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March 26, 2019 5:04 pm

Jewish Council Warns Against Antisemitism at Scottish Universities

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Geddes Quadrangle at the University of Dundee in Scotland. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A representative body of Scottish Jewish communities has warned of concerning levels of antisemitism faced by Jewish students and teachers at Scottish universities.

In a submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is investigating racial harassment at publicly-funded universities and colleges, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJec) recounted the case of a female medical student who was “hounded for taking off Jewish holidays, and refusing to sit exams on Friday evening,” The Sunday Times reported. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Fridays.

The student said she was “repeatedly summoned for dressing-down from professors, the dean, and the head of the school,” and was told by the dean that “because this is a secular university, we don’t need to take any account of students’ religion.”

According to the SCoJec, a professor who was on an admissions committee said the student was “not doing your people any favours as we’ll think twice about taking anyone with a Jewish name in future.”

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The report cited the case of another student who claimed to have faced repeated antisemitic harassment from her peers online and in person. The students told the SCoJec that she avoided the business school and library, and was worried about attending a workshop “due to fear of being harassed or attacked.”

The report claimed that such “aggressive demonstrations or abusive rhetoric” also extended to “some academic and research staff.”

“[One] member of academic staff told us, ‘Especially in Dundee, the academic community is influential and academic life is very badly polluted by anti-Israeli feeling. … I’ve been described by a fellow academic as being “suspiciously knowledgeable about Judaism.”‘”

A spokesperson for Abertay University in Dundee told the Times it maintained “robust policies and reporting procedures in place designed to ensure the protection of staff and students from all forms of racial harassment.”

A Dundee University spokesperson added, “Any accusations of discrimination are treated with the utmost seriousness, but we are unfamiliar with the alleged issue raised here.”

Last year, SCoJec director Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJec), told a Scottish parliamentary group that “in recent years there has been a very worrying increase in the level of antisemitism in the country, with the result that many Jewish people report they are actively considering emigrating from Scotland,” according to minutes of the meeting.

Noting that Scotland had only about two percent of the United Kingdom’s Jewish population, Borowski explained that the Jewish community mostly “used to feel that [S]cotland was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has reversed.”

“Many Jews actively discuss leaving Scotland because they feel alienated, vulnerable and not at home,” he was quoted as saying by the minutes. “There are still very few serious assaults but much verbal and online abuse.”

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