I am deeply troubled by The Algemeiner’s inclusion of Hunter College on its list of The 40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students in America.
I spent four years on Hunter’s campus as a student and an additional six months as a Hillel professional, and I speak from experience when saying that Hunter’s Jewish life on campus is not only a presence, but a strong aspect in the lives of many of its students. Hillel, Chabad, Emet, and other Jewish organizations have worked hard to establish a space on campus for students to proudly celebrate their Jewish identity and help students of minority groups and the LGBT community find a safe space through the comfort and warmth of the Jewish community.
During my time at Hunter I participated in and helped to organize Hanukkah Celebrations, Holocaust Memorials, numerous Shabbat dinners, and events geared towards interfaith dialogue. Students worked hard to welcome their classmates of all faiths and backgrounds, and show them the beauty of Jewish traditions.
Instead of evaluating these experiences and others aspects of Jewish life on campus, Algemeiner has written a cheap sensationalist listicle, one which lacks the tangible information Jewish students need to make a decision when choosing a college. While the editors’ ostensible hope was “to draw attention to the problem of rising hostility faced by many Jewish students on campus today,” I fear this will have the opposite effect, and drive students away from campuses where they are most needed. Universities where anti-Israel clubs are most prominent are exactly the campuses to which Jews and pro-Israel allies should flock.
Jewish students on campus should channel the words of Zionist Union leader Tzipni Livni, who warned Israelis against developing a “ghetto mentality”:
“Strong enough to deal with the threats. Strong enough to be a part of the world and not just withdraw into itself with the feeling of a ghetto. Strong enough to fight its enemies, and strong enough to establish peace with it neighbors.”
Colleges with anti-Semitic incidents are the best campuses for Jewish students, not the worst. These campuses provide opportunities for Jewish students to proudly display their heritage, create conversations, inform others about the beauty of the Jewish community, and build friendships with students of all different backgrounds. Hunter’s Jewish life on campus is a perfect example of this positive approach to combat anti-semitic incidents on campus.
Hillel, Chabbad, Emet, other Jewish organizations and students at Hunter have built a welcoming environment to proudly express and celebrate Jewish heritage and identity. Jewish students at Hunter are not in a “plight,” as Algemeiner claims. They are thriving.