Passover just ended and, as I write this post, I just finished a dinner full of chametz and kitnyot. This time of year is very special. Passover and the counting of the Omer happen to align with an incredible amount of activity on campuses. Many of our chapters are raising money for philanthropic causes; notably our chapter at University of Missouri is holding their rock-a-thon philanthropy benefiting the American Cancer Society which usually raises over $100,000. Other chapters, such as Indiana University, University of Colorado, University of Georgia, Michigan State and so many others have raised tens of thousands each and their combined efforts with our Mensch Madness campaign raised more than $40,000 this year.
This time of year also corresponds with a dramatic spike in antisemitism on campuses. Those involved in the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement, including local Students for Justice in Palestine chapters hold “Israeli apartheid week”. Under the false narrative of justice and antiracism, these events promote an intensely antisemitic narrative that places Jewish students in danger.
About a year ago, I published a Rob’s report discussing the state of antisemitism on campus but this is still the topic of inquiry I most often receive when on the road meeting with alumni, parents, and constituents. I do not have good news to report. Antisemitism is increasing everywhere but on campus it is on the rise greater than in any other place. A recent report from Jewish on Campus backs our experience. AEPi partners with organizations on and off-campus to combat this scourge. You may have recently seen the blue box campaign promoted on network television and on celebrity social media accounts. AEPi was proud to partner with the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism to echo their messaging and ensure that this message was heard on campuses across the US and Canada.
The antisemitism that is rampant on campus can not become the thing we care about most. It can not become the main topic of conversation. We have to continue to care about what matters most; the next generation — L’dor Vador. Just as it has always been for the Jewish people, our focus on our youth is what has helped us to survive. While those who hate Jews spread vitriol, our students keep pushing forward with a love for Judaism and for one another. Do you remember the first paragraph of this post or did the talk about antisemitism distract you from the real news? OUR STUDENTS ON CAMPUS ARE DOING THINGS THAT CHANGE THE WORLD and they are doing these things despite the increasingly difficult circumstances. The AEPi experience on campus looks substantially the same as it has for over 100 years. No matter what else is happening, we can not forget to celebrate and support the positive experience that our Brothers have shared.
Since September we have tracked over 3,800 unique programs on campuses, over $265,000 raised for philanthropic causes, and over 6,000 hours of community service performed. A full 870 of those programs centered around Jewish Identity and/or Israel. Many others have focused on family, wellness, academics, and social; all of which are important areas for growth and development for our students and their campus communities while in these college years. Let me repeat: our 8,000 undergraduates in 155 chapters are amazing people who do amazing things. Keep an eye out for them and I guarantee you will be impressed.
As we count the Omer, we recall a time when the Israelites wandered in the desert. As they did, they began to be distracted and became misguided. Let us recall the lesson and attempt not to focus on the golden calf of antisemitism but rather the torah that has guided our people for thousands of years.
A way of life, a way of leadership, a way of being. Dare I say: “The AEPi Way.”