Several years ago, Liel Leibovitz, then a young faculty member at New York University, was informed that he could not attend a seminar, led by a colleague, on the subject of boycotting Israel, since he was not himself in favor of doing so. More recently, the same school has given an award to its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that has repeatedly harassed Jewish NYU students, sometimes violently. Leibovitz, surveying these and other recent incidents on college campuses, concludes that universities have ceased to be hospitable toward Jews:
What the undergraduate Jacobins . . . hate isn’t Benjamin Netanyahu, or “the occupation,” or even Zionism. What they hate are the values that used to make American universities great, and that made Jews such a great fit for American universities. In an intellectual environment increasingly governed by fear—adopt our rigid worldview or be labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, ableist, or worse—and living almost entirely in the shadows, away from public scrutiny, the true intellectual seeker is not an asset but a liability. There’s nothing Jewish students . . . can do to change that.
They should realize, as many already do, that they’re not disliked and targeted because of the views they hold, which they might conceivably change; they’re disliked and targeted because of who they are. Paying for teenagers to be subjected to this kind of rejection and abuse is an act of communal self-destructiveness that we Jews would be smart to eschew. . . .
For nearly a century, universities proved central to American Jewish life because they offered two assets without which few, particularly among the children or grandchildren of immigrants, could succeed. The first was knowledge. The second was accreditation, the lifeblood of any meritocracy; a graduate of a good university could depend on her diploma translating into a good job in an industry of her choice. Neither of these assets is available today: in the past twenty years, if not earlier, American universities have dramatically increased the cost of tuition while dramatically reducing the quality of product they deliver.