An organization that represents Israeli universities abroad, the Committee of University Heads of Israel (VERA), came out with a statement condemning the controversy surrounding kosher food at the University of Toronto (UofT). The controversy arose this week, when Toronto's Graduate Students' Union responded to a request from Jewish student organization, Hillel, for kosher food on campus, only to be told it would be unlikely to pass as Hillel is "openly pro-Israel." Prof. Ron Robin, who also serves as the President of the University of Haifa, issued a strongly worded statement highlighting this case as an example of antisemitic anti-Zionism on the behalf of Graduate Student Union at the UofT.
"Just when we thought that we'd seen it all regarding the ascent of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism on campus, the Graduate Student Union at the University of Toronto (U of T) took this theater of the absurd to new heights by characterizing kosher food as 'pro-Israel,'” Robin said.
Robin added that “we wholeheartedly agree with UofT Hillel's assertion that the union's subsequent apology for 'unintentionally' harming the Jewish community on campus does not address the anti-Semitic nature of their original comments. We also believe actions speak louder than words — namely, the union's support of the BDS movement against Israel in 2012, a stance which has disturbingly surfaced once again in its latest remarks.”
In recent years, countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has become an important part of VERA’s agenda, as the movement increases its influence on campuses and within various university institutions.
"Whether the messenger's impact is 'intentional' or 'unintentional,' the classification of kosher food as 'pro-Israel' illustrates just how far the BDS movement has come in terms of zeroing in on its actual objective—suppressing the freedom of speech and freedom of religion of Jews, not merely leveling criticism at the State of Israel and its policies. Today, university presidents in Israel comprehend that this threat to North American Jewry is as severe are ever, and we will redouble our commitment to speaking the truth and to supporting our brothers and sisters overseas during this time of acute challenges for Jewish and pro-Israel students," Robin argued.
VERA is a committee of different presidents, rectors, and director-generals of Israel’s seven leading universities, which maintain extensive ties to universities abroad.