University of Illinois Student Leader Hailed for ‘Courageous’ Stand With Jewish Community in Fight Against Anti-Israel Resolution
As tensions soared Wednesday night during a student government meeting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where a controversial resolution denying any link between antisemitism and anti-Zionism was set to pass by a landslide, student-body vice president Jack Langen went against the tide.
By the time he spoke, hundreds of Jewish students had already walked out of the meeting in protest of not being consulted on the content of the resolution.
In the days ahead of the meeting, the UIUC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) aggressively promoted campus legislation that defined antisemitism using its Oxford English Dictionary definition, instead of the one set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
“We are using our position as student leaders to define what the Jewish community goes through,” Langen said, to jeers and boos from the remaining audience members. “I believe this is wrong, and we would be speaking for a community that has publicly disagreed with how we would be representing them.”
Langen felt the Jewish community had been left in the dark throughout the whole legislative process.
Though Langen — a 21-year-old political science major — admitted it was difficult to share his thoughts with an unfriendly crowd, giving the Jewish community a voice was “my obligation,” he told The Algemeiner.
His “courageous way,” as some described it would not go unnoticed.
“He truly is being a righteous gentile,” Ian Katsnelson — the lone Jewish senator in the student government and a friend of Langen’s — said.
Emily Briskman — the assistant vice president for campus affairs of the Jewish United Fund — stated, “Any time an ally is willing to stand with the Jewish community we are deeply grateful. He recognized the importance of groups to be able to speak for themselves. Antisemitism is never up for negotiation.”
A trip to Israel last January as part of the Illini Hillel Leadership Delegation influenced Langen’s stance on the matter. “I was really able to dive into the issue and get a really good understanding of it,” he recalled.
Since his Israel visit, Langen began inquiring more about the concerns of the Jewish community on campus and beyond, and after what happened last week, vowed to “keep doing so.”