ZBT rides through wave of unrest

The drastic rise of protesters backing antisemitism, harassment and violence that rose over Passover has had a terrible impact on ZBT brothers and the Jewish community.

Since Oct. 7, students feel unsafe. They report hearing antisemitic or derogatory language toward Jewish people during protests at their school. Roughly half of Jewish students said the demonstrations disrupted their ability to attend class, including 20% who said that they were physically blocked from attending a class, according to a new study from Hillel International. About 40% have felt the need to hide their Jewish identity from others on campus.

A pro-Israel campus rally; via Hillel International

In the days from late April to early May when these incidents surged, ZBT has provided direct response to about a third of our chapters related to pro-Palestinian and similar protest encampments on campuses where we have chapters. Some of the most notable situations faced by brothers:

  • Pro-Palestinian protesters descended on ZBT’s house at UCLA in the middle of the night in early May. They were not able to gain entry to the house, fortunately, and no one was harmed, but the house needed increased security immediately. ZBT called on university administrators to take firm steps to support our students in a formal letter to the University chancellor.
  • A protester engaged in a brief physical altercation with a brother outside of the Syracuse house on May 4.
  • ZBT brothers were part of the group of students at The University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill who protected an American flag from Gaza Solidarity Camp protesters.
  • Commencement ceremonies are being cancelled for safety reasons on several ZBT campuses, including University of Southern California and Columbia University, and for those graduations that were held, many were interrupted by protesters at University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan and Duke University.

ZBT is responding immediately and watchfully as we continue to navigate this climate, working with universities, alumni and Jewish campus agencies to support our students. ZBT brothers (Jewish or not) have been targeted for just for belonging to the world’s first Jewish fraternity.

At this The Digital Deltan publication date, the unrest had reduced in many places after police agencies were removing encampments alongside the end of the academic term.

Helping our brothers

Our undergraduate brothers need ZBT and support from ZBT alumni, friends and partners in this critical time. Jewish students are extremely at risk in this campus climate. Exposure to major protests raises the probability of major depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the National Institute of Health.

Zeta Beta Tau partners with many community agencies who are working to support college students through these difficulties. ZBT is thankful to partner with the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation, Anti-Defamation League, Secure Community Network, Hillel International, university administrations, local volunteers and many others.

The ADL supported ZBT in sending several brothers to attend an educational conference in March.

Learn more about the resources available to students and families at ZBT.org/reporthate.

One major project in which we played a key role was supporting the Anti-Defamation League as they developed their recently released Campus Antisemitism Report Card. This tool is for students, parents and other stakeholders looking for information about the current state of antisemitism on campus and how particular universities and colleges are responding. The Campus Antisemitism Report Card provides detailed information on the state of antisemitism on campus and how 85 colleges and universities are responding. The locations of many ZBT chapters are represented in this searchable tool: ADL Campus Antisemitism Report Card.

Part of ZBT’s response has included the priority of education and mental health of brothers in partnership with the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation. We have reached more than 350 brothers with ZBT-specific antisemitism programming delivered at their campuses in person so far in 2024  and all undergraduate brothers have access 24/7 to full-scale mental health services.  Gifts to the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation help ensure the continuity of these services to combat the ongoing hatred and hostility. Your gift will make a difference in the lives of our ZBT brothers by providing them with the tools they need to stay safe and healthy. Donate here.