The Highly Educated Hate Us, Too – Maybe More Dangerously

For decades, more education was presumed to be the antidote to anti-Semitism. People with more years of education showed less hostility to Jews in survey after survey. Jews and their non-Jewish allies placed their best efforts in combatting the hatred of Jews in programs of educating people about But we’ve gotten it all wrong, according to a new study by three professors of educational policy, as reported in Tablet. More education actually may lead to greater, not lesser, anti-Semitism.

That is no surprise to us. Even casual students of the Holocaust recall the Wannsee Conference of 1942, where the process of the annihilation of European Jewry was coordinated among Nazi leadership. Of fifteen attendees, eight had academic doctorates. The takeaway: More education does not mean more morality. Better education does not necessarily produce better people.

The authors of the study suspected that people with more years of academic study were able to discern the purpose of questions about Jews in the older surveys, and respond with the “right,” more socially acceptable, answers. They tested their hypothesis by asking subjects about issues that involved Jews and non-Jews, and comparing the answers. For example, one question involved the legitimacy of Israel’s describing itself as a Jewish state, with a similar query about Denmark’s declaration that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the official church of the country, to be supported by the government. Another dealt with whether academic boycotts were appropriate against countries accused of human rights violations. Some subjects received the question about China, others about Israel. Were there no bias against Israel, the responses should have been similar. Instead, they showed more respondents critical of Israel than of non-Jewish states. A classic double standard was at work; the effect was stronger among those with more education than among the less educated.

The disturbing finding screams for explanation. We think of prejudice as built on ugly – and untrue – stereotypes and conspiratorial excess. Why wouldn’t education erase these? Having been professionally involved with combatting anti-Semitism, I’ll venture a few observations..

Firstly, in our decades of experience we have come across two forms of anti-Semitism. The kind that receives the most attention is the crude, primitive kind that is so nonsensical that it can only be described as tragicomical. This form is in vogue with a resurgent extreme right, and with Muslim extremists around the world. It is conscious and deliberate, and pulls no punches.

Then there is the other kind, more insidious but no less pernicious. Perhaps it is more so, because those affected by it don’t realize that it is there. You can’t provide an antidote when a patient doesn’t believe that anything is amiss with them. We call it unconscious anti-Semitism. The result of centuries of hostility to Jews, it is transmitted subliminally as part of the cultural surround. We believe it to be far more common than the overt, explicit kind. Those who possess it are often horrified – genuinely – by the thought that they are anti-Semites, and come around only when they are forced to confront its presence in their decisions. When they become aware of it, they cannot explain it with the strained, hysterical claims of the extreme rightists and Islamists.

Unconscious, often genteel anti-Semitism is an issue not only for Jews. If hatred of the Other can persist beneath the surface, we have to wonder how many Others are there that suffer from similar attitudes in the surrounding culture. It certainly supports the claim of many Black Americans that they remain the victims of large-scale unconscious hostility, even in a country that consciously elected a Black president.

A second observation, darker than the first, explains why the educated might be even more likely to hate Jews in the old-fashioned, overt way, than the less educated. The highly educated can do what “lesser” people cannot: churn out ideology. With elitist arrogance, they can determine what is wrong with the world, design their solutions, and impose them on the unwilling through the cultural power they wield. They can be the architects of totalitarianism, and destroy countless lives, whether by brute force, or by cancel culture. If a group – like Jews – can be linked (accurately or not) to the twin devils of whiteness and privilege, they will be pursued relentlessly.

The ability of educated, cultural elites to lord it over others is helped along, we believe, by a secular religion that replaces traditional religious belief. According to a 2017 Pew report, “Among all U.S. adults, college graduates are considerably less likely than those who have less education to say religion is “very important” in their lives: Fewer than half of college graduates (46%) say this, compared with nearly six-in-ten of those with no more than a high school education (58%). Highly educated Americans also are less inclined than others to say they believe in God with absolute certainty and to pray on a daily basis. And, when asked about their religious identity, college graduates are more likely than others to describe themselves as atheists or agnostics.”

It is worthwhile remembering historian Paul Johnson’s epilogue to one of his books,[1] warning of the power of the intelligentsia. “Far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, [they] follow certain regular patterns of behavior. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist…That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action.”

