We, the undersigned, are Jewish college, undergraduate, and post-graduate students at academic institutions from across Canada who have seen an alarming spike in antisemitic sentiment and discrimination on our campuses.
In order to help administrators better identify and meaningfully combat this trend, we are calling on our universities to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
In our view, adopting the IHRA definition is the most effective way to combat antisemitism as it exists today. It has already been adopted by the federal government, the Province of Ontario, the University of Manitoba and University of Western Ontario student unions, the Global Imams Council, and other bodies. Zach Banner, the Pittsburgh Steelers star-turned-activist, is campaigning the NFL to adopt the definition. Facebook is considering endorsing it to better combat hate speech on its platform.
So, what is IHRA?
IHRA is an intergovernmental organization founded by former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson that boasts 34 member countries, including Canada. Its mandate was to craft a definition of antisemitism that was robust and applicable worldwide, centred on these 15 words: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.
IHRA supplements this with eleven working examples of what constitutes antisemitism in-action, such as “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing” or “Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”
These examples take into account that, as the world’s oldest form of hatred, there are mutations of antisemitism that exist on both sides of the spectrum.
As students involved in the Jewish community on campus, we can corroborate that antisemitism has found an all-too comfortable home at Canadian universities. Using the IHRA definition would help administrators establish when more insidious forms of antisemitism are taking place.
For instance, earlier this year a student group at Queen’s University launched a fundraising campaign in support of an organization with terrorist ties and called for the release of Ahmad Sa’adat, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terror entity in Canada. The PFLP has staged several terror attacks on Jewish places of worship, including a 2014 synagogue massacre that left six dead, including one Canadian.
When Jewish students said the campaign created an unsafe environment, particularly for victims of terrorism on campus, the group claimed their charges of terrorism were rooted in racism and Islamophobia.
At the University of Toronto, its Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) club has invited individuals aligned with the PFLP on several occasions. Last year it was Yafa Jarrar, a known PFLP apologist, and before that it was Issam Al-Yamani, a self-admitted former member and noted security threat by the Canadian government. After pressure from several human rights organizations, the event with Al-Yamani was moved off-campus.
The instances described above led to the targeting and harassment of Jewish students. That is, by definition, antisemitism. Scores of Jewish students at York University have complained that the infamous mural of an individual ready to throw rocks at a Jewish “settler” (a real scenario that has often led to death or serious injury) makes them feel unwelcome. In Montreal, the McGill Daily maintains an editorial policy that results in the ostracism of most of the school’s Jewish population. How are those not antisemitism?
In our view, the culprits who deny Jewish voices on campus continue to get away with it because their antisemitism isn’t being defined as such. Adopting the IHRA definition would provide administrators with guidelines to ensure students are protected in conjunction with formalized anti- hate university policies, as well as provincial and federal law.
There is a movement taking place where students are standing up and owning our identity as Jews. At universities such as Windsor, we have been vocal about adopting IHRA to better protect ourselves from discrimination. However, rather than listening to our concerns, Windsor professors with a clear political bias are actively fighting to undermine our attempts.
As students, we are pleased that the IHRA definition continues to get increased attention in public discourse, as we clearly see it serving as a vital educational tool.
All-too common incidents like swastikas and ‘Heil Hitler’ Zoom bombings, while horrendous, are easy to denounce as antisemitic. But the face of antisemitism has morphed in the 21st century, and our response must pivot commensurately. Advocating for the destruction of the Jewish homeland has been given a pass as political speech. The IHRA definition helps identify the antisemitism that is at the very core of such ideas.
We, as students, recognize that it is instrumental for universities to put a stop to the pervasive antisemitism on campus. We are firmly convinced that adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism will be a very important first step.
