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College Students: Stay and Engage

Now is not the time to abandon American universities
Elisha Baker

Elisha Baker

Elisha Baker

We are reading and hearing a lot about how Jewish students are experiencing the college campus these days.

There are plenty of Jewish students who, in the past two months, have embraced their Judaism and Jewish communities like never before. These formerly Jewishly uninvolved students have started untucking their Magen David necklaces, showing up to communal Shabbat dinners, and wearing kippot around campus, among other things. Many have become leaders in speaking out against Jew-hatred and bringing Jewish students together in the face of crisis.

For many, though, the last seven weeks have been defined by fear and anxiety, as they constantly wonder who among their peers was on the other side of the protests, and who among their professors signed anti-Israel statements. Campus anti-Israel sentiment has taken over their consciousness in a debilitating way. In response, many Jewish students I know have been telling me they want to just get out. Whether that means cramming credits to graduate early, changing graduate school plans, or spending weekends at home, a high number of my peers reasonably want no part of life on campus anymore.

But now is not, I want to argue, the time for an exodus from American college campuses. At least for the time being, universities continue to play an important role for students and for the Jewish people—not least because they attract talented and ambitious students, and the conversations that are possible there are still vital. Ideas, policies, and cultural conversations that will profoundly influence the character of our country and the world begin on college campuses, in and out of classes, with students and professors, and through long-lasting relationships and social networks that are formed there.

And there is one more reason why now is not the time to abandon American universities, and it is, in fact, one of the essential goals of higher education: building resilience.

It should go without saying that no college student should tolerate physical or verbal threats to their safety, nor should we be subjected to the kinds of intimidating antisemitism that we are seeing on certain campuses right now. We must keep demanding that administrations respond forcefully, that they meet their responsibility to maintain healthy and productive learning environments for all.

Read the full article on Tablet.

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