Every parent experiences mixed emotions when their child heads off to university for the first time. For a Jewish parent, a natural level of anxiety is compounded when they hear about toxic anti-Israel activism on campus, which challenges the core identity of Jewish students.
CIJA’s national campus team provides extensive funding, training, advocacy materials, and rapid response assistance for students to combat anti-Israel trends and ensure campus remains safe and welcoming. The team works closely with students across Canada – both on the ground and online – partnering with Hillel, Jewish students, and non-Jewish allies on more than 25 campuses.
While this work includes too many activities to describe in one email, I wanted to share three elements of CIJA’s multi-pronged strategy to support our students.
First, securing the well-being of Jewish students and countering anti-Israel campus activists requires effective relationships with those in a position to make a difference.
This cannot be achieved overnight, which is why CIJA has spent years building positive, trust-based relationships with university officials across Canada. These ties enable us to speak directly – and frankly – about the challenges confronting Jewish students and the need for universities to enforce campus codes of conduct in the face of anti-Israel activism.
Relationships also allow us to strengthen ties between Canadian and Israeli schools, a phenomenon that has skyrocketed in recent years in part due to university officials experiencing Israel first-hand on CIJA-sponsored trips. The bilateral and multilateral agreements that have resulted from these trips are an eloquent and powerful repudiation of boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) on campus.
Second, faculty are a crucial resource that must be tapped in countering anti-Israel trends on campus. Many faculty have spent years on their campus and enjoy strong ties with university officials. Pro-Israel professors can help students understand their academic rights and take effective steps when those rights are violated. And faculty can demonstrate that our students are not alone on campus, as seen last year when students at Trent University launched a successful bid to overturn a BDS resolution. Their efforts benefited from substantial advice and support from the Chair of Canadian Academics for Peace in the Middle East, a CIJA-affiliated body of professors, who happens to be a faculty member at Trent.
Third, the most effective way to defeat BDS initiatives on campus is to develop allies among student government. This has proven a successful model in the fight against BDS, as seen earlier this month at the University of Toronto.
The U of T Students’ Union defeated a motion to submit a BDS resolution to a student-wide vote at the union’s next annual general meeting. This decision was the direct result of strong relationships Hillel built with key student union representatives, which enabled Hillel’s team to make a persuasive case about the damage BDS causes to Jewish students and campus life in general.
Indeed, BDS activists have suffered similar defeats at other campuses – including UBC, McGill, Trent, and Regina – because Jewish and non-Jewish pro-Israel students were mobilized and actively engaged student government.
David J. Cape, Chair
PS: I encourage you to contact us at [email protected] if you or someone you know faces a challenge on campus. We’re here to help.