows higher education professionals to dive in and consider how their roles on campus impact Jewish students, faculty, and staff. Through personal anecdotes, case studies, scholarly research, and historical references, this seminal work provides contextual understanding for the experiences of Jewish and non-Jewish professionals on campuses. Divided into five segments, each section of the book provides an in-depth understanding for a variety of issues transpiring on campus related to Jewish community members.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part One: Campus Legacies of European Antisemitism, Zionism, and the Holocaust
  • Chapter One: Antisemitism: The Perennial Conspiracy Theory
  • Chapter Two: Defining the Fight Against Antisemitism on Campus
  • Chapter Three: Confronting Wrongful Allegations of Antisemitism on Campus
  • Chapter Four: 2,4,6,8! This Is No Place for Hate: Confronting Antisemitism on College Campuses
  • Chapter Five: “‘Twas Best of Times, ‘Twas the Worst of Times”: Antisemitism, Israel, and the Politics of Resentment
  • Part Two: How Culture and Community Shape Antisemitism on Campus
  • Chapter Six: Combating Antisemitism through Higher Education in the Age of Fake News
  • Chapter Seven: Confronting White Supremacist Antisemitism: U.S. College Campuses
  • Chapter Eight: Disrupting Christianity: Confronting Antisemitism in Urban Faith-Based Universities
  • Chapter Nine: When Privilege Silences Oppression and Oppression Upholds Privilege: Grappling with Antisemitism in the Preparation of Teachers
  • Chapter Ten: The Strange Fruits of Whiteness: Queering Kissing Cousins, Antisemitism & Anti-Blackness
  • Chapter Eleven: Not on My Campus: Place-Based Exceptionalism to Antisemitism and Rightest Movements
  • Chapter Twelve: Combating Campus Antisemitism through Jewish-Heritage Fraternities & Sororities
  • Part Three: International Approaches to Stemming Antisemitism on Campus
  • Chapter Thirteen: Postmodernism and the Negligence of Facts: An Example from Teacher Education in Sweden
  • Chapter Fourteen: Countering Antisemitism at the University of Sydney, Australia
  • Chapter Fifteen: A Visual Relational Autoethnographic Study in Times of Grief: Exploring the Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma Theory as a Millennial Canadian Jewish Woman
  • Chapter Sixteen: Going Beyond Campus to Strengthen the Campus: Confronting Hate, Extremism, and Antisemitism through Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding Education
  • Part Four: Critical Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Struggle Against Campus Antisemitism
  • Chapter Seventeen: Judeophobic Tropes in Political Thought & Discourses
  • Chapter Eighteen: Nurturing Youth Activism through Critical Literacy
  • Chapter Nineteen: “We can’t ever let this happen again”: Addressing Antisemitism through Arts-Based Inquiry
  • Chapter Twenty: The Voice Project: Gaining Intercultural Understanding through Exploring Other Perspectives
  • Chapter Twenty-One: Instructional Strategies that Reduce Religious Bigotry and Improve Cultural Diversity
  • Chapter Twenty-Two: Arts Integration as a Means of Confronting Antisemitism in Educational Settings
  • Chapter Twenty-Three: Countering Anti-Semitic Activity in Montana
  • Chapter Twenty-Four: Examining Christian Narrative Frames in Pre-Service Teacher Education
  • Part Five: Social Justice Leadership in the Struggle Against Campus Antisemitism
  • Chapter Twenty-Five: Through the Thicket of Antisemitism: How Academic Institutions Combat Intolerance
  • Chapter Twenty-Six: Creating Campus-Wide Leadership for a Proactive Approach to Antisemitism
  • Chapter Twenty-Seven: Developing Dispositions Among School Administrators to Promote Tolerance
  • Chapter Twenty-Eight: Stumbling to Reclaim Humanity in the Face of Antisemitism in the Classroom
  • Chapter Twenty-Nine: Educational Leaders Can Be Proactive in Addressing Antisemitic Views
  • Chapter Thirty: Confronting Racism and Antisemitism: Dismantling Oppressive Systems through Faculty-Led Diversity Initiatives
  • Chapter Thirty-One: Collaboratively Building Cultural Competence Strategies to Combat Antisemitism on College Campuses
  • Chapter Thirty-Two: Ready to Rumble: Critical Friends Confronting Antisemitism on Campus through Courageous Conversations
  • List of Contributors

List of Tables

Table 6.1.Pre-test results for the TES

Table 6.2.Post-test results for the TES

Table 9.1.Jackie and Lulu’s I am from poems

Table 25.1.Number of incidents of overall anti-Semitic activity and each kind of activity occurring in 2015 and 2016 and percent increase

Table 25.2.Schools with the highest incidence of each kind of anti-Semitic activity

Table 27.1.Participant responses to the learning environment at MOT.

