JUF News | University of Illinois commits to address antisemitism – Jewish United Fund

Posted By on November 28, 2020

The University of Illinois, in coordination with the Jewish community, has announced commitments to address the alarming increase in antisemitic and anti-Zionist harassment and discrimination on its campus.

On Nov. 16, the university issued a joint statement, together with Jewish United Fund, Illini Hillel, Hillel International, Illini Chabad, Arnold & Porter, and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, recognizing years of antisemitic harassment of Jewish students at UIUC as "unacceptable" and conceding that "the university must do more."

A federal civil rights complaint filed in March asked the U.S. Department of Education to investigate "an unrelenting campaign of intimidation and harassment" of Jewish and pro-Israel students at UIUC. The complaint was prepared by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, together with the Brandeis Center, in consultation with the Jewish United Fund and Hillel International.

The Jewish community thanked UIUC Chancellor Robert Jones for this important first step.

"The Chancellor's validation of these students' painful experiences is significant," said JUF President Lonnie Nasatir. "We particularly appreciate the Chancellor's acknowledgement that for many Jewish students, Zionism is an integral part of their identity and their ethnic and ancestral heritage - and that these students have the right to openly express identification with Israel."

The university has pledged to safeguard the abilities of these students, as well as all students, to participate in university-sponsored activities free from discrimination and harassment.

"All Jewish students, including those who identify with Israel or Jewish campus organizations, should be able to participate in campus activities aimed at fighting racism and achieving social justice," said Emily Briskman, JUF Associate Vice President of Campus Affairs and Executive Director of the Hillels of Illinois.

Jewish students who support Israel have faced discrimination and been "branded as 'racists' regardless of their attitude toward the policies of the current governmentof Israel," said Alyza Lewin, President of the Brandeis Center.

Over the last five years, incidents have ranged from swastikas scrawled on campus dorms and a university-sponsored training with antisemitic content to repeated BDS campaigns and concomitant harassment of Jewish students on campus and in social media.

"We deplore anti-Semitic incidents on campus, including those that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students or compare them to Nazis," the chancellor's statement said. "This subjects them to double standards that are not applied to others."

This experience has taken a heavy toll on many Jewish students.

"I don't want any other students to go through what my friends and I have gone through," said UIUC junior Ian Katsnelson.

The Nov. 16 statement pledged that "[t]he university is committed to complying with applicable federal, state, and local antidiscrimination as a state and federally funded institution."

"This statement and the commitment it demonstrates is important; however, it is only a first step," said John Lowenstein, JUF Vice President of Campus Affairs. "The next steps will involve real work, including focused and regularly recurring educational programming regarding antisemitism, review and revision of practices and procedures, and the creation of an Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life that will consist of stakeholders who are 'committed to the principles set forth in [the] statement.'

"As noted in our joint statement, 'our collective and collaborative efforts will not end with these actions,'" Lowenstein said. "We look forward to ongoing collaborative work with the Chancellor and his team to convert the objectives outlined into action that achieves our shared, common values, including the freedom and security of all University of Illinois students."

JUF News | University of Illinois commits to address antisemitism - Jewish United Fund

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