Poll of ‘Openly Jewish’ College Students Reveals 65% Felt Unsafe, 50% Hid Jewish Identity

The first poll to specifically examine rates of anti-Semitism among college students who claim a strong sense of Jewish identity and connection to Israel finds that, among this group, students are feeling unsafe and, as a result, are learning that to avoid anti-Semitism they must view their religion as something to hide, not celebrate. In fact, the survey indicates that the longer students stay on campus, the less safe they feel and the more they feel the need to hide their identity.

Nearly 70% of the students surveyed personally experienced or were familiar with an anti-Semitic attack in the past 120 days. More than 65% of these students have felt unsafe on campus due to physical or verbal attacks, with one in 10 reporting they have feared they themselves would be physically attacked.  And roughly 50% of students have felt the need to hide their Jewish identity.

The poll is based on online surveys with 1,027 members of the leading predominantly Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), and the leading Jewish sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi). While previous studies have polled all Jewish students, this is the first survey to examine rates of anti-Semitism among students who tend to openly identify as Jewish on campus.  More than 60% of the students surveyed belong to Hillel and nearly half to Chabad, more than 80% are supportive of Israel, and nearly 60% have visited Israel.  The survey was conducted between April 14-20, 2021 by Cohen Research Group in conjunction with The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

“These findings ring some pretty consequential alarms, more closely resembling previous dark periods in our history, not the 21st century in the U.S.,” stated Kenneth L. Marcus, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Civil Rights and Brandeis Center founder and chair. “They reveal that students for whom being Jewish is a central or important aspect of their identity are feeling increasingly unsafe visibly expressing their Judaism for fear of harassment, social bullying and other anti-Semitic attacks. And they expose that increased anti-Semitic acts, which attempt to hold Jews responsible as a collective, for the actions of the Israeli government, are driving more and more students to hide their support for Israel.”

“The results of this survey are staggering and alarming.  We need to do everything we can to not only push back against the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses but also to make sure that every Jewish student who wants to express their pride in their heritage or religion can do so without fear of violence or harassment,” said Jim Fleischer, CEO of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Inc.  “Now, more than ever, our mission to develop student leaders for the Jewish community is critical.”

“In 2021, Jewish undergraduates should not have to hide their identity.  We are in a time when college students are leading the way in equity and inclusion, Jewish students must be included in that activism,” stated Sharon Raphael, AEPhi National President. “The rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses shows how vital the Jewish sorority experience is for women. Our Jewish values teach us that we must stand up to hate in any form, especially anti-Semitism. Alpha Epsilon Phi is committed to supporting and educating our sisters on how to address anti-Semitism on their respective campuses.”

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