LOS ANGELES — At a time of unprecedented antisemitism on college campuses, more than 250 university administrators from across the Western U.S. universities convened at the University of Southern California (USC) for a summit co-hosted by Hillel International, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, USC, and USC Hillel on Monday and Tuesday.
The leaders in attendance, ranging from university presidents to DEI officials from 40 colleges and universities, discussed the urgent challenge of antisemitism facing Jewish students. Hillel leaders, Jewish college students, professors, and policy makers stressed the importance of meaningful action to ensure the safety, security and vibrancy of Jewish campus communities.
“We want your commitment and partnership in pursuing concrete meaningful policy changes to ensure that we can together transform your campus climate in ways that eliminate the scourge of antisemitism — in classrooms, on the quad, in dorms and everywhere else within your campus,” Adam Lehman, president and CEO of Hillel International, told university administrators.
Matthew Bronfman, Chair of the Hillel International Board of Governors, said: “We need all of you in this room to speak out and condemn acts of Jew hatred on your campuses. We need you to ensure that when Jewish students or Hillel directors come to you, their concerns are heard and addressed quickly and effectively.”
Joanna Mendelson, SVP, Community Engagement for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles stated: “Antisemitism on campus is a growing and urgent issue that must be addressed immediately to preserve the safety of Jewish students here in Los Angeles and across the country. We cannot foster an environment in our educational institutions, where all individuals can flourish and thrive if any one group’s humanity is denigrated, devalued, or negated. At this moment, too many Jewish students feel vulnerable and isolated — and if we are seeking inclusive excellence, we need action. Our Federation along with our partners at Hillel are committed to ensuring the safety of every Jewish student. This conference was a powerful step in that direction.”
Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, acknowledged safety and inclusion are top concerns for her and her office. “Antisemitism, as we know, has been present and pernicious throughout our history,” Lhamon said “As much as we have been actively enforcing Title VI against antisemitism all along, we are aggressively responding with all we have now to the eruption of hate-filled harassment we witness in our schools in this painful time.”
Dr. Carol Folt, president of the University of Southern California, said the world needs university leaders to reject antisemitism, intolerance and hate. “And we need our educators to communicate values – and act on them – to ensure our students, faculty, and staff are safe, welcomed, and supported,” Folt said. “This summit is a beacon to help us face these profound issues with the urgency we feel, and at the very moment we need it most.”
Throughout the summit, the work of Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) was on full display. To date, CCI has worked with four cohorts of more than 50 colleges and universities across the country to ensure partnership between university administrators and campus Hillel staff.
CCI-participating schools have been more likely to take swift action in support of Jewish students, especially in the past month, and the program is currently accepting colleges and universities for its next cohort.
A panel of student leaders, hailing from various universities in Southern California, shared their personal experiences and their requests of campus administrators. Attendees all concurred that the West Coast summit would mark the beginning of a conversation on how to best address campus antisemitism, not the end. Administrators will now return to their campuses with new tools and stronger connections for the benefit of their whole campus community, including Jewish students.
Photo of Matthew Bronfman, Chair of Hillel International’s Board of Governors, by Kathy DeNinno Photography.