The authors of the new study conclude with a recommendation. “Countering the anti-Semitism of the well-educated will be a political and moral struggle, not one that can be addressed by conventional approaches and conceptions of education.” I concur – but only in part. Decades of experience with visitors to our Museum of Tolerance convinces us beyond doubt that tolerance can be taught, one visitor at a time. Therefore, Jewish response to anti-Semitism must be nuanced, and not monolithic. We must be politically astute in standing up to the new wave of Jew-hatred engulfing our campuses and our culture. But it is premature to abandon education as an important tool. And there are lots of people who can be won over, one at a time, by friendship and kiddush Hashem.

  1. Intellectuals, 1988, pg. 342

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32 Responses

  1. lacosta says:

    ” tolerance can be taught, one visitor at a time ”
    —and virulent university based antizionism is being taught a generation at a time , including a large amount of non-orthodox young jews . and that is an EXCELENT entree into jew hatred…..

  2. Mr. Jay says:

    If Western culture is Eisav writ large, those Westerners who are more cultured would naturally be more anti-semitic.

  3. Raymond says:

    I see the theme here being one of humility. When the serpent wished to tempt Adam and Chava, he remarked that if they eat of the forbidden fruit, that they would become like G-ds. It proved to be a temptation that they could not resist. Some generations later, only one man, Abraham the Jew, stood in the way of convincing the whole world that the highly charismatic Nimrod was G-d. Many generations after that, it was Pharoah, the ruler of Egypt, which was the mightiest empire of the time, who almost succeeded in convincing his people that he was, in fact, G-d, but then along came the Jewish people, led by Moses, to tell the world otherwise in a most dramatic and memorable fashion. Same thing when Mordechai stood up to Haman and really the whole Persian Empire, same thing when the philosemitic Winston Churchill stood up to hitler and the nazis, same thing when Natan Sharansky stood up to the Soviet Union with his only weapon being an old, battered, physically small book of Tehilim, and a similar thing (although on a much smaller scale) to those of us in our present times who challenge today’s Intolerant, oppressive Radical Left led by such arrogant, power-hungry dogmatists as Barak Obama, Crooked Hillary, and Anthony Fauci. In all such cases, certain individuals and cultures in their arrogance wish to believe that they are G-ds, but the one force standing in their way are we Jews and a smattering of other clear thinkers, who inform the world that there is a Power greater than ourselves, to Whose Will be would be wise to submit to. While universities were originally created from religious institutions such as the Catholic Church, they have evolved into completely secular institutions, where professors have tenure, and in their intellectual smugness come to believe that they are as G-ds, and so they have contempt for Biblical Man. And that is the real root of antisemitism: it is ultimately the secular man’s battle with G-d, for mankind wishes to be as G-ds, but we Jews keep standing in their way of achieving that goal. The serpent in the Garden of Eden understood human nature very well.

  4. william l gewirtz says:

    I agree with your identification of the problem; sadly, I believe it is much more widespread than depicted. It is so massive a problem that a one-by-one solution is woefully inadequate. the need for education and exposure to Jews overwhelms the number of those willing and able to take on those roles. Whatsmore, Jews themselves are more part of the problem than the solution.

    Fortunately, the groups whose feelings towards us are frightening, maintain contempt for classical American values as well. Their overstep will hopefully bring a reaction from the broader population, from which we will hopefully benefit.

    If this turns out badly, it will likely also portend the downfall of Western society. Who knows, but in the long term, Moslems, India, China, Korea, etc. may provide be the sources for Jewish salvation. I hope the western world awakens sooner, but we need to keep our options open.

    a topic for serious conversation and incisive thought.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    I highly recommend the linked Tablet article. The real issue is the view of Judaism Jews and Israel in the intersectional progressive woke world that dominates social media the legacy media and academia the substitution of a Marxist version of history rooted in the so called original sin of slavery and the attempted replacement of religion by social justice with a view of oppressors and oppressed with Am Yisrael viewed as oppressors If we don’t deal with the fire burning under our feet with this false narrative we will see anti Semitism from the left as a clear and present danger to the continued vitality of Am Yisrael and Congressional support for Israel

  6. Moe says:

    Chazal say that the strengthening of one’s Yiddishkeit is a way out of Anti-Semitism. That only when the Jewish nation starts assimilating and taking non-Jewish value’s do the nations of the world begin to act out of their hatred for us. Perhaps if we act as a Jew should act, without copying the 70 nations, then anti-Semitism will subside.

    • Raymond says:

      That doesn’t explain the fact that the nazis murdered even the most pious of Orthodox Rabbis right alongside the most assimilated of European Jews. Nor does it account for the more than a million innocent Jewish children murdered the nazis. In fact, I cannot think of a single example of a Jew who was so evil, that he deserved to be turned into ashes at Auschwitz.

