Buyer beware: Colleges take stands

By Juliana Wishne, Senior, Parkway West

When Jewish teenagers dream about college, a few things pop into their minds: back-to-school barbecues at the Hillel house, discovering new friends on their dormitory floor, rushing Greek fraternities and sororities, and sometimes even school itself. However, too few Jewish students are prepared for some of the uglier things that occur on college campuses.

Every fall, college freshmen arrive on campus and find school-supported student groups dedicated to spreading hate about Israel. Many do not know how to properly defend their homeland; they fear retaliation if they speak up, and lack the confidence to do so in the first place.

An organization called Step Up For Israel educates Jewish high school students about anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiments on American college campuses before they get to college. Through a series of lessons and videos that high schools can purchase, Step Up For Israel gives Jewish high schoolers the tools they need to peacefully and intelligently counter all arguments they receive about Israel.

“Unfortunately, this issue is not widely acknowledged and many universities have remained silent, even in the face of a clear anti-Semitic presence on campus,” said Jessica Felber of Step Up For Israel.

The goal of the organization is not to tell students where they should or shouldn’t attend college, and it does not promote academic boycotting. Step Up For Israel’s main focus is educating students how to respond to hatred and violence before they even face it. Currently, Felber is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against her alma mater, University of California, Berkeley. While attending Berkeley, she was allegedly attacked on campus by members of the college’s pro-Palestinian group during “Apartheid Week.”

Step Up For Israel wants every Jewish teenager going to college to be prepared for whatever words, violence, or threats they may face for being Jewish or supporting Israel.

“The process of changing the culture or official position of a university is a slow one, but every Jewish student who comes to campus already prepared to step up for Israel brings us one step closer to making a difference and creating that change,” Felber said.

(This article represents the opinion of the writer.)