This past Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida, following the University of Georgia (UGA)/University of Florida (UF) football game, there was yet another high-profile instance of antisemitism in the United States. The words, “Kanye is right about the Jews” were projected onto the side of the stadium, as well as other downtown buildings.
For weeks, the American Jewish community has endured a parade of hateful messages. In few places is this more keenly felt than on college and university campuses. Current college students report that anti-Zionist sentiment on campuses is rampant, and that non-Jewish students conflate their feelings about the Israeli government with their feelings about their Jewish classmates.
In October, the Anti-Defamation League reported that there were 359 anti-Israel incidents on campuses during the 2021-2022 school year. And on Saturday in Jacksonville, an event between two universities was marred by American antisemitism.
Wayne Keil, Interim CEO of Hillels of Georgia, awoke at 3:30 am on Sunday morning to a phone call about the incident in Jacksonville. He and his UGA Director, Jeremy Lichtig, spent the morning speaking with officials at UGA, UF, University of Florida Hillel, and the Anti-Defamation League, among others.
Hillel works to support Jewish students, faculty, and staff on college campuses, and Keil says in moments like this, he sees the value of their daily work. “We’ve been preparing for this, not knowing what ‘this’ would be.”
“What I found to be most impressive was the ability of so many different people from different organizations to quickly come together,” he says. “Hillel has managed to build bridges into the administrations at these schools so they could quickly speak to each other and release a joint message.”
That solidarity is extremely important for Jewish college students, who face prejudice from other students, and sometimes even faculty, on campus. In September, AP reported that the University of Vermont is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education after a teaching assistant threatened to give Zionist students lower grades.
So what can we do? Federation supports programs and organizations, like Hillel, that work with college students. Hillel gives Jewish students a community on campus and gives them tools to address hot-button issues with their peers.
Federation also funds The Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Israel Campus Fellows program, which brings Israeli young adults to work on university and college campuses. The Fellows work to expose Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to real Israeli people in order to diminish stereotypes and help them develop a personal relationship with the people of Israel.
In the face of rising hatred, it is vital that Jewish people are able to tell our stories and care for our community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Community Campaign is currently open, and your donations will directly help Jews in Georgia and beyond. When you give to Federation’s Partners Fund, you’re supporting Hillels of Georgia, Israel Campus Fellows, and more.
Jews are a vibrant, diverse, and strong group of people. We have overcome obstacles and lived through tumultuous times. The way our community mobilizes in a crisis is beautiful and powerful, and today you can be part of rallying against antisemitism. Please visit our website, read about the work of our partners, learn about our own programs, and consider donating to our Community Campaign.
As Keil says, “They can try to divide us, but they won’t be successful. They never are.”
We are united against the forces of bigotry. We Are Jewish ATL.