      • Moe says:

        Rabbi Avigdor Miller speaks about your questions. Before the war, every Jewish city was going down the tubes from the Bundists, Socialists, Communists, and Zionists. It was not necessarily the individual Jew that deserved such evil done to them, rather it was the Jewish people as a whole who needed the Holocaust in order to survive.
        This is similar to what happened by the Beis Haikdash, where the Jewish nation was being hijacked by the Tzeddukim and other imposters, and because of this the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed in order to save the nation as a whole.
        If we act as Jews and stay separate from the nations, there will be no need for Anti-Semitism.

      • lacosta says:

        moe’s comment portrays the belief that haredim should pay the price , in Gd’s eye , for the sins of everyone else….

  7. michael halberstam says:

    It seems that the issue is not whether education serves to increase anti semitism. Rather the question is whether one should expect to find hatred of the Jews in places one would not expect to find it. Anti semitism is baked into people long before they begin to identify as intellectuals, or anything else. Once it is there, it grows along with the person in any direction that person is growing. This is true of many other attitudes as well.
    The idea is find the hater, and you will discover where he is keeping his hate.

  8. Weaver says:

    It all depends what the universities are teaching, simple as that.

    @ Jay “If Western culture is Eisav writ large, those Westerners who are more cultured would naturally be more anti-semitic.”
    If. ; )

  9. michael Halberstam says:

    I wonder if it isn’t true that people are naturally primed to hate before they develop intellectually in any direction. Once they develop, there prejudices pass on into their newly acquired personna. It is not that educated people are more prejudiced, rather prejudiced people remain prejudiced.

    • Dovid says:

      Michoel, perhaps the key problem is that the exercise and process known as “education” not only provides a new and intriguing medium for haters, it also creates the optics that their hatred is a form of sophisticated expression. How is it sophisticated? Because it was studied and processed in an academic setting.

  10. william l gewirtz says:

    Michoel Halberstam,

    We disagree. On any number of college campuses, anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian propaganda is widespread. With the number of Republican professors way less than a miut she’aino matzui and the democrats from the left-wing of the party (read Sanders/Warren) students are subjected to only one side of the argument and intolerance to the other, if not outright banning as hate speech.

    I have become a fan of Ruth Wisse, whose observations about what is happening on campus are frightening.

  11. Reb Yid says:

    The folks who marched on our nation’s capitol January 6th?

    Most of them don’t care for Jews one bit. Camp Auschwitz, you already know.

    Charlottesville? “The Jews Will Not Replace Us”.

    I’ll bet if we did a survey of how many of them had Ph.D.s., we’d come up empty, or nearly so.

    Sure, see only what you want to see, but ignore at your own peril.

    • Raymond says:

      So conveniently not mentioned here is the far worse damage done in the ongoing rioting in major cities throughout America by such Left-wing organizations as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, including a pogrom against Jewish businesses right here in Los Angeles. And of course, there is the antisemitism displayed by FDR, Dhimmi Carter, Vanessa Redgrave, Gore Vidal, Jesse JerKson, Al not so Sharpton, John “Lurch” Kerry, Crooked Hillary, Baraq OMarxist, AOC, Ilhan Omar, Raunchita Tlaib, Pocahontas Warren, Crazy Bernie, and other Democrats. So sure, see only what you want to see, but ignore it at your own peril.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      The intersectional progressive woke left which had no room for Torah observant Jews Judaism or support of Israel has far more power than those who marched on January 6th for the reasons stated by William I Gewirtz precisely because of the dominance by the woke left of the media academia and culture

      • Reb Yid says:

        These are not the folks barging into synagogues, churches, mosques, and government buildings and gunning people down.

        Pre-COVID, that’s the reason our shuls have had the extra expenses of added security and volunteer shomrim.

        That’s the overwhelming danger right now in our society.

        Call it what it is: domestic terrorism. It’s organized. It’s growing. And, until recently, it was aided and abetted by our nation’s top official.

      • Dovid says:

        After the Pittsburgh massacre, the ‘nation’s top official’ ordered the DOJ to pursue capital punishment against the perpetrator. After the Jersey City massacre, the media reaction was muted since exposure to the truth meant the inevitable conclusion that the domestic terrorists that time were, in fact, African-American. Why complicate matters when Woke dichotomy is so much simpler?
        Woke dichotomy also declared that Sen. Tim Scott’s opinions should not be meant with counter-opinions, but rather with slurs, epithets and other unique hatespeak of the cancel culture.