Eric Addleman, Simon Fraser University (alumni) Jeremy Addleman, University of Victoria Aron Amaev, Trent University Josh Arbess, McMaster University Daniella Aschaiek, York University Jake Assouline, Concordia University Emma Atlas, Queen’s University Taryn Atlin, Ryerson University (alumni) Maya Avnj, Carleton University Joshua Aziza, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Orly Aziza, York University Daniel Baum, Queen’s University (alumni) Diane Bederman, York University (alumni) Sandrine Bendavid, Seneca College Chaiel Benlolo, Wilfrid Laurier University Matthew Benzrihem, Concordia University Quinn Bernholtz, Brock University Ken Bernknopf, York University (alumni) Nelson Bernstein, University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law David Besprozvanny, Wilfrid Laurier University Michael Birman, University of Toronto (alumni) Gideon Blinick, University of Toronto Yan Bouzaglou, Université de Montreal, Faculté de Droit Jamie Braudy, Wilfrid Laurier University Hanita Braun, University of Toronto (alumni) Ben Buckler, University of Toronto Hannah Casseres, Simon Fraser University Sophia Cherniak, University of Guelph Alexa Cohen, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Daniel Cohen, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Emma Cohen, University of Toronto Robbie Cohen, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Shoshana Rosa Cohen, Carleton University Yuval Cohen, George Brown College Emma Collie, Queen’s University Omri Daniel, University of Toronto Elad Dekel, University of Toronto Naomi Derfel, Queen’s University Adam Dobrer, University of British Columbia Ben Dodek, University of Ottawa Naena Drazman, University of Toronto Ron East, University of Winnipeg (alumni) Ariella Eisenberg, University of Toronto Elisheva Eisenberg, McGill University Léa Elkaim, Université de Sherbrooke Shani Elmakias, George Brown College Talia Erlich, University of Toronto (alumni) Amanda Eskenasi Hohmann, York University Jamie Fabian, Concordia University Sagiv Fadida, University of British Columbia Arrin Falk-Dotan, McMaster University Cammy Felds, Queen’s University Jordan Frankel, Queen’s University Beata Fourmanovskis, York University Sam Friedman, University of Western Ontario Danielle Fuchs, McGill University Dr. David Futerman, University of Toronto (alumni) Natalie Gabay, York University Deena Gangbar, York University Tyler Garfinkle, York University Logan Garnet, Queen’s University Nadav Gasner, McMaster University Shoshana Gastfreund-Aziza, University of Toronto & York University (alumni) Caroline Gelber, Western University (alumni) Jonathan Glasenberg, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University Madison Gold, McGill University Robin Goldberg, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Rafael Goldchain, University of Toronto (alumni) Chen Goldenberg, York University Melila Gordis, Queen’s University Danielle Gottlieb, McGill University Marcus Gottlieb, University of British Columbia Stephen Greenberg, University of Toronto (alumni) Noah Guttmann, Queen’s University Anael Hadid, McGill University Shirley Halperin, McGill University Zachary Halpern, University of Ottawa Ethan Halpren, University of Toronto Griffin Hanratty, York University Adam Hayat, York University (alumni) Leeran Hayek, Ryerson University Ysabella Hazan, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law Meir Hersson-Edery, University of Montreal Faculty of Law Lauren Higgins, Trent University Jordan Hochman, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Turner Hoffman, University of Western Ontario Dahlia Horlick, University of Toronto Faculty of Law Avishai Infeld, McGill University Mettannah Jacobson, McGill University Shmuel Juni, University of Toronto Stuart Kamenetsky, University of Toronto (alumni) Evan Kanter, University of Toronto Cory Katzman, Wilfrid Laurier University (alumni) Zev Kline, University of Western Ontario Noam Kogan, Ryerson University Shirel Korobkin, Ryerson University (alumni) Aliza Kraft, Wilfrid Laurier University Jamie Kreidstein, McGill University Ron Krell, University of British Columbia (alumni) Andrew Kupfer, University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law Remi Kupfer, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Dean Lavi, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Emily Lawrence, McGill University Philip Lerner, University of Waterloo Jeremy Levett, McGill University Danielle Levi, McGill University Lidor Levi, University of Guelph Joshua Lewis, University of Western Ontario Noah Lewis, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Maxwell Librach, University of Toronto Maxwell Lightstone, McMaster University Rachel Litvinenko, University of Western Ontario Michael Litvak, University of Manitoba Danielle Love, McMaster University Marlene Lovinsky, University of Toronto (alumni) Dora Machtinger, Seneca College (alumni) Noah Maimon, University of Western Ontario Cory Maman, Ryerson University (alumni) Amanda Marciano, Concordia