Toronto (December 8, 2022) – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is calling on the University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) to immediately conduct an external, independent inquiry into the latest revelations of pervasive on-campus antisemitism that leadership has repeatedly failed to address effectively.
On December 5, the Canadian Medical Education Journal published a disturbing article by TFOM Associate Professor Dr. Ayelet Kuper, who served as the faculty’s Senior Advisor on Antisemitism between June 2021 and June 2022. In her piece, she reflects on the antisemitism and discrimination she experienced as a faculty member, the experiences shared by community members, how reports of antisemitism have been repeatedly dismissed at TFOM, the toxic environment Jewish students and faculty members have long endured, and the administration’s failure to effectively confront these problems.
Kuper states she has experienced many instances of antisemitism, including “being told that all Jews are liars; that Jews lie to control the university or the faculty or the world, to oppress or hurt others, and/or for other forms of gain; and that antisemitism can’t exist because everything Jews say are lies, including any claims to have experienced discrimination.” She adds that she learned “white-passing Jewish TFOM students were being told by their peers that their pale skin means that they aren’t allowed to claim to have any experience of oppression” and was “told by colleagues that being born in Israel and refusing to denounce the existence of my place of birth as a Jewish state means that I am inherently racist.”
Kuper’s exposé comes more than a year after FSWC called on U of T leadership to take urgent action following reports of Jewish students at TFOM being subjected to antisemitic harassment and intimidation. Earlier this year – after FSWC collaborated with TFOM on an antisemitism presentation for faculty members – more than 300 Jewish U of T faculty members signed an open letter to TFOM denouncing an outrageous antisemitic diatribe by 45 other faculty members against Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.
These new revelations fly in the face of a public commitment TFOM Dean Trevor Young made three months ago “to deepen a culture of respect and inclusivity for our Jewish community members.” He was speaking at an event organized by TFOM to apologize for a decades-long quota system that was in effect until the 1960s, which limited the number of Jewish students who could attend U of T’s medical school or obtain training positions at affiliated teaching schools. While it was commendable for TFOM to show contrition for past prejudice against Jewish students, clearly Dean Young’s vow to make TFOM more hospitable to Jewish students rings hollow in light of this new incriminating evidence showing the continuing hostility Jews face at TFOM.
“Over the last few years, FSWC has received numerous reports of a toxic environment at the University of Toronto for Jewish students and faculty members, particularly at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine,” said FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt. “This harsh reality has been courageously validated by Dr. Ayelet Kuper’s searing indictment of antisemitism endemic to the university. Attempts by U of T and its Temerty Faculty of Medicine to address antisemitism on campus have been grossly inadequate, and the situation urgently requires an external, independent inquiry to determine both the depth of the disturbing and ongoing antisemitism problem on campus and concrete, tangible recommendations and an action plan on how to tackle it."
FSWC has written to TFOM Dean Trevor Young and U of T President Meric Gertler requesting a meeting to discuss the latest revelations and urging for an immediate external, independent inquiry to uncover the full extent of antisemitism at TFOM and to help formulate tangible recommendations and an action plan to address the issue.