My time at McGill University was intellectually satisfying but spiritually deficient. Let me preface my words by acknowledging that I am an Orthodox Jew and Orthodoxy was absent from McGill University’s campus. Benchmarks of Orthodoxy such as a daily prayer quorum, hot kosher food, fellow observant Jews, and Shabbat and Chagim observance were scant. Orthodox life was wanting in all these measures and hence, I ultimately transferred into NYU after a two-year sojourn in Montreal.
Zionism and anti-Zionism at McGill, however, were prevalent. In all four of my semesters at McGill, an anti-Zionist club cloaked in the visage of a “pro-Palestinian human rights” entitled SPHR (Students for Palestinian Human Rights) brought forth a motion at each semester’s General Assembly condemning or calling for a boycott of the State of Israel. There was no talk of the atrocities in Syria, the terrorism that plagued Europe, or the political extermination of Vladimir Putin’s dissidents in Russia; rather, the sole focus was on highlighting the supposed human rights violations of the State of Israel. The double-standard was stark.
Nevertheless, never for a single moment did I feel bullied, vulnerable, or embarrassed to be a Jew on campus. SPHR and its followers were the embodiment of a loud minority. They were a small group of radically left-wing students with an air of arrogance and ignorance of facts whose tenacious agenda garnered them a louder voice. However, McGill students at large, in my opinion, simply did not care about anti-Zionism or were not politically charged. Additionally, I felt that students separated Zionism from Judaism and therefore could disagree with one without the other. As such, I never once felt threatened as a Jew.
My time in NYU could not be a starker contrast to McGill. At NYU, there is a strong and burgeoning Orthodox as well as non-observant Jewish community. In terms of Orthodoxy, there is a prayer service three times daily at two different locations on campus and enough kosher food to feed an army. Moreover, there is a supportive community of Orthodoxy on campus that further fosters Jewish observance.
In my experience, anti-Zionism on campus has been negligible. Indeed, there was a BDS motion from a law school student group earlier this year, but to my understanding, that has been the extent of anti-Zionism. Unlike McGill, at NYU there are no semester-ly motions condemning Israel, nor an anti-Zionist student press and certainly no harassment (the only bullying I’ve experienced is in engaging in open and honest debate that respects right-of-the-aisle views).
As such, I feel no fear nor embarrassment to be a Jew on campus at NYU. Indeed, NYU the closest thing to home that I could find 3,000 miles away from it.