UC Berkeley has often seen claims of antisemitism on campus
UC Berkeley has often seen claims of antisemitism on campus

ADL and Hillel announce plan to combat campus antisemitism

Whether it’s documenting antisemitism at colleges or getting into scraps on social media, young Jewish students have been feeling the need to fight back against what they say has left them feeling harassed.

In a new partnership, Hillel International and the Anti-Defamation League are aiming to take a more traditional approach to the same issues — one that they say will not always treat anti-Israel activity as antisemitism. Hillel and the ADL will together create a college-level curriculum on antisemitism and jointly document antisemitic incidents on campuses in the United States. But not every student government resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement will wind up in the groups’ database, ADL said.

“Anti-Israel activism in and of itself is not antisemitism,” an ADL spokesperson said. “Situations vary widely with BDS. We will carefully evaluate each one and make a determination based on our criteria for antisemitism.”

For example, a BDS resolution alone would not count as antisemitism, “but if a student was excluded from the debate because he or she was Jewish, then it might be counted.”

Dec. 2018 reopening of the remodeled UC Berkeley Hillel building. (Photo/file)
The UC Berkeley Hillel at its 2018 reopening

The Hillel-ADL partnership, which will begin in the coming academic year, follows a spike in reported antisemitic incidents on campus. In the school year that ended in 2021, the ADL tallied 244 antisemitic incidents on campuses nationwide, an increase from 181 the previous school year. Hillel has a presence on more than 550 campuses and says it serves more than 400,000 students.

The ADL and Hillel International plan to develop a curriculum about the history of antisemitism and how it manifests in current times. They will also survey schools nationwide to provide a better picture of the state of antisemitism on campus and will create a dedicated system to tally incidents of antisemitism at colleges and universities, including a portal for students to report incidents confidentially.

The ADL did not detail how it would verify whether confidentially submitted incidents actually occurred, beyond telling JTA they would be judged by the methodology the group uses in its annual audit of antisemitic incidents. The methodology states that “ADL carefully examines the credibility of all incidents, including obtaining independent verification when possible.”

The effort with Hillel is also the third partnership with an external organization that ADL has announced in the past two weeks. It recently launched a partnership to combat antisemitism with the Union for Reform Judaism, and last week began an initiative with PayPal to research how extremists use online financial platforms.

The ADL said its partnership with Hillel would “complement” student activism and that the group “will firmly support well-meaning student-led efforts to push back against antisemitism on campus.”

JTA

Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.

Ben Sales
Ben Sales

JTA reporter