        The media sheds light on white nationalist terrorism, and rightfully so. The purpose of articles like this one is to shed light on other areas of equal danger which the media ignores, whitewashes, or renders irrelevant. And as so eloquently stated “it’s organized, it’s growing”.

  12. Michael Halberstam says:

    Let’s try it another way. isn’t it easier to sell pro-Palestinian propaganda to the very same people who hate the Jews for other reasons. How about seeing whether the Palestinian argument isn’t just a way to fuel the anger inside the one who hates jews because they are more successful, and he is willing to listen to any anti- jewish stuff you put on his plate. This explains how so many disadvantaged Americans, who know nothing about the MKiddle East, but who know that the Jews someone stole what belongs to them, are so eager to jump on the anti Israel bandwagon.
    Haven’t you ever noticed that new arrangements of those who dislike Jews always form around what is trending in society. This is because the new wave activists have discovered that there is always a reserve of people who hate Jews and who can be sold any point of view that stokes the fires of that hatred.
    I think its interesting to examimne clusters of people who have emerged as supporters of new trends, who have suddenly found a way to express anti Jewish feeling they have buried for years.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      We disagree- the power of the intersectional progressive woke left in media , culture ,tech and academia all have clearly Marxist ideological roots that have no room for Judaism, Torah observant Jews, the traditional family and support of Israel. In the UK, we already see attempts at forcing Charedi schools to teach a woke oriented , Halachically and Hashkafically objectionable view of the family and human sexuality as part of so called secular studies. We err individually and communally in failing to recognize and fight the power of the woke world which looms over American culture, media and secular education.

      Look at it this way. U of Pennsylvania has a substantial number of Torah observant students. Despite a large lobbying effort, the administration, in a very haughty and insensitive letter, refused to move graduation exercises from Shavuos to an alternative date. Conduct like that sends a message that such schools welcome the extremely high tuition that you will pay for your children as long as they don’t insist on accommodations for religious reasons and accept the woke view as normal. Can anyone imagine such a ceremony happening on a major Christian ,Islamic , Hindu or Buddhist holiday? This is IMO what is called marginalizing a percentage of the student body and sending a message that the administration will ignore their requests and simultaneously tolerate the woke progressive agenda which clearly has anti Israel and anti Semitic aspects.

      If we don’t see the ideological basis of what is happening, IMO, we are missing the larger picture of what is happening on campuses, in the media , the Democratic Party and in popular culture.

      When Gil Perl raised the issue of whether it was a well thought decision to send the average MO high school graduate to an Ivy league school , the MO community created the JLI which provides a MO presence on campus. We now see that the campuses have become hotbeds of anti Semitism and BDS sentiment, and now indifference to the expectations of religious students as well.

      • Dovid says:

        “In the UK, we already see attempts at forcing Charedi schools to teach a woke oriented”
        Steve, that’s the crux of my quandary with secular studies in the yeshivas. I really wish there were higher quality secular studies in our mesivtas and Bais Yaakovs. But allowing the woke Board of Regents a foothold and forcing critical race “theory” and other nefarious fakery will only bring on a churban.

  13. Steven Brizel says:

    It is important to note and be aware that the radicals who demonstrated and rioted on college campuses in the 1969s failed s as t the ballot boxes but became tenured radicals on campuses

    • Mr. Jay says:

      Yes, you’re right. But then MO Jews in the U.S. should abandon the “better” universities and send their children to local colleges and — yes — vocational schools. So forget the Ivy League, though it promises prestige and high-paying careers. And forget all those high-toned liberal arts schools, too. And frankly, if MO Jews don’t want their kids indoctrinated by Woke ideology, they’ll also have to turn their backs on the media and popular culture since — as you’ve said — they are also sources of leftist propaganda.
      In Israel, the Left is vocal and influential, but not nearly as strong as in the U.S. Another reason to consider Aliyah.

  14. Steven Brizel says:

    The post Zionist left in Israel which includes far too much of Israeli secular culture and academia was unfortunately one of the breeding grounds for the woke left and its view of Israel We delude ourselves seriously in thinking that the secular college experience of 2021 is the same as it was in the 1950s and 1960s It only takes a semester for anyone to become a member in good standing of the woke left

  15. Steven Brizel says:

    Reb Yid wrote in relevant part:
    “These are not the folks barging into synagogues, churches, mosques, and government buildings and gunning people down.

