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March 15, 2021 2:30 pm
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University of Illinois Launches Advisory Council on Jewish Life Following Legal Complaint Over Antisemitism

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Illinois announced that it has formed a new advisory council to deal with antisemitism on campus, following a complaint filed last year with the US Department of Education by Jewish students.

Local paper The News-Gazette reported that UI Chancellor Robert Jones said in a mass email Friday that the school would form the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life.

The council, Jones said, will “help us advance our commitment to an inclusive community where antisemitism and all other forms of hate will not be tolerated and each one of us can live and thrive in our full humanity.”

The council will be led by Erez Cohen, the executive director of Illini Hillel, and former chancellor Richard Herman.

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Members will include the director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Rabbi Dovid Yeichtel, and other UI professors and students, as well as community members.

The university announced in Nov. 2020 that it would be taking steps to address campus antisemitism, particularly what it described as incidents “that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students or compare them to Nazis.”

“All Jewish students should feel confident that if they encounter a swastika on campus, the university stands with them in rejecting symbols of hate,” the statement said. “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at this university. We will stand united against all forms of anti-Semitism.”

That statement came after Jewish students in Sept. 2020 had filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights , charging that Jews were “subjected to an alarming increase in antisemitism and anti-Zionism.”

Multiple swastikas had been scrawled across the campus; menorahs and mezuzahs had been vandalized; and windows of Jewish fraternities had been “smashed with bricks,” the complaint said.

Alyza D. Lewin — director of the Brandeis Center, which helped prepare the complaint — said at the time that Jewish organizations had gone public with their complaint after they became frustrated with the inaction of the UI authorities.

The organizations gave the university “seven months since the complaint was filed to address the ongoing harassment,” Lewin noted in a statement. “In the face of continuous stall tactics and almost no action from the university, we decided to publicize our efforts.”

“We hope public awareness of this dire situation will prompt the university to finally acknowledge and address the egregious anti-Semitic harassment it has swept under the rug for far too long,” she continued.

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