As classes began for the semester, nine student organizations at the University of California, Berkeley law school amended their bylaws to prohibit inviting any speakers who support Israel or Zionism. This move, coordinated by an anti-Israel student group, reflects a growing trend on college campuses and beyond of excluding Jews unwilling to disavow the Jewish state. Among the effects is the phenomenon of young Jews who have simply learned never to mention Israel, or anything connected with it, in most social and professional settings. Melissa Langsam Braunstein, after conducting numerous interviews with those with firsthand experience, writes:
Support for Israel, of course, is mainstream among American Jews. In 2019, Gallup found that “95 percent of [American] Jews have favorable views of Israel,” and in 2021, the Pew Research Center reported that 82 percent of American Jews consider Israel “‘essential’ or ‘important’” to their Jewish identity, one of the highest markers of commonality among famously fractious co-religionists.
Yet younger Jews are feeling compelled to camouflage that piece of themselves. A 2021 Brandeis Center poll found that “50 percent of Jewish [college] students hide their Jewish identity and more than half avoid expressing their views on Israel.” A 2022 survey by the American Jewish Committee reported that “28 percent of American Jewish millennials say that [the] anti-Israel climate on campuses or elsewhere has damaged their relationships with friends” and “23 percent reported that the anti-Israel climate on campus or elsewhere has forced them to hide their Jewish identity.” These are nontrivial numbers.
A . . . recent NYU Law graduate offered: “I don’t hide that I’m Jewish or Zionist, but I don’t know I want to go around publicizing it, and that’s most likely because the loud voices that are anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic are so prevalent. . . . Had I not had these encounters at [NYU], I’d probably see it as a nuanced issue but wouldn’t feel as strongly as I do about not wanting to pick a fight openly—because they were so aggressive, because some of the things they said felt threatening. Seeing that is scary and upsetting. You carry that, and it’s part of the calculus going forward and what you’re sharing with people.”
Students and recent graduates described sharing pro-Israel views only around trusted friends out of fear of vilification on campus.