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September 30, 2021 3:17 pm

York University Student Union Criticized for Tapping Pro-BDS Jewish Group to Hold Antisemitism Training

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Vari Hall at York University in Ontario, Canada. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Andrei Sedoff.

The undergraduate student union at York University has faced pushback for turning to a group supporting a boycott of Israel to hold an antisemitism training session planned for last Tuesday, the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret.

The York Federation of Students (YSF) — which represents over 53,000 undergraduate students at the Ontario, Canada research university — had asked the school’s Hillel for candidates who could provide antisemitism training, the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) reported.

The union reportedly first selected Yavilah McCoy, an African-American Jew and CEO of Dimensions Inc., a Boston-based diversity consultancy, for the session. But YSF later tapped Independent Jewish Voices of Canada (IJV) — a group that describes itself as the “first national Jewish organization to endorse the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

Jay Solomon, Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer of Hillel Ontario, said that Hillel York had been calling on the YFS to address “systemic antisemitism” in its operations for over a decade.

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“Unfortunately, after requesting a list of suitable educators from Hillel York, it came to our attention that the YFS was pursuing an educational session on antisemitism with a group that is entirely unrepresentative of mainstream Jewish voices,” he told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

“The actions of the YFS are clear,” Solomon continued. “They seek to control the way antisemitism is explained to justify their own problematic behavior. The exclusion of representative voices from such an important process would be inexcusable in the context of any other marginalized community.”

Neither the York Federation of Students nor York University immediately responded to Algemeiner requests for comment.

Speaking to CJN Monday, a York University spokesperson criticized YSF for its choice of speaker, and in particular for the planned timing of the event.

“We are disappointed to learn that not only has YSG not selected a trainer from the list Hillel provided, but further, that YSF has decided to hold the antisemitism training session on a Jewish holiday,” said Barbara Joy.

“[The university is] very concerned that YFS has turned away from its commitment to work together with Hillel on this important initiative to build confidence that YFS is seeking an inclusive and collaborative relationship with Jewish students.”

Solomon pointed to the uptick in incidents targeting Canadian Jewish communities in the spring, citing “heightened and concerning examples of antisemitism” seen by students.

“They have been threatened and bullied on social media, discriminated against by campus groups and unions, and made to feel unwelcome on campus,” he told The Algemeiner. “They have been labelled racists, colonialists, and murderers, and held collectively responsible for the decisions of a government thousands of kilometers away.”

“For this reason, there has never been a more important time for Hillel to support Jewish students on campus to stand up against antisemitism.”

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