As Anti-Semitism Surges, Some Colleges Face Exodus of Jewish Students From Campus

Jewish students transferring from Columbia, Northwestern, Occidental College

Anti-Israel protesters at Columbia (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
June 20, 2024

After months of surging anti-Semitism at elite universities, some of these schools are facing a disturbing trend for next fall: an exodus of Jewish students from campus.

Jewish undergrads are reportedly leaving schools with significant anti-Semitism problems, such as Columbia University and Northwestern University, while the percentage of Jews at many Ivy League schools is dropping.

In contrast, Yeshiva University, the private Orthodox Jewish school in New York, has seen a 53 percent increase in transfers this spring, after extending its transfer deadline for Jewish refugees from less hospitable schools.

At Northwestern University, where the school president Michael Schill has been criticized for failing to adequately address anti-Semitic attacks, one rising sophomore told the Washington Free Beacon that he recently transferred to another university for the fall semester.

"No student should have to go through what Jewish students went through this year, and to not have the university's backing," said the student, who asked for his name to be withheld.

His decision came after Northwestern administrators agreed to grant numerous concessions to anti-Israel campus demonstrators who harassed Jewish students and illegally set up encampments on university grounds.

Administrators "rewarded instead of punishing people who have been openly anti-Semitic and intimidat[ed] Jewish students," he said.

The student said he witnessed a demonstrator yell at one Jewish student, "You're a Jew, go back to Poland." He said one of his friends stopped wearing a yarmulke on campus due to the harassment.

"Prior to October 7th, I felt safe basically everywhere on campus," he said. "[After] … I did not feel safe walking around at night alone, going to the cafeteria or the gym."

Northwestern spokesman Jon Yates told the Free Beacon that the school's "first priority is the safety of our students, and we regret that any student feels that has not been the case." He said the university is looking at ways to improve.

"President Schill recently testified to measures the University has taken and will take in the fall to ensure we've learned from recent events," he said. "Those includes changes to our disciplinary process and security systems that are designed to improve the campus experience for all students."

Jewish undergrads are leaving other schools as well. In May, the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law filed a federal discrimination complaint against Occidental College in Los Angeles, noting that "several Jewish students chose to transfer to other schools to avoid the anti-Semitic environment at Occidental."

According to the complaint, Jewish students were harassed by anti-Israel protesters who called them "fucking Zionist[s]," "fucking Jew[s]," and "kike[s]" who should "go back to the gas chamber."

Columbia University has also lost numerous Jewish students who transferred out for next fall, according to the Orthodox Jewish news outlet Frum News. The school saw some of the most egregious displays of anti-Semitism this spring, prompting Columbia's Orthodox rabbi to urge Jewish students in April to "return home" for their own safety.

A Columbia University task force investigating anti-Semitism reported that one professor told students to avoid the mainstream media because "it is owned by Jews," while another teacher allegedly demanded that a student with a Jewish-sounding name answer for Israel's actions in front of the class. Anti-Israel activists were also caught on film shouting at Jews to "go back to Poland" and holding a sign declaring Jewish students to be "al-Qassam's next targets." The Al-Qassam Brigades are the military wing of Hamas.

As Jewish undergrads have left inhospitable schools, other universities have opened their doors. Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.), whose administration has cracked down on pro-Hamas activists on campuses, took steps to make it easier for Jewish students to switch to schools in the state.

In April, Brandeis University also extended its transfer deadline to accommodate an influx of Jewish students. The school said it has seen a 20 percent increase in applications.

"We received about 90 applications between the announcement [of the extension] and the end of May. About a third of those students identified themselves in their applications as Jewish," Brandeis spokeswoman Julie Jette told the Free Beacon.

A spokeswoman for Occidental College said the school has "consistently shown our commitment to proactively creating an environment free of anti-Semitism" and has sought to combat discrimination through anti-bias training and "constructive dialogue."

Columbia and Yeshiva did not respond to requests for comment.