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The Jewish Gender Gap

Jewish women on college campuses have taken a sharp turn toward exceptionally far left, progressive views, promoting a dangerous agenda to silence dissent while encouraging cancel culture.
[additional-authors]
February 15, 2024
Students participate in a protest in support of Palestine outside of the Columbia University campus on November 15, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Life and any sense of security have been difficult for the American Jewish community since the vicious attacks on October 7th. Moving well beyond the tragic loss of life and the real rise of antisemitism and hate that all Jews are trying to manage, the Israel-Hamas war has also exposed deep fissures within the American Jewish community. In particular, young Jewish women are leading the charge to the left. In fact, some of the most politically active, harshest critics of Israel and those pushing for an immediate ceasefire are young women.

Jewish women on college campuses have taken a sharp turn toward exceptionally far left, progressive views, promoting a dangerous agenda to silence dissent while encouraging cancel culture. Meanwhile, young Jewish men are notably far less politically and ideologically extreme. Certainly, equality among genders is an important goal worth working toward, and more women in increased leadership roles is a positive outcome of this work. However, religious, lay and philanthropic leadership in the Jewish community must be aware of this crucial difference among genders when it comes to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish political activism.

Looking at the national picture, data regularly show young American men and women have been growing ideologically further apart. Gen Z men have become more conservative over time, while Gen Z women have become more liberal. Young women are more politically active, as women are more likely to vote, care about political issues, and participate in social movements and protests compared to young men. Among Jewish, Gen Z college students who are in the midst of many culture war issues that thrive on our nation’s many campuses, the data reveal that the ideological positions of Jewish women are far more narrow than students on the whole.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) 2024 free expression data captures over fifty-five thousand voices from 254 colleges and universities across the country. The FIRE’s dataset illustrates just how pronounced these gender differences are on campuses today. Almost 55 percent of female students identify as liberal while only 15 percent identify as conservative. Nearly 40 percent of men, however, identify as liberal and 25 percent identify as conservative.

Jewish students are more politically imbalanced. Almost three-quarters of Jewish women (73 percent) are liberal and just nine percent of women are conservative. About 56 percent of men are liberal while only 19 percent are conservative. While there is a similar magnitude in the gender gap, Jews are far more liberal than the student population as a whole.

At the top 25 schools, per US News, students skew heavily more liberal. About 71 percent of women and 54 percent of men identify as liberal, while only eight percent of women and 18 percent of men identify as conservative. Jews are, again, more extreme. Of Jewish women, 79 percent are liberal compared to 69 percent of Jewish men; just three percent of Jewish women on top-ranked campuses are conservative compared with 11 percent of Jewish men. Elite colleges dominate social discourse but are not representative of the American public.

The political gender imbalance on college campuses, particularly among Jewish students, poses serious threats to open discourse, and Jewish women are far more likely to support the silencing of dissenting opinions.

Roughly 39 percent of Jewish women find it is always or sometimes acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus, compared to 34 percent of men. For example, if a speaker claims that “transgender people have a mental disorder,” 55 percent of women and 29 percent of men would not allow this speaker to speak. Among Jewish students, about 64 percent of women and 36 percent of men would “definitely not” allow this speaker to speak.

The data show similar trends that Jewish women are far more likely to be comfortable canceling events that promote or engage with positions that they disagree with on other controversial topics, like supporting Black Lives Matter or the issue of abortion.

The data show similar trends that Jewish women are far more likely to be comfortable canceling events that promote or engage with positions that they disagree with…

Certainly Jewish women are welcome to embrace whatever ideologies they want, but that there is little viewpoint diversity among Jewish women on campus today is concerning. The data show that Jewish women are far more open to shutting down views that they find objectionable and what is distressing is that as these women, notably those who are in the elite schools, become leading voices of the Jewish community in years to come.

This poses a danger to civil society and the Jewish community.

We do not need more leaders who come from a leftist, ideological monoculture and echo chamber, especially if they are inclined to silence any and all dissent. Instead, we need leaders of diverse backgrounds who know how to embrace and work with difference. Silencing dissent not only slows down progress and creates anger and animosity, but also it is antithetical to Jewish ideals, which encourage debate and dialogue and celebrate difference.

There is an imbalance among those in the younger Jewish community, and such an imbalance does not represent or promote the central Jewish values of respect, intellectualism and pluralism. There is still time to change. The Jewish community must do more to promote viewpoint diversity and civic debate, which has been the core of the American Jewish experience for centuries.

Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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