After a stint as president of Harvard University’s Hillel exposed her to the harassment and hostility endured by many of her fellow Jewish students, Sabrina Goldfischer decided to write her senior thesis about the experiences of Jews on campus. She highlights some of her findings:
I interviewed 60 Jewish Harvard students, Harvard Hillel staff members, and students and Hillel staff members at nearby Massachusetts schools. . . . What I learned was concerning: the most acute examples of discrimination involved Harvard’s Israeli students. One student faced backlash for his involvement with Israel Trek, an Israeli student-led trip to Israel for Harvard students who do not identify as Jewish. He reached out to organizers of the anti-Trek movement on campus, hoping to begin a dialogue and potentially incorporate their feedback. They refused to speak to him.
Indeed, social alienation is unavoidable for Harvard’s Israeli students. Students recall moments of feeling like their “humanity was questioned.” One student said to an Israeli peer, “I can only imagine the war crimes you have committed.” Another explained that his friend was not allowed into a social organization when the leadership discovered he was Israeli. At Harvard, students face obstacles—social and otherwise—simply because of their nationality.
Anti-Zionism . . . has become the norm in most social and intellectual milieux on campus. This affects how Harvard’s largest Jewish institution is perceived. For instance, another student recalled a first-year orientation program that purported to show incoming students the “bad parts of Harvard.” The tour guide stopped at Hillel, suggesting it was a hostile environment for Palestinian students.