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Why Jewish students belong at anti-Israel Ivy League schools

Amid rising anti-Israel sentiment at Ivy League universities like Harvard and Yale, some Jewish parents are pledging not to send their children there, and commentators like Bill Maher and Ben Shapiro are encouraging it.  

This is misguided. The economic considerations of investing in an Ivy League education are valid, as families must weigh the financial burden against potential long-term benefits. 

However, boycotting these institutions is counterproductive. If we remove Jewish voices, we will only intensify the one-sided narrative on Israel and Jewish issues. Instead of alleviating the problem, this approach amplifies the echo chamber.

These Ivy League schools, despite their anti-Israel biases, are influential hubs shaping the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. Pro-Israel voices are already underrepresented. So it’s imperative that students attend these universities to offer counter-narratives and personal perspectives that challenge prevailing biases.

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While genuine concerns about the safety of Jewish students exist, they often stem from isolated incidents and also exist at non Ivy League colleges too. Universities are actively addressing these through enhanced security measures and policies that promote a safe environment.  

Besides, fear should not prevent Jewish students from attending these colleges or expressing their views. Netanel Crispe, an Orthodox Jewish student at Yale, for example, confidently wore an Israel flag to a pro-Palestinian rally and repeatedly chanted, “Am Yisrael Chai” (“The People of Israel Live”). He didn’t seem to worry about his safety in openly displaying his identity.

The decision of donors to withdraw funding is entirely sensible. It serves as a method to pressure the university to alter its stance. No one should support an endowment at a university that is antithetical to his or her values.

But choosing not to attend these universities will not impact their admission revenue, as they consistently receive far more applications than they can accept. Regardless of some students’ decisions not to attend, these institutions will maintain their admission revenue by admitting a set number of students each year.

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Jewish students in these universities are crucial for challenging misinformation and bias against Israel. They can spearhead or join pro-Israel groups, foster constructive dialogue with peers and faculty, and advocate for more nuanced views within the Israeli-Palestinian discourse.

Historically, Jewish tradition thrives on debate and knowledge. Engaging with opposing views often leads to deeper understanding and stronger advocacy. This tradition of dialectics is what the Talmud represents. By being part of these academic institutions, Jewish students can continue this tradition, contributing significantly to campus discourse.

Boycotting Ivy League schools will not lead to a change in their stance toward Israel. Positive change is more likely through engagement and representation. Students and faculty are better off working within these systems to advocate for balanced perspectives.

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The presence of Jewish students at these universities is the most potent statement against antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, demonstrating resilience and commitment to defending their beliefs. It also provides essential support to other Jewish students who might feel isolated in these settings.

By encouraging Jewish students to attend these institutions, we’re investing in future leaders. Their experiences at these universities will shape their perspectives and equip them to advocate effectively for Israel and Jewish causes in their professional lives.

In fact, Ivy League schools have been the alma mater of countless influential pro-Israel voices like Ron Dermer, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus who served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., strengthening diplomatic ties. Dara Horn, a Harvard graduate, who integrates Jewish themes into her novels. Jared Kushner, also from Harvard, who played a pivotal role in the Abraham Accords. Dan Senor, from Harvard Business School, who co-authored “Start-Up Nation,” spotlighting Israel’s technological advancements. 

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The list can go on forever. Their paths illustrate the impact that can be made by those who study at these institutions.

Fears about students being swayed by anti-Israel biases underestimate their ability to think critically and stand firm in their beliefs. The prevailing views on campuses often reflect transient trends in bandwagon activism rather than deeply entrenched nuanced ideologies. Such a climate provides an opportunity for Jewish students to develop a robust understanding of opposing viewpoints and to articulate their perspectives with better clarity and conviction.

 

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