    Pre-COVID, that’s the reason our shuls have had the extra expenses of added security and volunteer shomrim.

    That’s the overwhelming danger right now in our society.

    Call it what it is: domestic terrorism. It’s organized. It’s growing.”

    WADR, lets look at facts,not narratives and ask some serious questions?

    1) who committed acts of anti Semitism in Crown Heights, Jersey City and Monsey and on the streets of NY and elsewhere before Covid?

    2) who committed acts of burglarism against shuls during Covid?

    3) who continues to urge the banning of Hillel, Chabad and support of Israel from college campuses?

    4) who attempted to shut our shuls down in a draconian way , and presented misleading information as to Covid fatalities?

    • Mr. Jay says:

      I agree. The far (and not so far) Left is more of a threat to Jews than the odious Right. And the most serious threat from the Left is its effect on Jewish hearts and minds. Do we want our children to become anti-Israel cultural Marxists? Do we want them to condone or even celebrate aberrant personal behavior? Woke is today’s Bolshevism. It’s neither cute nor innocent. Even if you’re a liberal, Trump-hating Jew, you’d better protect yourself and your family from Critical Social Justice theory. Maybe especially so.
      (BTW, I voted for neither Trump nor Biden. Dislike them both.)

  16. DF says:

    RYA, has it occurred to you that you too, may be part of the intelligentsia? That is the only way too explain marring this fine (if rather obvious) essay by seeming to validate claims of “hostility” to blacks. It is either that, or simply a paradigm that certain baby boomers are physiologically incapable of shifting.

    Don’t fall for the the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. You recognize the falsity of left-wing anti-semitic tropes said about the community you are most familiar with. They are equally false concerning communities or other segments of society you are less familiar with.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    Education can be like a gun. Its effects depend on who is aiming it, who is the target, what was loaded, and, last of all, the instrument itself .

  18. One Christian's Perspective says:

    I am not Jewish but find great comfort in reading Cross Currents on a frequent basis. This article written by Rabbi Adlerstein and the comments by Raymond have struck a place in my heart. Raymond’s statement that he saw a theme here being one of humility and his amazing link to the serpent in the Garden of Eden and his evil desires rang so true and profound that I could not stop reading his comments and nodding my head ‘yes’. Raymond, you have grown so much over the years and that the depth of your wisdom and words blow me away.
    Rabbi Adlerstein, I don’t know if the highly educated are more dangerous but I am most willing to trust your words when you say ‘they hate us’. If they hate Jewish people today, surely, Christians cannot be far behind in that hatred. And if they hate Jewish people, their arrogance to me is abhorrent. Have then not read the Bible at all ? Do they not know God ? Do they pray for wisdom or do they think their own wisdom is sufficient ? I suppose this gets back to Raymond’s point of humility…..which seems to be a place where we meet G-d.
    Thank you for this article and comments ! May G-d bless you all and keep you safe.

  19. Rivka Leah says:

    I am suprised that on a forum of such generally insightful and Jewishly educated readers, no one is suggesting the root cause of anti-semetism – it exists because H’ Wills it to exist, as a feedback mechanism.

    All other explanations fall short, including “Esav sonei es Yaakov”, because that doesn’t account for the anti-semetic bias of non-Esav peoples and cultures. (Although, anyway, i tend to see this principle as more of an epigeneric one – it is always lurking, but it manifests in response to certain environmental factors, including our behavior.)

    Anti-semetism is wholly irrational – how can it be religious in nature in one epoch, racial in another, political in another…? There is always a “reason” given, but the reasons can be completely contradictory (aka Jews are bourgeois/Jews are communists).

    By definition, if there is a group of “elites” and they think of themselves as such, of course, we who – sorry if i am not being politically correct – are totally exceptional as a people, well, then that’s just gonna rankle them.

    We could go on and on here with the underlining themes of woke ideology and the threat that Judaism presents, but why bother? These purveyors of intellectual anti-semetism don’t even know why they have such emnity – they eat “their” Jews too – look what happened to the Jewish women involved in the Women’s march – or Bari Weiss or others – good liberal academics, thrown under the bus.

    I really think that the only thing that makes sense, and has always been applicable is that this hatred has a functional purpose to remind us that we have a unique purpose, and to keep us on task…

    I am writing from Israel and wondering when people are going to get the message – you are not welcome here – not at U Penn, not at the NY Times, and on and on.

    I think the message is pretty blatant. All the rest is commentary.

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