Chicago, IL

Fear Rises Among Jewish, Muslim Chicago Students Due to Increase in Antisemitism, Islamaphobia

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Despite federal investigation by Department of Education prompted last month by anti-Semitism at University of Illinois, problem persists

The aftermath of the Hamas attacks on October 7 has reverberated across Chicago and the United States, sparking intense discussions on Capitol Hill. University presidents, including Claudine Gay of Harvard, Liz Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, faced questioning before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about their strategies to address rising tensions related to antisemitism and Islamophobia.

During the committee hearing, Republicans, led by House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, pressed the university administrators on their actions against students and groups using hateful language against Jews. The presidents acknowledged their disapproval of antisemitic language but emphasized the importance of preserving free speech on college campuses.

Simultaneously, the country has witnessed an uptick in Islamophobic incidents, a concern highlighted by Rep. Bobby Scott and echoed by the witnesses during the hearing.

Local schools and students in Chicago, are grappling with the repercussions. At the University of Illinois Chicago, a student expressed feeling unsafe and unsupported by the administration, attributing it to perceived political support for Israel.

Similar sentiments were echoed at the University of Chicago, where a Jewish leader, Rabbi Yossi Brackman, revealed that students have felt intimidated since the commencement of the Israel-Hamas war. Despite vocal support for Israel, Brackman noted a surge in antisemitic voices causing discomfort on campus.

Harvard faced backlash for its delayed condemnation of student organizations blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 attack. During the hearing, Claudine Gay acknowledged the surge in antisemitism and Islamophobia, emphasizing the complex task of confronting hate while upholding free expression.

Incidents at the University of Pennsylvania involved vile messages projected onto campus buildings and disturbing emails threatening violence against the Jewish community, prompting FBI involvement.

MIT's response to campus protests received criticism for not going far enough, with suspended students claiming fear for their safety and being physically obstructed from attending classes.

Professor Pamela Nadell from American University, a witness at the hearing, asserted that antisemitism on campuses reflects a longstanding issue in American history, underscoring the gravity of the current situation.

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