Catholic University Creates ‘Safe Haven’ for Jewish Students amid Wave of Anti-Semitism
In the weeks following the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel that resulted in the deaths of over 1,400, along with over 5,400 who were injured, threats and violence directed at Jewish students on college campuses have soared across the country. In response, one Catholic university has decided to declare that it will welcome any Jewish student who does not feel safe on their own campus.
On October 25, the Anti-Defamation League reported an almost 400% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. since the October 7 attack. A group called Stop AntiSemitism, which also catalogues anti-Semitic incidents, stated that before the attack on Israel, it received a handful of reports per day. But since the attack, it is currently receiving over 500 reports daily.
The College Fix has reported on dozens of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses across the country since the October 7 attacks. Some of the latest incidents include a Jewish student at Tulane University being hospitalized after being repeatedly struck by pro-Palestinian protesters, a group of Jewish students forced to huddle in a library to escape a mob at The Cooper Union, a Jewish student’s door being set on fire at Drexel University, and an FBI probe into online threats to kill Jewish students at Cornell University.
In response to the crisis, Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio announced on October 18 that it had “created an expedited transfer process” for Jewish students to come to Franciscan who feel threatened on their own campus. “Despite the logistical challenges that have come with this year’s record-breaking enrollment, Franciscan University administrators believe creating a safe haven for these students is the right thing to do,” the press release explained.
Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan University, further elaborated on the college’s decision. “[W]ith too many universities preaching tolerance but practicing prejudice, we feel compelled to do more. Our community will welcome [Jewish students] with generosity and respect. Our religious differences will not cause any conflict. On the contrary, at Franciscan, our radical fidelity to Christ and the Catholic faith demands of us fraternal charity toward our Jewish brothers and sisters, as it does toward all people.”
Last week, Franciscan hosted a conference on the “Future of Catholic-Jewish Relations at a Time of Rising Antisemitism,” which had been planned months beforehand. “Conference coordinators never imagined the tragic timeliness their event would take on,” the press release noted.
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb, one of the speakers at the conference, spoke to National Review about Franciscan’s offer and the anti-Semitic phenomenon occurring across the country. “What we’re witnessing on college campuses and in cities is nothing less than an apocalyptic or cataclysmic battle for the soul of the West between the forces of Bible-believing Jews and Christians [versus] Muslims and progressives that have found common cause in a cult of identity politics and oppression.”
Gottlieb went on to observe that “without the basis of a traditional religion … in the absence of forgiveness and sin as it’s traditionally understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition, you have these categories of virtuous and sinful that are solely based on identity.”
At the conference, both Catholic and Jewish leaders expressed a desire for there to be a strengthened partnership between the two faith traditions. Andrew Doran, director of Philos Catholic, contended that Catholics should live by the principle laid out by Pope John Paul II, who once said that “With Judaism … we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.”
Gottlieb further expressed his appreciation for Franciscan’s offer to take in Jewish students. “The fact that it was articulated that way and so graciously extended as a real invitation says that there really is a sense of solidarity,” he told NRO. “I see this as an alliance that can last because it’s built on shared values, not just interests.”
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, was also encouraged by the news. “This offer by Franciscan University is wonderful to see,” she told The Washington Stand. “On this feast of All Saints, I’m reminded of St. Maximilian Kolbe who took the place of a Jewish father who was going to the gas chamber during the Holocaust. This is a beautiful example of love for neighbor. I hope other faith-based colleges and universities will follow this lead.”
At press time, John Romanowsky, Franciscan University’s director of marketing and media relations, told TWS that they had not yet received any requests from Jewish students to transfer to Franciscan. However, he noted that “with what we are seeing on campuses across the country, we would not be surprised to start receiving some soon, or perhaps for the next semester.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.