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Rising college tension reflects national growth of antisemitism

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Edwin J. Viera

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(Connecticut News Service) Antisemitic incidents have grown on college campuses in across the U.S.

In the latest report from the Anti-Defamation League, 73 percent of Jewish students across the country said they have experienced or witnessed antisemitism.

The league said the spike is due mostly to increased tensions from the Israel-Hamas war. Since the conflict began, the league has tracked more than 400 incidents of antisemitism on college campuses, compared to the same time last year.

Stacey Sobel, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut, described how it can affect the school.

"The first goal of the university is to make sure students are safe, and that they're providing a safe learning environment," Sobel pointed out. "The amount of conflict on college campuses is making it difficult for students to be able to concentrate, on their work and their studies, in a safe way."

In recent weeks, the league has provided guidance for schools across the nation. They suggested creating a task force to combat antisemitism, and updating security protocols.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has also met with security officials from colleges and universities across the state to help ease tensions.

This is not the first time antisemitism has increased in recent years. The league indicates it is the fifth or sixth major increase since 2013. Sobel noted extraneous domestic factors caused previous spikes.

"Previous to this, we would say, social media has had a big impact," Sobel pointed out. "The political discourse that has elevated hate in many circles, and also some pop culture figures who have also elevated some hate."

Last year, Connecticut saw a 100 percent increase in antisemitic incidents compared to a 36 percent national increase in the same period.

Despite the increases, Sobel is hopeful people can make a change. She argued a "whole of government and community approach" will go a long way toward reducing antisemitism. 

"We also encourage Holocaust and genocide education be widely provided," Sobel emphasized. "We encourage universities, corporations and towns to include antisemitism in DEI policies, so in their diversity policies. And we really encourage people to vote, to make sure their voice is heard."

Legislation requiring Connecticut students to be educated about the Holocaust was approved in 2018.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.