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  • Hillels of Georgia

Hillel Collaborates with ADL on Campus Initiative

Atlanta Jewish Times (September 8, 2021)

According to the Anti-Defamation League, during the academic year 2020-21, Jewish students have been subjected to more anti-Semitic harassment than in prior years when school was physically in session. As a result, Hillel International has joined forces with the ADL to protect Jewish students more effectively and to educate university administration officials, as well as the broader community on appropriate responses to anti-Semitic incidents. Leading this project is Adam Lehman, CEO of Hillel International, and Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO and national director.

Matthew Berger, vice president of strategic action programs and communications of Hillel International, said the plan includes a series of videos that “will explore the history of the Jewish people, the origins of anti-Semitism, how anti-Semitism has evolved and how it manifests on college campuses today and on social media.” He added that they expect to train 500 new Hillel professionals to utilize these videos during the upcoming academic year in order to “equip students [on ways to] respond to antisemitic activity and engage with students and the university community when it occurs.” Their sole function is to protect, empower, and educate Jewish students while addressing the soaring number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country.

Hillel International said on its website that the program is “based on the premise that key administrative leaders play an essential role in effecting broad-based educational and policy change on campus.” Unfortunately, anti-Semitism isn’t limited to campuses; it also takes place on social media platforms. Berger said he believes that “the best way to prevent and mitigate anti-Semitism on college campuses is to build strong, engaging Jewish communities…” As part of this effort, “Hillel is educating the full campus community about who Jews are today, the history of anti-Semitic tropes and how they manifest in our culture, on campus and on social media. By educating students and university professionals alike, we believe more people on campus will understand anti-Semitism, recognize it when they see it, and speak out against it.”

The new Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) is not an academic program, but rather will be offered through Hillel. Elliot Karp, CEO of Hillels of Georgia, said that all of the university administrators that he met and spoke with “have an intellectual understanding of anti-Semitism and recognize that Jews are a minority.” He added that what school officials must understand is “the modern manifestation [of anti-Semitism] and how it truly affects Jewish students on campuses.”

Karp believes that there are two kinds of incidents. The first one is overt, which faculty members typically know how to respond to; while the second includes “the more insidious forms of attacks on students,” which he refers to as “micro-aggressions.” Karp says these types of incidents have inspired the organization to launch the new program on campuses, as he believes that “anti-Semitism is on par with racism, and anti-Asian sentiment.” But Hillel is not advocating Jewish exceptionalism, he says, rather, “we are protecting the interests of the university and all of the communities within the university, because hatred has no place for anyone!”

Karp also recommends that each incident be observed carefully to deduce whether it should be considered freedom of expression and therefore protected under a school’s free speech policy, or whether it can be investigated as a hate crime.

David Hoffman, the ADL’s southeast associate regional director, said that it is imperative that we train students to resist anti-Semitism on campuses and online. He said that the ADL is continually working with social media platforms “to urge them to take meaningful action to prevent hate and harassment online.” He also said that the organization “recommends that [social media platforms] enforce policies on anti-Semitism and hate consistently and at scale, incorporate expert review of content moderation training materials, provide greater access to data for researchers, and develop more transparency at the user level.”

But that’s just half the problem. The ADL urges students to comply with this recommendation and report any anti-Semitic attacks that occur online and on-campus. “The more people speak up, the louder our collective voice will be, and hopefully that will gain more attention from the platforms. It is also imperative to help this next generation of leaders develop a balance between protecting free speech and ensuring safety in their communities, online and in-person, as they will be leading these companies and their communities going forward.”

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