Table 27.2.Number of students and adults served by MOT Tools for Tolerance participants.

Table 29.1. Reporting data on hate crimes in the United States for ethnic and religious groups

Foreword

Linda DeAngelo, Beth Sondel and Amanda Godley

Introduction

On Saturday, October 27th, 2018, each of us were in different places when we learned about the white supremacist who had entered the Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered eleven congregants, injured six more, and rattled our entire community. Amanda, who lives a block away from the synagogue, was at the grocery store and ran home to make sure her teenage daughter was safe. While crossing the street to reach another teenager who was home alone, they heard the second round of gunshots and were told by police to run inside, lock doors, and shelter in place away from windows. Beth heard the news from Brooklyn where she was celebrating her daughter’s first birthday with family and attending the Jewish wedding of two friends who met in New York but currently reside in Pittsburgh. She thought of the high holiday services she had spent at Tree of Life, wondering who among those faces may have been in that building, and immediately began texting her Jewish friends back in Pittsburgh to check on them and their families. Linda lives just five blocks away from the synagogue and passes by it daily on her morning walk with her husband. That morning they were stopped and turned back at the corner of the street where the synagogue is located just as the tactical unit deployments were underway. Her husband fears that had they left the house fifteen minutes earlier, as they usually did on a Saturday, they likely would have been witness to the carnage.

For us and many other University of Pittsburgh faculty, the Tree of Life shooting was not just an act of antisemitism close to our workplace, our homes, and our students’ apartments. It was an attack on our university community. One of the congregations targeted by the shooter, Dor Hadash, was founded by faculty from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University and counts many university faculty (including two deans) among its members and leaders. Members of the other two congregations that were targeted that day, Tree of Life and New Light, include university faculty as well.

The events were devastating to us, but not entirely surprising. According to the Anti-Defamation League (2020), in 2019, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States reached a four-decade high, with a 12% increase of incidents (and a 56% increase in assaults) as compared to 2018. Many of these hate crimes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, have played out in schools and on college campuses in what they have referred to as “The Trump Effect” (Potok, 2017), as his explicit and implicit remarks have fueled white supremacy and White nationalism. Pittsburgh and our educational institutions have not been inoculated from these trends. According to SPLC, Western Pennsylvania is home to 36 hate groups. In 2018, local press reported swastikas drawn on cars in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Pittsburgh and in another nearby neighborhood (Pitt News, 2018; Smeltz, 2019). Down the street from the University of Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University, swastikas were found written into library books in 2018 (Deto, 2018). Additionally, despite the uplifting rhetoric following the Tree of Life tragedy, that Pittsburgh is “stronger than hate” and a city that is welcoming to everyone, other forms of white supremacy including anti-blackness, xenophobia, and nationalism have and continue to shape the city in which we live. Pittsburghers have been witness, recipient, and perpetrators of school and housing segregation, consistent and pervasive displacement of Black communities, push-out and policing of Black people, and ICE raids across town including in restaurants frequented by faculty, staff, and students (i.e. Hugeley, Wang, Monahan, Keane, & Koury, 2018; Public Source, 2019). In the year prior to the murderous attack alone, a Somali cab driver was beaten to death in a hate crime (Smeltz & Goldstein, 2017) and Antwon Rose, an unarmed Black teenager, was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer (McLaughlin, 2018).

