Catholic University Welcomes Jewish Students

( – One Catholic university is opening its doors and arms to Jewish students who don’t feel welcome, or sometimes even safe, at colleges and universities across the U.S. As recent Congressional testimony from the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania shows, anti-Jewish sentiment at American universities has taken off since the October 7th attack on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas.

Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, is offering expedited transfer to Jewish students. The university’s president, Father Dave Pivonka, said “too many” American schools are “preaching tolerance but practicing prejudice.” Franciscan is alarmed at the open anti-Jewish sentiment on too many American campuses, he said, and the university wants Jewish students to know they have a place at Franciscan.

Franciscan’s press statement says the university is offering “expedited” transfers to Jewish students, even though Franciscan’s attendance is already at record highs. President Pivonka is also aware that non-Catholic students may be leery of transferring to a Catholic institution. But, he said, “our religious differences will not cause any conflict.” He said Catholicism “demands of us fraternal charity toward our Jewish brothers and sisters,” as it demands charity to all people.

Of course, not everyone in higher education thinks Franciscan’s offer will be a solution that works for everyone. Bard College’s Kenneth Stern, who directs the school’s Center for the Study of Hate, said he know Franciscan’s offer is in good faith and is an example of compassion. But, he said, Jewish students should not necessarily “flee” from other schools simply because they have to “engage with opposing viewpoints.”

A Villanova professor of theology offered a similar viewpoint. Massimo Faggioli said the offer was a “double-edged sword.” On the one hand, he said, Christians and Catholics are commanded to offer support to people who are persecuted, whether on the grounds of religion or ethnicity. But on the other hand, he worries the move by Franciscan University could be perceived as not merely an offer of support, but a move toward creating a political alliance, and not simply an act of compassion between members of two prominent religions.

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