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Friday, December 26, 2014

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Antisemitism surveyed on British campuses

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LONDON — More than four out of every 10 Jewish students at British universities reported witnessing or experiencing antisemitic incidents between October 2010 and last March.

But only two in 10 said they were concerned about campus antisemitism.

Those were two of the findings in a survey of Jewish students in Britain that showed respondents generally comfortable with their religious identity, and relatively unconcerned about antisemitism and anti-Israel activity on campus.

The National Jewish Student Survey, conducted by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research and released in September, is the first-ever study examining Jewish campus life in Britain. It was commissioned by the Pears Foundation and the Union of Jewish Students, the umbrella group that oversees Jewish societies at more than 100 British universities – the British equivalent of Hillel houses.

The survey, which drew more than 900 respondents from nearly 100 institutions and was conducted in February and March, provides a comprehensive look at the demographics of the so-called millennial generation, young people who came of age in a Britain focused on Jewish continuity and youth involvement to an unprecedented degree.

Charlotte Karp, the Union of Jewish Students’ communications director, said the findings are proof that British Jewry’s two decades of investment in youth groups and Jewish student societies on campus “is paying excellent dividends.”

“By placing trust and investment in students, we are developing the present and future leadership of Anglo Jewry,” Karp said.

The survey found that the concerns of Jewish students generally matched those of non-Jewish students – grades, jobs after graduation and “relationship issues” occupied the top three spots.

In questions on Jewish concerns, 38 per cent of respondents said they were “very” or “fairly worried” about campus anti-Israel sentiment, and 21 per cent reported concerns about campus antisemitism.

Forty-two per cent reported witnessing or experiencing an antisemitic incident between October 2010 and the time of the survey.

“If the community did not make an effort to combat these things, the situation could be far worse,” Karp said. “The fact that it is not a major concern is actually a credit to the longstanding efforts of UJS and other communal bodies that deal with these issues and shows they are managing the situation very well.”

Amy Philip, deputy director of the Pears Foundation, said it’s important not to look just at the antisemitic experiences but about the “wider experience of students and the positive ways in which they are relating to their Jewish identity.”

The survey found that most Jewish students at British universities do not hide their religion, with 59 per cent reporting being “always open” and 39 per cent “sometimes open” about it.

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