These multiple forms of white supremacy—white nationalism, anti- blackness, antisemitism, nativism—on and surrounding the campus where we work are interrelated. In the case of the shooting at the Tree of Life, the shooter was, in fact, motivated to target this specific synagogue because of its support for refugees. The week prior, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), an organization that has been helping to resettle refugees for over 130 years, had held an event at the Tree of Life. Mere hours before taking his hate and his guns into the building, the shooter posted online; “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” The trope that Jews are responsible for facilitating political progress as a separate and interloping race is a central tenet of white nationalism (Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, 2018; Ward, 2017). As explained by Executive Director of Political Research Associates, Tarso Luis Ramos:

For most avowed white supremacists, the Jews are the heart of the problem. If you believe Black people are less intelligent and even subhuman, how do you account for Black brilliance? If you believe Black people were happier as slaves or under Jim Crow, how do you explain slave rebellions, the Civil Rights Movement, or the Movement for Black Lives? Avowed white supremacists blame Jews and Jewish meddling—patronage, education, organizing—for Black achievement. Behind every Black intellectual, organizer, or celebrity figure the white supremacist sees Jews. (p. 24 in JFREJ, 2018)

This white supremacist conspiracy, that Jews are responsible for challenging the white ethnostate, is embedded in Trump’s and others’ claim that George Soros, a noted Jewish philanthropist, was funding the “migrant caravan” in the weeks immediately preceding this massacre (Lind, 2018).

For us, then, this book represents a needed response to the antisemitism that occurs on and around college campuses and the need for universities and communities to come together in challenging and responding to all acts of hate. It also represents our need to understand antisemitism not simply as individual acts by hateful people but rooted in and intricately connected to white supremacist ideologies that continue to manifest in mass murder, hate, discrimination, and systemic inequality. Below, we share briefly, our experiences as witnesses and participants in the trauma as well as the response to the Tree of Life shooting from the university, local youth, and the greater Pittsburgh community. From this, we reflect on our responsibility as university faculty in a school of education and as public intellectuals in our community to both point out and challenge antisemitism, while simultaneously playing a role in facilitating our student, our campus, and our community’s understanding of white supremacy in its many forms. These are complicated times, but as stated by Rabbi Tarfon, “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena—You are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you free to avoid it” (Pirkei Avot 2:21).

University Response

I (Linda) was among some of the first to know about the shooting, having born witness to the initial police response. It was surreal that on my husband’s and my daily walk around our Pittsburgh neighborhood, Squirrel Hill, we confronted a senseless, white supremacist, anti-Semitic act of domestic terrorism aimed at the Jewish community in our neighborhood. But it was not something I considered as outside the realm of possibility. I am married to a Jewish man and had long ago considered what that could mean for our future together. I am living in the United States at a time when mass shootings and hate crimes had become almost normal. Indeed, some of the students I engaged with on campus in the days that followed the shooting shared that already in their young lives they had been directly affected by more than one mass or school shooting or had people in their community killed in racially targeted attacks. These students were numbed to the violence and no longer reacted to it. They voiced to me that they were no longer able to process these events as anything beyond the ordinary, just what it was to live. My students at the time, and all students now, are part of the massacre generation (Gibson, 2018). Their entire lives have been framed by mass and seemingly random gun violence inescapable in its scope. That this generation is becoming silent in the face of these dehumanizing tragedies and to keep going “just walk past the bodies” as one student described is its own horror; an ingredient considered as necessary for fascism to thrive (Howell, 2018). The instant the killer walked into the Tree of Life and began shooting, my community fused with other times and places where white nationalist hate has taken precious life and where mass death occurred at the hands of killers with significant fire power: Charleston, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Virginia Tech, Buffalo, Uvalde to name just a few. After the Tree of Life shooting, when members of the press approached my husband and I on the streets to inquire if we thought something like this could happen in our neighborhood, I found myself flatly saying I was not surprised at all. I always knew that something like this could happen and that we were no different from other communities in which these heinous acts had and continue to occur. It shocked me at the time that this flowed out of my mouth so easily.

Antisemitism on college campuses is not new to me. I had brushes with it on my prior campus in California before coming to the University of Pittsburgh. Once I found a large, boldly painted swastika as I emerged out of a campus parking garage to head to my office. I remember being surprised at the time by how chilled and threatened I felt the moment this symbol came into my sightline, and how even after it was removed, I was reminded of its symbolism when I walked past that spot. I had also been somewhat unsettled by protests and marches on my campus held by what I now recognize as a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)-affiliated student group. Although I am deeply troubled by the state of Israel’s actions toward the Palestinian people, and want to see these actions end, I always felt somewhat uneasy and uncomfortable in the presence of these pro-Palestine student groups. There was something that seemed to me at times to go beyond protesting the policies of the state of Israel and its actions and leaned toward a dehumanization of the Jewish people that kept me from standing with them in solidarity. Years later, BDS-affiliated groups are considered by some campus communities as hate groups on the left (Alterman, 2016; Serfaty, 2018) and among the groups that are stretching campus administrators to think about the limits of free speech and when speech becomes hate (Alterman, 2016; Quintana, 2018).

