York University Jewish student organization feels ‘attacked’ after teaching toolkit circulates

Johanna Joseph says she feels nervous about wearing her late grandmother’s necklace to class at York University because it bears the Star of David symbol.

“One of the pendants was from my late grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor,” Joseph told CTV News Toronto in an interview. “Every time I walk into the classrooms, you know, I take it off. I get very nervous”.

Joseph is part of Hillel York, a group of Jewish students that feels attacked at school after “A Toolkit for Teaching Palestine” began circulating.

CUPE Local 3903 published a 15 page tool kit for Assistant Professors at the University of York to provide guidance on teaching and discussing Palestine in the classroom. In it, the union’s education committee explains why it is calling for action, who should teach about Palestine (and how), as well as support for members who suffer retaliation.

“This toolkit reflects our collective, moral and professional responsibility to speak, write and teach about Palestine despite the culture of fear that has dominated much of Western academic institutions,” the document reads.

The document asks its CUPE members to join the call to action from January 21 to 28 and divert the week’s tutorials to focus on teaching Palestinian liberation and refuse to “adhere to the culture of repressive normality of the University of York.

In the toolkit, the union says York University is complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine due to its investments and “economic and academic relationships with various Zionist cultural institutions (e.g. Hillel) and Israeli universities (e.g. the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), some of which are on illegally occupied Palestinian lands recognized by the UN.”

“Being a Jewish student, this is one of the only places on campus where I feel safe, and the tagging and yelling makes me feel like Hillel is a target now,” Jacob Berman said.

Dean Lavi, director of Hillel York, told CTV News Toronto that more than a dozen students have since contacted him, expressing concerns that they are being mistreated by their teaching assistants.

“They’re sitting in the classroom, and the person who can grade them is the one who tells them that what they say is wrong and that their opinions don’t matter and that, you know, they’re wrong. for existing as all of themselves,” Lavi said.

York University President Rhonda Lenton recently wrote in a letter that senior administration does not consider the latest CUPE 3903 email containing the toolkit “to be in accordance with legitimate student expectations and claims.” legitimate rights of the community.

This is not the first time that the York University administration has issued a statement regarding the war between Israel and Hamas.

Shortly after the Hamas attacks on October 7, the York Federation of Students, the York University Graduate Student Association and the Glendon College Student Union issued a joint statement that appeared to call the measure a “strong act of resistance” while reaffirming their solidarity with the Palestinians. .

York University “unequivocally” condemned the statement.

“Freedom of expression has limits and carries responsibilities. It should never promote or justify violence against unarmed civilians,” the university stated at the time.

The university administration says dialogue about world events within the classroom should allow for diverse perspectives to be expressed, but added that it should always be respectful.

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