Our college students are under pressures most of us did not encounter when we were their age. In addition to the expected stresses of academic and social adjustments, they are part of a generation that must struggle with financial anxieties over how they will bear their share of the exorbitant cost of their education and whether they will find a job in this very competitive market when they graduate. This fall, they must also contend with the burden of what it means to be a Jewish student on an American campus. The summer’s war in Gaza has led to an increase in global anti-Semitism, including pro-Palestinian protests and activism on campuses throughout the country. Some of the rallies, meetings and letter-writing campaigns have been organized by groups expressing reasoned criticism of Israel in respectful ways. Some of the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist demonstrations, however, are hateful attacks against Jews and the Jewish State that embrace Nazi imagery and anti-Semitic slogans. Most of our children have never encountered such openly hostile and aggressive targeting during their lives.
Many campus Hillel organizations have recognized the problem and are offering additional support and resources. For example, at Tufts University, where the Tufts chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) will hold its national conference October 24-26, Israel educational programming and advocacy training are available for all interested students. Nonetheless, the presence of so many students, academics and activists who sponsor “Israel Apartheid Week” and promote the movement that advocates boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel will be unnerving.
And what about our students who do support a two state peaceful and just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict? Where can they find a safe place for thoughtful, nuanced civil dialogue in the current polarized environment where even some of their parents have drawn bright lines between what it means to be pro-Israel and what it means to be anti-Israel?
We need to make the time to talk to our young adult children and support them as thinkers in their own right.
This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on October 23, 2014.