In campus battles over Israel, Jewish studies professors remain dangerously silent

A pro-Palestinian encampment set up at the University of British Columbia on April 29, 2024. (Photo by Maria Kleiner)

College campuses have been heated spaces for Jewish students for a long time. The rapid spread of tent-in protests that began at Columbia University last month has only exacerbated the issue, giving an international platform to pro-Palestinian (and anti-Zionist) students and faculty members grounded in our post-secondary institutions.

Jewish and non-Jewish protesters, both faculty and students, have been outspoken on these campus quads. But one cohort has been relatively silent: professors of Jewish studies. While Zionism is not inherent to Judaism, most Jews do support Israel, and rather than advocating for Jews on campus, these professors—who are generally more left-leaning—are often either siding with the pro-Palestinian protesters or simply keeping quiet.

This is the thesis that sparked an in-depth piece published this week in Mosaic, a journal of Jewish ideas, called “Jewish Studies against the Jews“. The author, Andrew Koss, joins Avi and Phoebe to explain his research and turn a critical lens on the state of Jewish academia in the United States, Canada and beyond.

And before that, the hosts have a few questions about Jewish Heritage Month. Why does it exist? Does it actually do anything? And how does teaching kids the hora celebrate “diversity and equity”, as our public school boards suggest?


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast, donating to The CJN and subscribing to the podcast’s Substack.