University Jordana Marciano, Concordia University Oren Mathews, University of British Columbia Joshua Matile, Trent University Gita Margolese, McGill University Elaine Melamed, Concordia University Sam Mendelsohn, Carleton University (alumni) Samuel Mesguich, McGill University Shira Miller, Wilfrid Laurier University Jessica Mintz, McGill University Jesse Muller, University of Ottawa Gdalit Neuman, York University Igal Nulman, York University Eden Ohayon, McGill University Sarah O’Neill, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University Bianca Orlan, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Megan Osler, Queen’s University Howard Ovens, University of Toronto (alumni) Tali Oziel, University of Western Ontario Kass Palter, Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University Ella Pekarsky, Ryerson University Austin Pelizzer, Carleton University Shloime Perel, McGill University (alumni) Noa Peretz, Concordia University Nika Perel, University of British Columbia Danielle Perlon, University of Toronto Casey Pechet, University of Victoria (alumni) Richard Rachlis, University Of Toronto (alumni) Bryan Reingold, University of Waterloo (alumni) Jake Reznik, University of British Columbia Richard Robertson, York University Noah Robbins, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Edith Rosemberg, Durham College Reesa Rosen, Concordia University (alumni) Gabriela Rosenblum, University of Toronto Yardena Rosenblum, University of Toronto Sydney Rouah, McGill University David I Roytenberg, Carleton University (alumni) Noam Saban, University of Toronto Tara Sabloff, University of Ottawa Daniel Safran, Ryerson University Mark J. Sager MD, University of Ottawa (alumni) Evan Sankar, York University Luis Saravia Patron, Concordia University (alumni) Barry Schafer, York University (alumni) Aaron Schaffer, McMaster University Amy Schecter, Dawson College Pamela Schimmer, McMaster University Danielle Schwarz, Fanshawe College Stephen Shalinsky, Concordia University Russell Shalev, McGill University (alumni) Neilah Shapiro, Wilfrid Laurier University Ryan Shapiro, Concordia University Henriette Sherret, University of Toronto (alumni) Ellie Sherman, University of British Columbia Melissa Shiff, McMaster University Melanie Shimov, University of Toronto Shira Silver, University of Ottawa Simi Silver, Centennial College, York University, and University of Toronto (alumni) Harold B. Smith, University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management (alumni) Meira Snitman, York University (alumni) Yael Shteyer, University of Western Ontario Bernie Shuster, University of Montreal Ariella Sibony, York University (alumni) Sabrina Silverstone, Wilfrid Laurier University Julian Sintim, Concordia University Randi Skurka, University of T Pharmacy (alumni) Michael Sobol, York University Beth Solomons, Ryerson University Michael Snider, Sheridan College (alumni) Andria Spindel, University of Calgary & University of British Columbia (alumni) Janna Sternthal, McGill University Dr. Howard Stevens, University of Toronto (alumni) Joshua Switzer, University of Victoria Walid Tamtam, University of Toronto Shane Verspaandonk, York University Ariel Weinstein, York University Nate Weisbrod, Ryerson University Irving Weisdorf, University of Toronto (alumni) Sadie-Rae Werner, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Sheldon H Wiseberg, Ontario Tech University & York University (alumni) Kinneret Witty, Ryerson University Rafi Yablonsky, York University (alumni) Elior Yona, McGill University (alumni) Zachary Zarnett-Klein, York University Noah Zatzman, York University (alumni) Nan J. Zeifman, York University Lester Zelberg, University of Western Ontario (alumni) Karen Zelko, York University Candi Zell, University of Manitoba (alumni) Taylor Zieper, York University Cynthia Zimmerman, University of Toronto (alumni) Vivienne Ziner, York University & McGill University (alumni) Eton Ziner-Cohen, University of Toronto Jon Ziner-Cohen, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University Tiphaera Ziner-Cohen, University of Windsor Faculty of Law Anthony Levy, University of Western Ontario Evelyn Eisenberg, University of Toronto (alumni) Michael Teper, University of Toronto Faculty of Law (alumni) Lionel Ghan, University of Toronto (alumni) Etta Kaner, University of Toronto (alumni) Shelley Ross, York University (alumni) Jerry Levine, University of Toronto (alumni) J. Barry Gurdin, University of Toronto & University of Montreal (alumni) David Katz, Carleton University Jesse Liss, York University (alumni) Ruthie Rolbin Arnold, Concordia University (alumni) Michelle Somin, York University Gerald Tarder, McGill University (alumni) Sydell Waxman, University of Toronto (alumni) Joel Katzberg, York University Ari Blaff, University of Toronto Jake Assouline, Concordia University Casey Pechet, University of Victoria (alumni) Harold B. Smith, University of Toronto (alumni) Shai DeLuca, The Art Institute (alumni) Benjamin Kirshenblatt, University of New Brunswick