Hillel’s latest response to campus antisemitism

Daniel W. Bennett, Executive Director


Shalom –

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.”



March 13, 2023

Dear DU community members,

Thank you for your many messages of care and concern following the heinous antisemitic incidents on our campus. We’re writing now to share the steps that we have taken to raise awareness in the community about the history and deep harm of antisemitism and to further cement our denouncement of antisemitism and all hateful acts.


We’ve come together with faculty, campus leaders, and Jewish community leaders to review the work that we’ve undertaken on campus to educate students on bias and prejudice through, for example, our bystander intervention training and Bias Incident Response Team. In response, we’ve received helpful input from leaders both within DU and the broader community on how we can build on our existing efforts to underscore even further our firm stance against bias and prejudice.


We’ve also organized campus engagements across the next couple of months to raise the community’s consciousness of antisemitism, including April 16 and 17 events co-sponsored with DU Hillel and Project Shema, whose details we look forward to sharing soon. Working to uphold academic freedom while redressing antisemitism on our campus, we are in discussion with the head of the regional Anti-Defamation League about hosting a conversation with the Provost on eradicating hate on our campus.


Likewise, in April, we will co-sponsor the Governor’s Holocaust Remembrance Day at Temple Emanuel on April 19 and will publicize this broadly to attract as many community members as wish to attend this important program.


With Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence, the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, faculty, and other partners on and off campus, we’re exploring additional ways we might increase the number of opportunities students have to learn about antisemitism on campus, both as part of coursework and in other campus settings.


Lastly, our policies, which are in place to protect all students, prevent us from sharing details regarding investigations involving student conduct, including what disciplinary actions may be taken. That said, we can assure our community members that we take any conduct motivated by hate or bias extraordinarily seriously. Such acts call upon the university to bring meaningful punishment to bear on any perpetrators.


As always, please feel free to reach out to our offices with any questions or concerns you might have. We look forward to hearing from you.




Jeremy Haefner



Mary Clark


Leave a Reply