Students at American universities face a barrage of anti-Israel propaganda, anti-Zionist student groups and teachers who try to convince them that the support of Israel they grew up with is wrong, according to Rabbi Benjamin Blech.
“Leftist propaganda is destroying the commitment we American Jews have always had with the only democracy in the Middle East,” Rabbi Blech said.
“It’s a disease that’s rampant and this needs to be vaccinated against.”
Rabbi Blech, who’s worked as a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University in New York since 1966, said parents and the broader Jewish community need to do a better job of preparing Jewish children for the onslaught of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messaging they will be subjected to on campus.
A prolific author and lecturer, Rabbi Blech will deliver the keynote address on “Losing our youth,” the phenomenon of young Jews turning away from Israel and joining anti-Israel groups, at a symposium on May 5 at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation, which is sponsored by Aish Toronto.
How bad is it getting on American campuses? Rabbi Blech pointed to a conference on the conflict in Gaza that was held from March 22-24 at the University of North Carolina. Rapper Tamer Nafer, who provided the entertainment, told the audience, “This is my anti-Semitic song.”
Video of the conference, which was shot secretly by filmmaker Ami Horowitz and can be found on YouTube, showed the rapper telling the audience, to sounds of laughter, “Don’t think of Rihanna when you sing this, don’t think of Beyonce. Think of Mel Gibson. Go that anti-Semitic.”
Asking the audience to participate, he said, “I need your help. I cannot be anti-Semitic alone.”
Hafer then sings, and the audience repeats, “Oh. I’m in love with a Jew.”
Horowitz’s video also includes conversations with audience members who made anti-Semitic remarks.
For Rabbi Blech, that sort of open and boastful anti-Semitism resembles Nazi Germany.
“It was frightening to watch,” he said. “You had an entire audience of young people singing anti-Semitic, hate-Jews songs.”
On campuses, what started as purported critiques of Zionism and Israel have morphed into open anti-Semitism, he said.
“Progressives and liberals” were responsible for the attacks on Jews and Israel, Rabbi Blech continued.
“Professors across the United States seem to be extremely liberal, anti-Israel and more anti-Jewish, and they make little effort to separate the two.”
At the same time, pro-Israel speakers are “shouted down, screamed at” and have been denied access to campus because police say they can’t ensure the safety of the event, he said.
Faced with constant anti-Israel rhetoric, some Jews don’t just abandon their support for Israel, but actively participate in anti-Israel groups.
“It is an ancient truth,” Rabbi Blech said. “In former times, Jewish converts to Christianity were more Catholic than the Pope, to prove their newfound conviction.
Looking beyond campuses, Rabbi Blech pointed to disturbing manifestations of anti-Semitism among important policy influencers: politicians feel free to associate with the notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, and in Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar repeats anti-Semitic stereotypes.
“We have to fight back with knowledge and education,” he said. We have to address the issue and prepare youngsters for what they can expect on campus. They have to be educated about the pro-Israel side of the debate and encouraged “not to be meek and not to accept what their professors say. They need to learn the value of activism and speaking out,” he said.