About a month ago, Temple was ranked as having the eighth Worst Anti-Semitic Campus Activity in America by jewhatredoncampus.org. This claim is based off of various events that the organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have hosted over the past few years. The article states, “Temple University is home to an SJP chapter that was responsible for a verbal and physical attack on a Jewish student who approached their table at a campus activities bazaar to attempt a dialogue. In addition, they are regular participants in Israel Apartheid Week and have brought well-known anti-Semites such as David Sheen to campus.” The ranking quickly spread across various news outlets, disappointing faculty, alumni, current and perspective students.
The events described in the article did indeed happen, although didn’t necessarily have a large effect on the campus culture as the article claims they did. We do have an active Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on our campus, an organization which focuses on demonizing Israel, advocating for its eventual destruction, through public protests, learning sessions, and support of initiating Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) toward all corporations and individuals that do business with Israel. Students for Justice in Palestine is a radical student group by nature, and occasionally attempt to bully and intimidate both pro-Israel and Jewish students with vicious and often anti-Semitic rhetoric.
The article does touch on an incident that occurred on Aug. 20, 2014. A Jewish student was allegedly physically assaulted and yelled slurs at the Students for Justice in Palestine table at TempleFest during Welcome Week. Fortunately, the university, Temple police department, and Temple Student Government responded immediately to the incident, reaffirming Temple’s commitment to student safety, inclusiveness and acceptance of all students, regardless of their background. Weeks following the incident, Temple published their TUnity Statement, saying, “As Temple Owls, we respect all members of our university and local community regardless of: race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, political affiliation or (dis)ability. By providing a wealth of life experience, this diversity is our greatest strength.” Everything the university has done in response to the incident accurately reflects on the culture of Temple’s campus as an open and accepting space for all students.
As a Jewish student myself, I couldn’t disagree more with this article. Since coming to campus last fall, I have been able to openly express my Judaism, both in the classroom setting and across campus. Starting my first week on campus, I attended programs run by Hillel, an organization that prides itself for being a home, and safe space for Jewish students. Through Hillel, I was exposed to the large, diverse Jewish community we have on campus, which I was instantly welcomed into. At the beginning of every semester, Hillel hosts a “Jewish Life Fair” where over 20 Jewish organizations, ranging from a cappella groups like “Jewkebox” to community service groups such as “Challah for Hunger” come to showcase their organization, and offer Jewish students many ways to get involved on campus.
Reflecting on the campus’ culture, along with my personal experience as a Jewish student at Temple, it is unreasonable to consider Temple as a “Top 10” on a list containing the most anti-Semitic campuses in the country.
Ari Abramson is a sophomore management information systems major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.