|Daniel W. Bennett, Executive Director
Many of you have expressed deep concern about antisemitism on our college campuses in general, and specifically about the February 11-12, 2023, antisemitic incidents at University of Denver residence halls. You can read about the details in Hillel’s February 13th statement and in DU Chancellor Jeremy Haefner’s March 13, 2023, message below.
I’ve had requests specifically for updates about the investigation into the antisemitic acts. For me, whatever the perpetrators of these antisemitic acts intended, the message received by our Jewish students and the broader Jewish community is “you are not safe here.” That message reverberates, impacting all Jews and other marginalized communities on and off campus, and many want justice. Please respect that the students who were victimized chose to ask DU to open an internal investigation, which is their prerogative. In speaking with them I can tell you that their decision makes sense knowing they could later ask for a Denver Police probe. In the meantime, while rumors fly, we cheapen the process unless we permit it to unfold organically, and I’m told that may take a while and we may or may not ultimately know the results.
Importantly, we have spoken with a myriad of DU Hillel students and their parents over the past month in meetings, zooms, and conversations, and more important to our DU Hillel students and their parents than “justice” – not that justice isn’t warranted and important – is improved safety for Jewish students (and all minorities) on campus, and increased tolerance, trainings, and educational programming. They want DU, like most universities that traditionally have focused on academics to the exclusion of much else, to continue increasing their attention to student life. This is increasingly beginning to happen locally and nationwide, but the path forward isn’t always clear, and progress is incremental. Two updates on ways Hillel staff and student leaders are helping this happen:
1. University policies & procedures: I am part of a small working group convened by our DU provost that has suggested possible university-wide policy and procedural changes designed to keep Jews and other minorities safer. Meanwhile, Lily Gross, Hillel’s DU campus director and her Hillel student leaders are working with student government, university academic departments and the appropriate university offices including our Center for Judaic Studies. The university takes our input seriously.
2. Education: The university is upping its game with new DEI trainings and antisemitism education. In my last conversation with the chancellor he agreed to cosponsor Hillel’s next “Live from Campus” event featuring April Powers, Project Shema’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. On Monday evening, April 17th, April Powers’ Holocaust Memorial Day talk: Understanding Antisemitism and the Jewish Experience, will be followed by Q&A facilitated by one of Hillel’s student leaders. I invite all Jewish communal organizations to cosponsor the event (e-mail Noam Dahary) and we request you attend and publicize it widely in your community. Showing our students community unity goes a long way.
Thank you for continuing to care about Hillel of Colorado’s 2,000 Jewish students and their allies. Your moral, and fiscal support means more than you know. Also, please understand that we do not take for granted our universities’ responses to antisemitism: they are true allies, unlike what many of our sister Hillel’s face nationwide. Finally, when you ask, “how can I help?” we are grateful. My answers:
· please spread the word about all Hillel does to assure students have the Jewish literacy and confidence they need to confront, speak up, and navigate these increasingly perilous waters.
· please trust Hillel is doing its job in the trenches combatting campus antisemitism while assuring our students – who are on the front lines – have the tools they need, now and forever, to make this task their own, and to stand strongly and say confidently, “the Jewish future is safe in my hands.”