JCRC Statement on BDS Referendum at University of Minnesota

As we await the results for this week’s BDS referendum, the JCRC applauds Minnesota Hillel, the Vote United: Vote No Coalition, Professor Oren Gross, and President Eric Kaler for their leadership

March 9, 2018

Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement as we await the results for this week’s BDS referendum at the University of Minnesota:

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) has been honored to work closely with Minnesota Hillel, the student leadership of the Vote United: Vote No coalition, as well as multiple Minnesota based and national organizations, which on a moment’s notice came together in support of our students as they resisted a divisive pro-BDS referendum snuck onto the all-campus student ballot at the last moment.

“Under the leadership of Hillel executive director Benjie Kaplan, as well as Hillel Rabbi and JCRC board member Ryan Dulkin, and Israel Fellow Idan Cohen, Minnesota Hillel’s professionals staff provided tremendous support to the dozens of student leaders who rallied under the Vote United: Vote No coalition. It was truly a pleasure to work with Hillel’s dedicated and talented staff, as well as trusted colleagues from Hillel International, the Israel on Campus Coalition, the Israel Action Network, and the Minneapolis and Greater St. Paul Jewish Federations in support of our amazing students.

“Together, these student leaders respectfully and truthfully made the case for why this biased and inflammatory referendum, which the pro-BDS forces foisted upon the student body with no opportunity for debate or conversation, only further polarized the campus and is inconsistent with the University’s values of dialogue and mutual understanding.

“The JCRC is particularly proud of Sami Rahamim, a JCRC board member, as well as Emma Dunn, Noah Mikell, and Leeore Levinstein who formed the nucleus of the student leadership team. It was such a privilege for the JCRC to work with these four amazing seniors, just as we did two years ago when they led the successful fight against BDS before the Minnesota Student Association. At the same time, it was also inspiring to see a new group of students take on the mantle of leadership. No doubt, Minnesota Hillel will go from strength to strength because of them.

“Thank you as well to JCRC board member Professor Oren Gross, whose compelling commentary crystallized the pernicious goals of the referendum and the BDS movement (‘In the name of self-determination, BDS seeks to deny the very same right to one people, the Jewish people.’) We are pleased that over a dozen of Professor Gross’ distinguished colleagues signed onto his commentary.

“We are also grateful for the continuing leadership of President Eric Kaler and the support of Provost Karen Hanson. While President Kaler wisely did not tell the students how to vote, it was extremely important that he acknowledged on Wednesday that ‘the inclusion on the ballot of a non-binding referendum that names Israel is exacerbating tension and fueling discrimination toward Jewish students.’ With just these few words, President Kaler perfectly encapsulated everything that we had feared about the pro-BDS referendum and had sadly come to pass.

“Finally, while the results of the BDS referendum are not yet known, we know that no matter the outcome of this vote there are still more conversations which must be initiated, new collaborations ventured, and much needed common sense added to how the campus handles the complex and difficult topic of Israel, and the future of the Middle East. The JCRC stands ready to play our part in working with Minnesota Hillel, our students, staff, and faculty, and all those who believe that peace is paved with diplomacy and discussion, not isolation and ignorance.”

As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.