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March 12, 2017 7:41 am

‘Honored to Have Made My Mark on Kent State,’ Says Jewish Student Behind Antisemitism Resolution

avatar by Rachel Frommer

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Kent State SSI team, after passing an antisemitism resolution. Photo: Courtesy.

Kent State SSI team, after passing an antisemitism resolution. Photo: Courtesy.

“I am so honored to have made my mark on Kent State University,” the Jewish campus leader behind a resolution condemning antisemitism told The Algemeiner.

After the Ohio school’s student government passed a motion Tuesday to adopt a definition of antisemitism, Sophia Witt — president of Kent State’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) — said, “I was nervous as to what the outcome [of the vote] would be, but the university upheld its values of inclusivity and diversity on campus.”

Witt said she thought something needed to be done, after the tiny Kent State Jewish community (only 3.5% of the campus population is “of Jewish heritage or practice,” according to the resolution) and the wider Kent neighborhood “experienced several personal hits of antisemitism.” She decided a conversation about bigotry toward Jews needed to start with defining the problem, which the resolution describes as “hostility toward, or discrimination against, Jewish persons as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.”

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“This resolution means everything — not only for our particular community, but for all minorities at Kent State. I wanted it to be known that discrimination is something our student body doesn’t stand for, and this resolution does that,” Witt said, and called the student government “amazing” for its vote.

Ilan Sinelnikov, founder of SSI, told The Algemeiner he was very proud of the students behind the effort, and encouraged the larger pro-Israel community to take notice.

“The way to success isn’t complicated. When an SSI chapter attempts a certain project, we need to realize early what worked and what didn’t. When we see success, we need to replicate,” Sinelnikov said.

Since Feb. 2014, a total of seven schools have passed resolutions supportive of Jews on campus through the work of their respective SSI chapters. The Kent State motion was based on those passed at Ohio’s Capital University (Dec. 2015) and at Indiana University (March 2016). At the University of Minnesota, University of Georgia, Texas A&M University and Canada’s Ryerson University, resolutions passed focused on increasing study abroad programs and partnerships between American and Israeli institutions.

Representatives of Kent State’s student government did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.

As The Algemeiner reported, Kent State recently considered caving in to student demands for the removal of a display depicting a picture of and quote by the late former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, which a coalition led by Students for Justice in Palestine described as a constant reminder of racism on campus. After major backlash, the university ultimately decided to keep the Meir display up for the duration of its scheduled run.

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