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Voices of Jewish College Students

Monday, February 26, 2024
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Ariela Keysar

During the second intifada, the uprising of Palestinians in Israel from 2000 to 2005, Jewish life on some North American college campuses became stressful. Some Jewish students felt uncomfortable walking through campus and stopped wearing stars of David or other Jewish symbols. One student who said she experienced "several incidents at the Hillel, including a brick thrown through the door," concluded in 2003 that "anti-Zionism quickly became anti-Semitism." As we struggle to understand and deal with incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses today, it is worthwhile to look back on what happened two decades ago through the voices of the students themselves. This lecture presents findings from a unique longitudinal study of Jewish millennials tracking the development of their Jewish identity and connections from adolescence to adulthood-from the bar/bat mitzvah year to high school, to college and most recently at age 37-38.

Half of the Jewish college students interviewed in 2003 said that they were subjected to anti-Semitism either off or on campus. More students claimed to have been personally affected by anti-Zionism on campus than by anti-Semitism, evidently distinguishing between the two phenomena. The lecture will discuss how such encounters shape young Jews, how they cope with such incidents, and to what extent memories of these experiences endure over time.

Dr. Ariela Keysar, a demographer, is a recipient of the 2021 Marshall Sklare Award, given by the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry to "a senior scholar who has made a significant scholarly contribution to the social scientific study of Jewry." Keysar is a Visiting Scholar at the Greenberg Center and former Research Professor at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. She is Co-Principal Investigator, The Class of 1995/5755 Longitudinal Study of Young American and Canadian Jews, 1995-2019; and U.S. Principal Investigator, Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective (YARG), 2015-2018. She was Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College, 2005-19. Keysar is co-author of Religion in a Free Market and The Next Generation: Jewish Children and Adolescents. She co-edited volumes on secularism in relation to women, science, and secularity, and most recently, The Diversity of Worldviews among Young Adults: Contemporary (Non)Religiosity and Spirituality through the Lens of an International Mixed Method Study.