Thursday, April 25th | 17 Nisan 5784

April 9, 2021 3:47 pm

Concordia University Student Union Apologizes to Jewish Community for Campus Culture of ‘Fear’

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Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. Photo: Concordia University / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The student union at Montreal’s Concordia University issued a letter of apology to the Jewish community on its Facebook page Tuesday, admitting to “indifference” in the face of antisemitism on campus and calling for training and other procedures to combat anti-Jewish sentiment.

“More than anything else, this is embarrassing for us. It is embarrassing for us because even trying to verbalize our mistakes only serves to highlight how ridiculous they are,” said the Concordia Students Union in its “Letter of Apology to the Jewish Community.”

It said that its indifference had “assisted in fostering a campus culture where Jewish students are afraid to openly identify as Jewish.”

“Instead of choosing to tuck their Star of David necklaces under their shirts out of fear of having insults hurled at them for things they do not control and are not responsible for,” the letter continued.

The CSU has previously drawn criticism from some Jewish students for a 2014 student referendum endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. In 2020, the CSU voted down a motion which — in an effort to highlight the “impracticality” of the prior BDS endorsement — would have called on the body to cease using products and services with operations in Israel.

In 2017, the CSU faced backlash from Jewish groups for “hijacking” the Passover holiday, by providing space for a “Passover Against Apartheid” event.

In the Tuesday letter, the union pledged to implement antisemitism training for incoming CSU representatives and CSU club executives, develop a “bystander prevention program, and work with the university to quickly remove antisemitic graffiti and vandalism found on campus.

It also called for “inclusion of a Jewish perspective in CSU operations moving forward when dealing with topics of discrimination.”

“While we stood idly by in the past while acts of antisemitism occurred, we hope not to repeat those mistakes again and hope the Jewish Community will give us another chance to support them in the future,” the letter concluded.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Quebec (CIJA), told the Montreal Gazette that the group accepted the CSU’s apology and expected “improved behavior” going forward.

“Our first reaction is gratitude and pride in the students of our community who very intelligently and very courageously engaged in the necessary dialogue to bring this about,” he told the paper.

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