When my husband and I got home from our upended walk that fateful morning, I wanted desperately to connect with the community. Not knowing what else to do, I posted to social media, updating my post and reading other posts as the death toll mounted and as the status of the shooter changed to apprehended. I searched for news of a vigil, to express and feel pain, to stand in solidarity and strength against hate with all who make up the Squirrel Hill and larger Pittsburgh community. To be out in the street was for me a way to reclaim the space as life giving and sustaining. I longed to connect with professors and university administrators who I knew lived in even closer proximity to the synagogue than I did fearing that they had been terrorized by hearing the gunfire. Tree of Life is within two miles or less from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Chatham University. I contacted the faculty and administrators I knew at Chatham University, which is directly across the street from the synagogue. I suspected that they were likely dealing with a strong police presence on their campus, working feverishly to support their students, and assuaging anxious parents both near and far, all the while dealing internally with their own grief, despair, fears, and concerns.

As I communicated with friends, faculty, students, and staff at universities in Pittsburgh, the depth of the grief, sadness, disbelief, despair, fear, angst, and anger in my community moved through me. An administrator friend at Chatham messaged me, “It’s Family and Friends Weekend and it’s insanity.” I learned that Carnegie Mellon University was on lockdown in the wake of the shooting and read the brief email message sent from the Chancellor of my university. I hoped that the days following the tragedy would be a time for the various universities in Pittsburgh, including my own, to bring their campus communities together to console one another, to begin to heal, and to stand strong against antisemitism and all forms of hate.

I began to think about what my students would need from me and who I might be for them in the coming week. I was not teaching in our student affairs master’s program that term but had previously scheduled advisee meetings throughout the week. As student affairs paraprofessionals, the students in this master’s program are on the front lines, providing programs and services to undergraduate students at campuses across the Pittsburgh region. Rather than dive right in and discuss course options for the coming term as I had planned, I knew I needed to create an inclusive discussion space for students to share and process their reactions to the shooting. A space where we might listen to one another compassionately and where we could then work together to connect this anti-Semitic attack to other events and larger themes of power and oppression. To do anything less was, for me, dehumanizing and counter to modeling the ethic of care and justice that is the vanguard of professionalism in student affairs. I knew that my Monday and Tuesday meetings might be the first university-sanctioned opportunities for my advisees to share their feelings and responses to the shooting, but I was surprised on Wednesday to find that for many of my advisees I met with that day, our meeting was the first time someone on campus had invited a conversation about the Tree of Life shooting. Months later as Beth, Amanda, and I were writing the initial draft of this forward an undergraduate student in the sciences shared with me that her friends who weren’t science majors had been able to talk about the Tree of Life shooting in their classes, but she had not been given that opportunity, although she hoped for and needed it. She said, “My professors just went on with the lesson like nothing had happened.” The importance of making time on campus and in classes for conversations about recent traumas and hate crimes was brought home to me by this student’s comment.

My days in the week following the massacre were filled with vigils. On Tuesday afternoon following the massacre, I left campus to join the protest and march Beth describes below. The gathering point for the start of that march was just steps from my front door. At the march I found, and I joined arms with, a Jewish Ph.D. student in the School of Education I hardly knew beforehand. Together we walked, sang, and communed with one another. It was one of the most powerful afternoons of my life. Seven days later, at the exact time the attack had happened, my husband and I stood in the rain in front of the Tree of Life synagogue with about one hundred other people for Shabbat services. At the six month and year marks after the attack we attended vigils and we continue remember in some way this fateful murderous day as the years have passed.

