New moment for campus alienation

On a cold Wednesday afternoon in November, in a small Accolade East seminar room, a pivotal moment will occur at my university. The class is Protest Movements and Democracy, a fourth-year political science class.

It would seem an ordinary college course with the exception of one outrageous unit in November, a study of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign Against Israel.’ The course readings are, of course, inflammatory and written by Israel-bashers. The course syllabus questions, “Is a BDS campaign or criticism of Israel inherently antisemitic? Why do opponents constantly raise this criticism?”

This class denotes a shift for Jews at York University. Now, not only are Jewish and pro-Israel students bombarded by Israel-bashing and antisemitism in the hallways, corridors and libraries of their universities, this alienation is entering the very classes they attend and the very course material they are studying. The atmosphere is only getting worse for them.

Still, with all of this vitriolic hatred surrounding them, Jewish students endure and stand behind their unshakeable devotion to the Jewish people and the state of Israel. They personally take on the responsibility of defending their community and homeland by joining campus organizations, creating grassroots campaigns and becoming active on campus.

In fact, Jewish students have always been at the forefront of social action and change. From their tireless 1970s campaigning to save Russian Jews, to their contributions to the American civil rights movement, Jewish college kids have always been prepared to lead their contemporaries and work towards change.

Idealistic Jewish university students, the Bilu’im, were some of the first emigrants to the Land of Israel in the late 1800s and one of the first examples of Zionist activism.

Fourteen of these youth, with little experience and even fewer resources, ventured to barren areas of Palestine to build new Jewish communities. At first, they struggled with water shortages, illness and lack of finances. Only once they began receiving strong support from their Jewish community, did they flourish and move on to build the now bussling cities of Rishon LeTzion, Gedera and Zichron Yaakov.

The Bilu’im story reflects the Jewish student situation on our campuses today. These students desire to affect change, but require strong, effective support from their community.

Students at York, and across the nation, are being introduced to a new B’nai Brith Canada campus initiative, B’nai Brith OnCampus, that is gaining tremendous attention. Tirelessly supporting students at Canadian universities since its inception, B’nai Brith Canada now has an enhanced ability to provide the essential resources, tools and assistance needed to counteract this intense campus alienation.

University campuses are one of the last bastions of unadulterated antisemitism in Canada. Jewish and pro-Israel students want to fight this hatred and the community must help. Otherwise, our students will continue to face severe antagonism in their hallways, libraries and even classrooms.

Aaron Rosenberg is a fourth-year political science student and president of B’nai Brith OnCampus