Almost every day, we hear and read news about verbal and even physical attacks of Jewish students on college campuses. In many instances, it makes their lives on campuses very difficult and even dangerous.
Some Jewish leaders and organizations have reacted in the following ways: appealing to authorities; appealing to college administrations; calling on Jewish organizations to protest and educate the public through the media; organizing Jewish student protest events on campuses, and so on. Incidentally, if alumni of universities whose administrations do not take strong actions to stop anti-Semitic attacks would refuse to provide financial support, and if Jewish parents would stop enrolling their kids in these institutions, it would also help.
Listening to some Jewish leaders lament about the “poor” Jewish students who are sometimes even beaten up on campuses, one cannot help but think that, even though all the reactions mentioned above are fine, there is one more that shouldn’t be overlooked. Namely, to encourage Jewish kids to learn self-defense — they should have the ability to defend themselves and work out to be physically strong.
Jewish students constitute a minority on their campuses. But when a minority is well-organized, united and capable in the art of self-defense, it becomes a force to reckon with.
One of the important functions of university and college Hillels must be to unite Jewish students, regardless of their political views, and strongly promote self-defense classes to them.
This does not, by any means, suggest extremism or aggressiveness against anybody, nor does it undermine the function of campus police departments. The message should be similar to Israel’s message to its neighbors: “We want to be friends with everybody, but be aware: We are well-organized and capable.”
Since self-defense is an important aspect of preparing Jewish kids for college and life in the world, every Jewish school should have self-defense as a mandatory part of kids’ physical education. Also, every Jewish summer camp and JCC should offer it to Jewish campers.
Parents who do not send their kids to a Jewish school could enroll them in one of the many widely-available self-defense schools in their city or town.
It was nice to recently learn about some Muslim Americans’ generous offer to protect a synagogue after anti-Semitic threats. As nice as it was, the time has come for Jewish people to be able to protect themselves by themselves. And this ability should be taught from an early age.
Life experiences in this often unfriendly world will make kids very much appreciate their parents’ efforts in this respect.
Arkady Mamaysky is a mechanical engineer who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1979.