Toronto U. academics urge school to take steps against antisemitism

The faculty members are also calling the University to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

University of Toronto (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
University of Toronto
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A committee of University of Toronto faculty members published an open letter urging the school's administration to take "concrete goals" against antisemitism on campus, the Canadian Jewish News reported.
The letter is addressed to the President of the University, Professor Meric Gertler, and Ms. Claire Kennedy, Lieutenant Governor and Council Member.
The committee is led by Professors Howard Tenenbaum, Stuart Kamenetsky, Carole Gruson and Michael Glogauer. While the initiative was first launched by Jewish faculty members from the medical and dentistry schools, it has broadened to appeal to other Jewish and non-Jewish academics, current and past, and in other faculties as well.
The group mobilized in 2019, following an incident in which a representative of the Graduate Students Union (GSU) at the University said that access to kosher food on campus may be denied because "the organization hosting it [Hillel] is openly pro-Israel."
"Jewish students and faculty members have felt increasingly unsafe and unwelcome on our own campuses. Hateful and discriminatory rhetoric against the Jewish community and incitement against our community has gone largely unaddressed. It has often been spread under the umbrella of 'Israel Apartheid Week,' itself a patently antisemitic event, which is held on our campuses annually," the group wrote in the letter.
The faculty members are also calling the Uuniversity to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
"Mere desire and stated commitment to rid our university of antisemitism are not enough. We put to you, and to the University of Toronto administration, that the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full and as policy would be a necessary first concrete step forward," the faculty members stated.
"Flowing from this, the university would have every right, if not the obligation, to face down the UTGSU’s support for BDS as well as its holding of the annual 'Israel Apartheid Week'," the letter continued.
"We, the teaching staff of the University of Toronto, can abide no longer with regular threats to our Jewish students – including general intimidation of Jewish people on campus who happen to also support the precepts guaranteeing the safety and even existence of the one and only Jewish state in the world," the group concluded.
The initiative has been endorsed by different Jewish organizations, including Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Alpha Epsilon Pi student fraternity (AEPi), Canadian Anti-Semitism Education Foundation (CAEF), Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR), Alpha Omega Toronto dental fraternity, Doctors Against Racism and Antisemitism (DARA) and B’nai Brith Canada.
"Our community has rallied around this issue, thanks to the tireless efforts of the professors who have taken the initiative to make a difference at their university. We fully expect that the professors’ efforts will translate into a concrete, meaningful and positive change on campus," said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.
"The IHRA definition is a necessary and effective first step in finally putting a stop to the dangerous environment that has been created for students on many campuses in recent years. This is an opportunity for U of T, the birthplace of Israel Apartheid Week, to now become a trailblazer in the fight against the anti-Jewish sentiment that has arisen in its shadow," Mostyn added.
The group is calling on more people to sign the letter. "We’re trying to get 400 signatures. We really want to push on this one," said Kamenetsky, one of the professors at the head of the initiative.