NYU was ranked the ninth worst college campus for Jewish students in the United States and Canada in the first annual list published by The Algemeiner, a Jewish newspaper. Jewish students comprise 27 percent of NYU’s population, so many were surprised to find this specific community criticized by the publication.
The ranking is based on a point-grading system devised by The Algemeiner which accounts for factors such as the number of anti-Israel groups at the university, the Jewish student population, the number of anti-Semitic incidents on each campus, the availability of Jewish resources for students and the success or failure of Israel boycott efforts.
NYU sits near the top of the list, sandwiched between Portland State University and San Francisco State University. The article said NYU earned this ranking because of the abundance of anti-Zionist activity on campus, citing the incident after the election when a sticky note with a hand-drawn swastika was left on a student’s door in one of NYU’s residence halls.
Dana Levinson, the senior associate for leadership and strategic partnerships at the NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, said she did not think the list embodied the vibrant and thriving Jewish communities of many schools on the list, including NYU.
“Naturally I was quite surprised to see NYU among that ranking, particularly because I am so fortunate and privileged to work with such thoughtful and diverse and passionate students,” Levinson said. “It was really quite a shock and I don’t think it accurately represents the NYU community.”
Levinson said that the article failed to capture the essence of NYU’s multifaith population. She said the article should have focused on the ways in which the different religious groups on campus support each other and work together to promote inclusivity.
“As someone who works closely within student affairs and also within different frameworks of global spiritual life, I would say that each of the religious groups on campus really strives to build relationships with one another,” Levinson said. “There are so many instances of both interfaith and intrafaith work and growth that happen on our campus and it’s unfortunate that the article didn’t highlight that.”
CAS freshman Jordana Meyer said that although she initially questioned NYU’s elevated position on the list, she felt there was some justification to the claims of anti-Semitic instances cited in the article.
“At first I thought nobody would expect that from a school with such a large Jewish population, especially one in lower Manhattan,” Meyer said. “But after remembering the various anti-Israel gatherings I’ve walked through in Washington Square Park, and the swastika vandalism incidents I’ve heard about, I began to think that maybe it could be accurate.”
Meyer said that in the aftermath of the election, students often overlooked the continuing struggles of the Jewish community. She said that the swastika’s sudden appearance on campus acted as a symbol of intolerance and hatred, and encouraged her to show more support for other religious groups on campus whose freedom was threatened.
“Although of course I was upset by anti-Semitic rhetoric from Trump supporters, I was also struck by comments from students who spoke about the renewed importance of protecting minorities, before turning around and belittling any concerns expressed by Jews about anti-Semitism,” Meyer said. “It felt as though our concerns were less valid and less important than those of other communities.”
NYU Spokesman John Beckman said that NYU’s place on the list did not encapsulate the true nature of the Jewish community at NYU, and should not be considered a reflection of reality.
“I think that the generations of Jewish students who have attended NYU — including the thousands here now — will mostly find NYU’s presence on this list at odds with their own experience,” Beckman said. “This list seems highly subjective, highly unscientific, and wrong.”
Stern senior Sophie Frank believes the Jewish community at NYU is extremely accepting and is unique in its diversity. However, she thinks the community can often be difficult for students to find because of the nature of NYU.
“There’s always difficulty in reaching out to students and getting exposure to the whole student body or in attracting people who don’t know any familiar faces there yet,” Frank said. “Every year I’ve been here I’ve seen the community grow stronger and stronger and even more accessible, but I think that everybody in the Bronfman Center would agree that it’s an ongoing effort that is made more difficult by being in a very large, urban setting.”
Email Jemima McEvoy at [email protected]