Father Charles Coughlin, a Canadian Catholic priest who worked at a church in Michigan, was a virulent anti-Semite who, throughout the 1930s, was one of the most powerful and dangerous people in our country. Following Kristallnacht, which we just marked earlier this month, Coughlin defended the Nazi violence against the Jews. He explained that this violence was justified retaliation for the persecution of Christians by the Soviets. 83 years ago tomorrow, Coughlin spoke to the millions of listeners who tuned in to his weekly radio program and heard him say that the “communistic government of Russia…the Lenins and Trotskys,…atheistic Jews and Gentiles” had killed more than 20 million Christians and had stolen “40 billion [dollars]…of Christian property.”
Sadly, while many think this type of hatred directed at us is long gone, it is still very much alive. Shockingly, some of the worst antisemitism in our country is taking place on our college campuses, places that should be inclusive and reflect the progressive mindset that we hope lies at the foundation of our nation. Hillel reports that “within the last year, nearly one-third of Jewish students personally experienced antisemitism directed at them on campus or by a member of the campus community.” According to the American Jewish Committee, 50% of Jews over the age of 18 believe antisemitism has increased on college campuses. Whether it be the Torah that was vandalized at GWUswastikas at Yaleantisemitic rhetoric at Princetonhateful graffiti at University of Michigan and FSUan attack on a Jewish student at the University of New Mexico inappropriate language by a professor at Cornellthreatening comments by a professor CUNY, or Duke University’s student government decision to target and veto the formation of a pro-Israel group on campus (there are many more examples), antisemitism is a plague at institutions of higher learning in our country.
Certainly and sadly, hate directed at minority groups is nothing new here in the United States. However, many of the attacks against Jews do not get the national attention and outrage that we experience when other minority groups are threatened. Additionally, many of the antisemitic attacks against our students are part of well-organized anti-Israel campaigns. As such, many spew hate while hiding behind their right to condemn the policies of the Jewish State, all at the expense of Jewish campus communities. For fear of offending those fighting opposed to Israeli policies, too many colleges and universities are silent when it comes to speaking up for Jewish and pro-Israel students. This must stop.
83 years ago, Father Coughlin went on the radio and threatened our community. Today, many of our college students are still feeling threatened. Whether or not you have a student on a campus today, each of us has a responsibility to pay attention to this crisis and raise our voices in support of safe, inclusive communities of learning where Jews and those who support Israel are free to openly express their opinions and engage in the free exchange of ideas.

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