February, 2 2021
Professor Arthur Ripstein
Chair, Working Group on Antisemitism University of Toronto
Dear Professor Ripstein,
Further to our letter of December 9, 2020 applauding the formation of a Working Group on Antisemitism at the University of Toronto, I am writing to inquire further as we have awaited some indication of how the community might provide input. We therefore have two very important coments to offer and urge a response.
Since the question you are mandated to answer is ultimately, “Is there antisemitism on the U of T campus, and how is it expressed?” it would seem imperative that you start by defining what it is you are looking for or at, which means, define “antisemitism.” The growing acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism seems like the most logical, acceptable, recognizable place to start. If you choose to define antisemitism in any other way, it would imply that somehow U of T, or the Canadian academic world is somehow exempt from looking at the globally accepted definition, now adopted by over 34 countries, universities in the UK and USA and many other institutions and security forces. We ask that you immediately share the framework for which you are examining antisemitism and the definition you are using to describe this deplorable phenomenon.
The limited announcement about your Working Goup did not specify how the community might bring forward concerns, submit briefs and make recommendations. To have credibility across the Jewish and no-Jewish, academic and non-academic; student, former student and future student population, it is imperative that you outline and publicize your process and acceptance of external submissions, whether in person (virtually), in writing, online or any other mechanism. The Working group must not be seen to be a closed clandestine body and then publish a report that did not take into consideration the public face of the university, and of course the public funders.
The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation is very concerned with the terms of reference, or lack thereof, the lack of community representation on your team, and the lack of information as to the procedures you will follow including the choice to define or not define antisemitism, which in our view has been well researched by scholars in this area and the IHRA is now the gold standard in defining and eliminating antisemitism. If you choose another definition, we would like to see it and have it recognized. By choosing another definition you will be assuring the student and faculty, administration, governance body and all external parties that you will leave undisclosed some aspects of antisemitism at U of T. That would be shoddy.
Please do respond as soon as possible so that we may share your response with our 4000 supporters.
cc. Dr. Stuart Kamenetsk, U of Toronto
Dr. Howard Tenenbaum, U of Toronto
Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada
Dr. Aurel Braun, U of Toronto
Michael Levitt, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre
Dr. Shimon Fogel, CIJA