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UIUC Acknowledges Zionism Is ‘Integral’ to Jewish Identity

Jewish Journal

Aaron Bandler

November 16, 2020

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) released a joint statement with Jewish groups on November 16 condemning anti-Semitism as well as acknowledging the importance of Zionism to Jewish identity.

The statement, which was issued in conjunction with the university’s Hillel and Chabad, Hillel International, Jewish United Fund Chicago, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Arnold & Porter law firm, acknowledges that the university needs “to do more” to address anti-Semitism on campus.

“Acts and expressions of anti-Semitism—in any form—actively undermine the educational process and are in direct opposition to our core values,” the statement read. “For many Jewish students, Zionism is an integral part of their identity and their ethnic and ancestral heritage. These students have the right to openly express identification with Israel. The university will safeguard the abilities of these students, as well as all students, to participate in university-sponsored activities free from discrimination and harassment.”

The statement added that the demonization and delegitimization of Israel as well as subjecting the Jewish state to double standards are anti-Semitic and that Jewish students shouldn’t be excluded from social justice activism on campus.

“All Jewish students should be able to proudly display religious emblems without fear of being targeted by their fellow students,” the statement read. “All Jewish students should feel confident that if they encounter a swastika on campus, the university stands with them in rejecting symbols of hate. Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at this university. We will stand united against all forms of anti-Semitism.”

The university then outlined various measures to help combat anti-Semitism on campus, including creating an Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life, implementing educational programming on anti-Semitism, and re-evaluating their procedures for handling instances of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination on campus.

“Though these steps will further our shared goals, they alone will not effectively dispel the environment that many Jewish students have felt to be unwelcoming,” the statement concluded. “Thus, our collective and collaborative efforts will not end with these actions. The university, the undersigned organizations and Jewish students will meet before the end of the semester to discuss additional steps. We will work together to demonstrate that the University of Illinois is a place where people of all faiths, races, gender identities, ethnicities, national origins and viewpoints can live, learn and thrive.”

Carly Gammill, Director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, praised the joint statement.

“We are encouraged and gratified by UIUC’s statement today acknowledging and condemning the many antisemitic acts on its campus in recent months and promising to take decisive action to help ensure a more welcoming environment for Jewish students,” Gammill said in a statement to the Journal. “The university’s recognition of Zionism as an integral component of Jewish identity for many students is a crucial step in this process. We are grateful to the organizations that worked so hard to help bring about this significant result and look forward to continuing our own work supporting UIUC students in this new campus climate.”

Alyza Lewin, President of Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Jewish and pro-Israel students at UIUC have been subjected to anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist harassment for far too long. We are gratified that the University of Illinois has publicly acknowledged the urgency of the problem, has engaged in serious discussion with our community over the last couple of weeks in preparation of this statement, and has pledged to work with the Jewish community to implement remedies to address anti-Semitism on campus.”

She added that the university’s statement “is a significant first step, but there is a long way to go. We look forward to working with the University in the days, weeks and months ahead to convert these words into concrete measures designed to improve the campus climate for Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

The UIUC statement comes after it was announced in October that Jewish students had filed a complaint to Department of Education against the university, alleging that the university’s efforts to address anti-Semitism on campus have been “wholly inadequate” and in some instances the university has been “complicit.”

Read the article here.


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