Northeastern University in Boston Adopts IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism
The Student Government Association at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, becoming one of the first large private universities in the United States to do so.
After nearly two hours of debate on Monday night, the Student Government Association passed resolution SS-FA-20-105, endorsing the IHRA definition and its examples of contemporary anti-Semitism, while calling on the University administration to do so as well. The vote count was 40 student senators in favor of the resolution, with 27 abstentions and 0 votes against the resolution.
Avital Brodski, President of Northeastern University Hillel, said “Just like the old saying: two Jews, three opinions; the process to get here was long and arduous but we couldn’t be more proud of the work put into solidifying this decision for the benefit of all Jewish students at Northeastern.”
The resolution notes the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world and highlights past examples of anti-Semitism on Northeastern’s campus.
It further states, “The SGA recognizes that antisemitism is an issue, both on campus and across the nation, stands in solidarity with the Jewish community at Northeastern University, and unequivocally condemns all forms of antisemitism and bigotry on our campus…Both the SGA and Northeastern University formally adopt the IHRA definition and all examples included within…as a guideline in order to effectively counter and act upon any future antisemitic incidents on campus.”
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an inter-governmental agency with 34 member states. In May 2016, IHRA recognized that in order to effectively combat anti-Semitism, clarity was needed around what constitutes contemporary anti-Semitism. The IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism describes 11 examples of modern Jew-hatred and has been officially adopted by 30 nations, the European Union and a growing list of universities and NGOs around the world.
Recently, the New York University administration adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education.
Following the adoption, Northeastern Hillel Executive Director Gilad Skolnick told the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM), “We are very proud of our students for leading this initiative and hope it will encourage other campuses to follow. NU Hillel will continue to give our students the necessary tools to stand up to anti-Semitism on campus and empower them to create a more tolerant campus community.”
The grassroots student-led initiative came on the heels of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at Northeastern promoting the U.S.-designated terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Prior to Monday night’s student government meeting, a group of students had launched a campaign to inspire other Jewish students to share their encounters with anti-Semitism with student government representatives. During the debate over the resolution, Jewish and Israeli students described their personal experiences on campus including being spat on and called “Nazis.”
— Northeastern University Hillel (@NU_Hillel) November 30, 2020
College of Social Sciences Senator and IACT Birthright alumnus Yehuda Gannon told CAM, “I am so incredibly happy and proud of the entire Northeastern Jewish community for making their voices heard at the Student Government Association, and I want to thank all senators and members of the community who helped us throughout the entire process in order to get this resolution passed.”
Jewish students representing a variety of on-campus students groups, including Hillel, AEPi, Chabad and others, spoke up on the merits of the IHRA definition as a tool to recognize and combat anti-Semitism on campus and around the world today. AEPi Brother Jonathan Golbert, who spoke in favor of the resolution during debate, commented, “This resolution represents a massive step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism at Northeastern and at campuses around the world. The adoption of the IHRA’s definition is a testament to the incredible strength and solidarity of the Jewish community at Northeastern.”
According to Chase Barnett, student Senator from the College of Engineering, “Northeastern University became one of the first universities in the country to pass the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in the student government.” Barnett, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution said, “I am so proud of my fellow co-sponsors of the bill. A lot of hard work and dedication went into this and it is incredible that we have such strong Jewish leaders on campus. The community rose up and banded together to make sure that this would pass. I am also incredibly proud of those in Student Government, especially those who aren’t Jewish, as they were able to recognize the injustices, discrimination, and hate that Jews face throughout the country and vote for something as important as this.”
Speaking to CAM, Student-At-Large Elie Codron discussed what he viewed as the wider implications of the IHRA definition being adopted on campus. “The endorsement of the IHRA definition is a strong message to the entire Northeastern community. To Jewish students, this resolution shows that they are not alone and that each Jewish student should feel safe to be a proud Jew at Northeastern. To the community at large, this sends the message that Jewish civil rights on campus are as important as everyone else’s. We will continue to work with our campus partners to ensure an inclusive environment for all. Together, we must all work together to fight anti-Jewish prejudice at Northeastern,” he said. Codron is also a CAMERA Fellow and co-founder of the student-led Rimon Movement.
According to Northeastern Hillel staff, and the language of the resolution, Northeastern University has “a robust Jewish community consisting of approximately 1,000 – 1,200 students.”