Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Parents and Alums Express Demands to Address Antisemitism on Campus

We, as parents and alumni, are writing to express our deep concern over recent incidents on Oberlin’s campus that have created a hostile climate not only toward Israel, but toward the  Jewish people in general. In view of the numerous instances of anti Zionist graffiti and flyers, we believe it is crucial for the College leadership to publicly report and strongly condemn antisemitic views and incidents. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is also investigating Oberlin College for a breach of Title VI, which protects students against discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry, prompted by a 2019 complaint citing alleged instances of antisemitism on campus, including Professor of Religion Mohammad Jafar Mahallati’s anti-Israel rhetoric. This is a source of added concern. This move may suggest that the recent antisemitic incidents on campus are indicative of a permissive campus culture allowing for such expressions.

The current hostile climate for Oberlin’s pro-Israel students has led to self-segregation and a retreat to safe spaces like Chabad at Oberlin and Hillel, compromising the liberal environment we value as alumni and parents. Anti-Zionist rhetoric and hostile depictions of Israel exacerbate tensions and create an atmosphere of hate that negatively affect all Jewish students, but especially those who would like to profess their support for Israel but are too afraid to speak out.

We propose the following essential measures for building a more tolerant atmosphere on campus:

Adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Antisemitism:

Advocate for the adoption of the IHRA definition to strengthen the monitoring of and efficient response to antisemitic incidents, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of their nature, origins, and extent.

Diversity and Inclusion Training:

Enforce diversity and inclusion training with a focus on respecting diverse perspectives related to Israel and Judaism. The Academic Engagement Network conducts training seminars on Jewish identity and antisemitism on campus and offers numerous educational resources that could be valuable for Oberlin College’s faculty and staff.

Educational Programs:

Develop balanced educational programs on the Israel–Palestine conflict, encouraging a nuanced understanding of its historical, political, and cultural aspects.

Campus-Wide Campaigns Against Hate:

Initiate educational campaigns to raise awareness about various forms of antisemitism among students. Implement policies aimed at addressing and preventing hate speech or discriminatory actions.

Transparency in Monitoring Student Groups:

Student organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine operate on American college campuses with limited transparency. According to a recent New York Times article (Nov. 17, 2023), a 2016 report from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University asserted that in colleges with SJP chapters, pro-Israel students are more likely to encounter a hostile campus climate. 

Transparent Reporting Culture:

Promote transparent reporting of ALL antisemitic incidents and support for the victims. Consider conducting anonymous surveys to assess the prevalence of antisemitism on campus.

Faculty and Staff Training on Antisemitism:

Provide training to recognize and address biases, fostering an inclusive environment where  diverse opinions on the conflict are valued.

Public Forums for Dialogue:

Organize forums and discussions involving both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian perspectives, facilitating respectful debates.

Inclusive Curriculum:

Ensure the curriculum includes diverse voices, including perspectives on Israel and Judaism, that promote a broader understanding of different cultures and beliefs.

Holocaust Education and Commemoration:

Engage in collaborative efforts with student organizations and faculty to educate about the Holocaust and the history of both classic and modern antisemitism that laid the groundwork for it. Commemorate the Holocaust through lectures, symposia, documentaries, and speaker series.

Support for Cultural Celebrations:

Encourage student clubs like Hillel and Chabad at Oberlin to celebrate Israeli Independence Day.   

We trust these suggestions will contribute to fostering a more inclusive and respectful campus environment.

Link to signatories:

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