Jewish and Israeli students at UK universities are hiding their Magen Davids for fear they will be “targeted” on campus because of their race or nationality as reports of antisemitism in the wider community surge.
Students have told the JC they are concealing their stars and are avoiding speaking in Hebrew in public.
Their sense of alienation and fear was heightened during a spate of pro-Palestine marches on and off campus, where some demonstrators have openly championed and praised Hamas in the wake of the October 7 terror attacks.
Einav Grushka, a Jewish Israeli student at the University of Cambridge, said “there is a lot of fear” among her peers, adding: “My parents are begging me not to speak Hebrew on the street”.
Grushka, who lost a friend in the massacre at the Nova music festival, described how the university’s Jewish community “feels threatened by the cries [of] pro-Palestinian demonstrations supporting Hamas’ actions” and said her friends at Cambridge had removed their Magen Davids after Palestinian flags appeared in the windows of university accommodation.
At a vigil organised by Chabad, Grushka attended for the Israeli victims of terror attacks, police escorted out an individual who called out “Allahu Akbar”.
Another student who went to the event and did not want to be named said he was criticised by a friend simply for attending the vigil, which left him feeling “betrayed and broken”.
Examples of antisemitic rhetoric have been reported at numerous pro-Palestine demonstrations held across the country. In Manchester, a student was recorded saying Hamas should be “celebrated”.
“[Israel] lied about having children being beheaded, they lied about women being raped, they lied about torturing kids,” he said.
Elsewhere, screenshots posed online showed how a WhatsApp group used by members of a university Jewish society became overrun with vile antisemitic messages. “F***ing dirty Jewish c***s,” read one.
A Jewish student the University of Manchester, who also asked not to be named, said: “A lot of people don’t feel safe, a lot of people aren’t wearing [their] Magen Davids out.”
They added that many students “aren’t telling anyone they’re Jewish because they want to cause conflict”.
UJS and the University Jewish Chaplaincy have written to every vice chancellor in the UK to demand better protections for Jewish students in response to the spike in reports of antisemitism.
Universities UK, which represents 140 institutions, said that any student expressing support for Hamas “will be in breach of UK law,” and asked that universities treat these incidents seriously.
The Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has also written to vice-chancellors in England to express her concern for the welfare of Jewish students.
Stand With Us, a pro-Israel education non-profit organisation based in the US said it was “deeply disturbed” by the eruption of antisemitism in the UK.
“Universities should be bastions of free speech and open dialogue, yet some anti-Israeli and antisemitic groups are resorting to verbal and physical violence to intimidate not only Jewish students but also non-Jewish students who wish to express their opinions about Israel. It’s disheartening to see university administrations permitting this behaviour under the guise of free speech,” it said.
“Now, more than ever, Jewish students are being targeted, and this is happening at a time when the community is grappling with intense collective trauma.
"It’s essential for the British public to recognise that maintaining a safe and inclusive environment in universities for all students, free from violence and toxic messages and upheld by the principles of free speech, is in the best interest of every conscientious individual who wants the UK to continue thriving as a free and democratic society.”
Universities UK, which represents 140 institutions across the country, said that any student expressing support for Hamas “will be in breach of UK law,” and asked that universities treat these incidents seriously.