FSWC Acknowledges U of T Antisemitism Report, Disappointed in Refusal to Endorse IHRA Definition

December 9, 2021

Media Release

Toronto (December 9, 2021) – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) acknowledges the recommendations put forward in a report by the University of Toronto Antisemitism Working Group, but is deeply disappointed in its refusal to endorse the internationally recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The report was released yesterday following a consultation process that began in late 2020. The Working Group outlined its findings and eight recommendations to guide U of T in dealing with antisemitism, all of which the administration said it accepts.

Recommendations include requiring the university to treat antisemitism as seriously as other forms of racism and exclusion, ensuring equity office staff are adequately equipped to address antisemitism in the same ways they address other forms of hate and racism; supporting academic freedom and the right to participate in events and programs without preconditions; developing measures for responding to various forms of social exclusion, harassment, micro-aggressions and bullying; avoiding scheduling mandatory events on significant Jewish holidays, and permitting Jewish members of the university to participate fully in a range of accommodations; making kosher food readily available on all its campuses; and other recommendations.

The Working Group decided not to endorse any definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by Canada, Ontario and governments and institutions around the world, is a vital tool that serves as a guideline for identifying Jew-hatred and helps combat it.

The report comes after numerous incidents of antisemitism at the university, most recently at its Scarborough campus where the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union passed a motion declaring it will refuse to engage with pro-Israel groups or services, including requiring on-campus kosher food to come from organizations that do not support Israel.

“While we thank the committee for putting forward this report, we remain concerned that the recommendations offered do not address the problems of antisemitism that students are facing on the ground,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, Director of Policy at FSWC. “The University of Toronto's failure to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism shows a lack of commitment and courage in fighting the scourge of Jew-hatred that we have sadly seen rearing its ugly head on campus for years. The most frequent challenge we have faced is the administration not wanting to get involved in reports of antisemitism because it does not have a clear definition to serve as guidance. While we acknowledge the report affirms the basic right to Jewish life on campus, we ultimately see it as a missed opportunity to properly deal with the numerous forms of antisemitism Jewish university students and faculty members continue to face.”

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