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An Open Letter to Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri, President of York University

May 1, 2016

 

As community organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Jewish students on campus, and advocating for the Jewish community, we read your recent statements in the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) and the National Post with great interest. We were disappointed to see comments that we felt were condescending to the concerns of our community and dismissive of the concerns of our students. While we acknowledge your stated commitment to combat bigotry and enhance inclusion, your administration’s failure to address the growing sense of alienation among Jewish students on campus has led many in our community to question whether York University’s leadership is either incapable of, or unwilling to, uphold its own ideals. We remain alarmed by the seeming disregard of York University’s administration to recognize and confront antisemitism on campus.

 

You stated in the CJN that the mural at York University contributed to your decision to establish an advisory committee on inclusion. We were astonished to learn that almost half of the members appointed to the inclusion committee either support BDS or have been publicly critical of Israel. These appointments cannot possibly be reconciled with encouraging inclusion, and will only serve to increase tension and further alienate Jewish students and faculty.

 

If your desire and the policies of the administration are to build an inclusive and diverse campus that nurtures the respectful exchange of ideas, we call on you to make a change. Remove any members of the committee with a record of publicly promoting BDS and other anti-Israel initiatives and replace them with those experienced in bridging differences and strengthening harmony on campus.

 

The community organizations that have signed this letter represent the diverse Jewish community in the GTA. We are unified in our message to you and this letter reflects our concern for Jewish students and faculty. Our collective goal is to ensure that the administration acts in a manner consistent with its stated goal of encouraging inclusion. Our desire has always been, and remains, to work with you and your administration to achieve this goal.

 

As you have stated, York University has a proud history in the community. By taking meaningful steps to address discrimination and intolerance on campus, York University has the opportunity to be a leader in North America in dealing with these difficult issues in an effective and equitable manner.

 

B’nai Brith of Canada, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Hillel Ontario, StandWithUs Canada, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto (UJA)

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.