Campus Protests: Protecting Your Child at School

Campus protests are erupting all over America. Parents who scrimped and saved so that their children might someday receive a college education feel cheated. They see their money going down the drain. Their children can’t go to their classes. Moreover, many of them feel unsafe, and are, in fact unsafe. Some are unsafe because they are active participants in protests which are definitely NOT peaceful. And some of these children, really young adults, are unsafe because they are Jewish.

The campus protests purport to be about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But if that were true, Jewish students would not feel threatened and unsafe. American college students, whatever their religion, have nothing to do with what is happening in far off Gaza. They are not the cause of the war and are not taking part in the war. The war taking place in Gaza is between a country, Israel, and a terrorist outfit, Hamas.

Now it is May, and the academic year is drawing to a close. Some students are graduating, but for many there will be no live commencement ceremony, if at all. This is beyond sad—the pandemic stole away the beginning of the college experience, and now protests about a war in the Middle East are robbing students of a triumphant ending. Even where graduations are taking place, there are walkouts.

Campus Protests: Parents Have Little Control

Whether your child is protesting, staying out of the fray, or in danger because they are Jewish, you may be at a loss to know how to handle the situation as a parent. Your child is no longer a child, really. That means you have little control over their actions and decisions.

Students caught up in the frenzy and excitement of the protests, for example, are unlikely to listen to what you have to say about Gaza or your concerns for their safety. Even where, as a parent, you control the purse strings, you don’t have any real power. Reports suggest that food and drinks are provided, free of charge, to protesters.

Protesters swept up in the fevered melee are also unlikely to listen to reason. They are told not to listen to the “other side,” and in fact, that anyone with a different opinion is the enemy. If you present your child with opposing facts, it is possible that your child may come to see you, the parent, as the enemy. That is definitely not what you want. It is so important to keep the lines of communication between parent and child open at all costs.

campus protest sign: Well Done Israel. Hitler would be Proud
Antisemitic signs and expressions of antisemitism are rife at campus protests

Jewish Students

If you are the parent of a Jewish child, it is important to support and comfort them in the wake of sometimes violent expressions of antisemitism. Where campus protests are really out of control, parents should consider bringing their children home. Their safety must come before any other consideration. The trauma and persecution they are suffering must also be addressed, and their right to their faith and beliefs, strengthened.

For the child, on the other hand, who just wants to get educated; have the college experience, and the satisfaction of wearing a mortarboard and getting a diploma in front of a cheering crowd—as opposed to screaming protesters—it’s hard to know what to tell them. College administrators are failing them. It’s as simple as that.

College administrators are failing students, and robbing them of the education their parents paid for. Academia is failing them, too. Instead of presenting both sides of what is happening in Israel and in Gaza, the well-rounded arguments that lead to constructive thinking, they are telling students to hate Jews and Israel. They are telling students that what happened on October 7 in Israel was justified and in some cases, applauding the massacre. Many professors are involved in the protests, some on an organizational level. They incite the student masses to violence and hate.

Campus protest sign, anti-litter sign with stick figure throwing away blue jewish star: Keep the world Clean

Unrest and the Implications for Incoming College Freshman

Also at issue: the future. Is your child slated to attend college as a freshman in the coming year? How do you prepare them for such unrest and hate? What should you tell them about the protests and your feelings in relation to Gaza, Israel, and Jews? Especially since some of the unrest has arrived on high school campuses, and even elementary schools.

We have presented you with many questions. What are the answers?

For one thing, do not alienate your child who may be protesting or unsure of where they stand on the issues. Stay calm. Don’t be pulled into a screaming match. Let them know that if they’d like to have an open-minded discussion about Gaza, you’d like that, too. Then be prepared with facts.

Seven Talking Points

Here are seven talking points you may want to raise, assuming your child is willing to listen:

  1. A ceasefire, mediated by Egypt in 2021, was in effect when Hamas violated that ceasefire on October 7 by slaughtering, raping, and kidnapping civilians of many nationalities.
  2. At least 40 men, women, and children continue to be held hostage, among them American citizens.
  3. The Hamas Charter, issued in 1988, specifically calls for eradicating the Jewish people by genocide.
  4. Rape is a war crime and is never justified.
  5. The actual number of Gazan civilians killed since October 7th is unknown. The numbers that are cited are untrustworthy, since they come from Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 1997.
  6. Hamas uses civilians as human shields, thus driving up the number of casualties.
  7. Hamas casualty figures do not differentiate between the personnel of Hamas and other terrorist organizations and regular civilians.

Take Heart

If you are the parent of a Jewish child, you may take heart from the words of Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas during a May 1, 2024 press conference:

I’ve been told it’s a great honor to be persecuted because of your faith and I just want to encourage [Jewish students] to stick to their faith; that God will be with them and they’re doing the right thing, and we’re going to do everything we can to stand beside them and make sure they have this opportunity.

Remember, you know, the people who came and founded this country, came here because they were persecuted because of their faith. That’s why they came here, and here we’re repeating history, all in the wrong, so we’re going to stand beside them. It’s a moment of character building for them as well, really, but certainly don’t put themselves in harm’s way.

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About Varda Epstein

Varda Meyers Epstein serves as editor in chief of Kars4Kids Parenting. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Varda is the mother of 12 children and is also a grandmother of 12. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Learning Site, The eLearning Site, and Internet4Classrooms.