Local universities responded to the hate crime in different ways, many of them taking days to form any kind of official gathering or response. Chatham University, though under great stress as a campus due to their proximity to the synagogue, decided not to cancel a previously scheduled talk by a Holocaust survivor the day after the shooting (Zak, 2018). Although the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh released a short statement the day of the shooting condemning it, it took until almost the end of that first week for the university to announce that they would hold a campus vigil for the Tree of Life victims the following Monday. Almost 3,000 people attended the campus vigil, making it clear that even 10 days after the shooting, the university community wanted and needed to come together. However, in the intervening time, it seemed that perhaps the university would not offer further acknowledgment or guidance beyond the initial statement it released in the immediate wake of the shooting. The fact that it took the university so long to announce a meaningful response to an anti-Semitic hate crime was noted by students, with one Jewish student publicly taking the university to task for its complicity in the antisemitism through its silence. The university’s silence and lack of direction for faculty, instructors and advisors created anxiety and mistrust among many members of the community1.

The response of our School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh was quite different. The morning after the shooting, I contacted our Dean to express my feelings of trauma and the hurt I knew others in our community were feeling and to ask that our school provide an opportunity for our community to come together. The immediate response I got was “Yes!” The evening of the attack, we received a statement from our Associate Dean for Equity and Justice, acknowledging and being with us in our pain, drawing a connection between the horrific attack and other large scale and senseless acts of violence stemming from perceptions of entitlement and displacement, and encouraging us to work together towards peace and justice. The next afternoon, our Dean sent a supportive and strong statement to follow her associate dean’s letter with an invitation to gather as a school community to process and share our feelings as the week began. These statements from School of Education leaders were a powerful reminder that education at its best is a humanizing experience and a place where we lift one another and amplify goodness.

Teaching

I (Beth) was teaching an Introduction to Urban Education course in the University of Pittsburgh’s year-long Master of Arts of Teaching program at the time of the attack. Our students spent their days as student teachers in local schools, their evenings in classes on campus, and completed the year with a teaching certification. In the wake of the events, I felt concerned about my students as I knew they were navigating both their own emotional response to the events as well as those of their students. I thought back to my own experience as a college student on the morning of 9/11, when my Professor of Educational Ethics, Dr. Daniel Pekarsky, suspended the course for a month to process the events and use the field of study to explore what was happening in our country. I wouldn’t be seeing my students until the following Thursday, so I emailed them on Monday to check in, share some of my own reflections as a Jew, a teacher educator, a new mom, and a recent transplant to Pittsburgh. I was honest with them, telling them that I was scared and distraught but not at all surprised. I let them know that we would be restructuring the syllabus in response to recent events and included a few articles and resources for them to read in preparation for our upcoming class.

I was transparent with them when I saw them that Thursday. I explained that I wanted to help them contextualize both the shooting at the Tree of Life and the local and national response as well as model for them how to address events such as these were they to happen when they are. in their own future classrooms. If we want our educational institutions to support our students as they navigate our complicated social and political landscape, if we want our teachers to prepare our youth to recreate a world for us that values all humanity, we need to provide the space, the care, and the analytical tools for teachers and students to understand and respond to the society in which they (and we) live. This task is challenging for all teachers, especially novice teachers. These challenges are compounded when we don’t have time to prepare ahead of time, as is often the case with tragedies such as this, or when the events affect us directly. Yet still, we had no choice.

We began class, as we always do, with a journal reflection. “How are you? How are your students? What has been coming up for you?” We followed this with a discussion of the days immediately after the shooting. It was important to me to start by expressing my care and concern for my students’ own emotional response as members of this community. To do this, we discussed an article written by Jessica Lander at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, on helping teachers manage the weight of trauma, or what she refers to as secondary trauma. A few of them discussed then weight their colleagues were carrying, the trauma they observed in their students, and the shock they felt at how quickly some institutions were moving past these events.

Details

Pages
XXVIII, 502
Year
2023
ISBN (PDF)
9781636672304
ISBN (ePUB)
9781636672311
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781636670607
ISBN (Softcover)
9781636672298
DOI
10.3726/b20374
Language
English
Publication date
2023 (August)
Keywords
Jewish students, faculty, and staff Experiences of Jewish and non-Jewish professionals on campuses Issues transpiring on campus related to Jewish community members Antisemitism Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement Alt Right Anti-Zionism Inclusive Community Multiculturalism Principles Against Intolerance Universities Higher Education Virginia Stead Confronting Antisemitism on Campus
Published
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, Oxford, 2023. XXVIII, 502 pp., 15 b/w ill., 8 tables.

Biographical notes

Virginia Stead (Volume editor)

Virginia Stead, Ed.D. (2012, OISE University of Toronto) established and edited the Equity in Higher Education Theory, Policy, and Praxis series until 2020.

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