Many of us at the AJT have college-age or nearly college-age children, so we’re attuned to the fears in the Jewish community about anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents and attitudes at campuses across the country.
Even if we didn’t share these concerns because of our own children, we would be well aware of them because of our readers, many of whom communicate outrages they’ve read about from other news sources or heard about through the virtual grapevine.
It’s hard from afar to tell how serious some incidents are. The Hillel director at the University of Tennessee, for instance, has raised doubts about reports of surging anti-Semitism at the Knoxville campus. And the Students for Justice in Palestine walkouts at pro-Israel programs at the University of Georgia last month and last year were annoying and childish but not threatening.
But the hatred and the danger behind other incidents are terrifying clear, from fake eviction notices left at Jewish students’ dorm rooms to questions of bias asked of Jews running for student offices to slurs and threats aimed at Jewish students minding their own business while walking across campus. We all want to prepare our children to be safe but proud when they go off to school, and most of us could use an education in how to make that happen.
One of the treasures we’re lucky enough to have in Atlanta, Ken Stein’s Center for Israel Education, stepped up to the challenge and scheduled a three-part series — free — to prepare high school students and their parents for the college search and for what to expect when they arrive on campus.
In the last session, held Wednesday, March 1, at Temple Beth Tikvah, Stein talked through ripped-from-the-classroom scenarios — several from Southern schools, in case you think this is largely a problem in California and the Northeast — regarding Israel, the Palestinians and Middle East history. He helped the teenagers in the group understand the differences between a professor offering varying viewpoints, presenting a biased set of sources, teaching opinion as fact and shutting down dissent.
He also explored some important student life issues. He offered advice on finding the right school based on what you want to learn and what it has to offer. And he made some points about getting value out of four years in college at $50,000 a year for tuition. It’s not realistic to think that none of the five teenagers at the session will never sleep through a class, but we’re confident they’ll give some thought later to the idea that the lost hour of learning was equivalent to burning $250 or more.
The most important number in that paragraph, however, was five. In all of Jewish Atlanta, only five high-schoolers could set aside an hour or so to prepare themselves for their first years away from home. More important, the parents of only five high-schoolers could get them to Roswell for the program.
The attendance wasn’t much better at the first program, held at the Weber School in Sandy Springs, or the second, at The Temple in Midtown.
We don’t get it. The CIE programs were just what we needed, just what we seemed to be asking for, and the community didn’t show up. We can only pray none of us will be sorry in a few years for being too busy to prepare our children.