Reflections on one of my proudest moments of the past 26 years as Rabbi and Executive Director of Indiana University Hillel

A new wave of anti-Semitic hatred has been sweeping across college campuses under the guise of the BDS movement — a movement that calls for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctioning of Israel. I could not be more proud of the students at Indiana University who decided to pro-actively combat this hatred and worked tirelessly for months to pass a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and promoting diversity.

The Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at IU, led by Jessie Nejberger, Rebekah Molasky, Keira Kroin, Shayna Goodman, and Ryan Fidell, worked with dedication, commitment and energy to research, write, edit, and present a resolution to the Indiana University Student Association (IUSA).


A summary of the resolution states that The Indiana University Student Association recognizes that the Jewish people, like all peoples, have a collective right to self-determination, and considers attempts to undermine these rights, including the global BDS Movement against Israel, to be a form of bigotry; Read more on the SSI website:

Indiana University is the first campus in the 2015-16 academic year in our nation to pass The Resolution to Condemn Anti Semitism following four previous resolutions from The University of Minnesota, Ryerson University, Georgia, and Texas A&M.

26 IUSA senators had the courage and strength of conviction to vote in favor of the bill. These students understood the importance of speaking out against hatred whenever it presents itself. Bigotry in any form cannot be tolerated and must be prevented and/or stopped in its tracks.

The SSI students and IUSA senators who presented and voted in favor of this important bill walk in the footsteps of a very long standing IU tradition of diversity and openness that echoes one of IU’s greatest university presidents, President Herman B Wells. Wells’ leadership “was built on the foundation of tolerance for racial and ethnic differences. Focused on individual students and their needs, he celebrated diversity, fervently believing that the university had an obligation to be ecumenical in spirit as well as practice.” (James H. Capshew, Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University)

Wells was a champion of diversity long before it was popular or even acceptable. It was under Wells’ leadership and guidance that Indiana University became a refuge for scholars who were fleeing Europe, Hitler and the Nazi party. And, the IU Hillel Foundation was the first campus to bring students from the Holocaust to America.

Wells’ commitment to diversity and his fight against anti-Semitism was again championed by President Michael McRobbie almost 2 years ago when he supported diversity, freedom and the Jewish community and students on campus by withdrawing IU’s membership from the American Studies Association (ASA). He wrote to the ASA, “Indiana University joins other leading research universities in condemning in the strongest possible terms the boycott of institutions of higher education in Israel as proposed by the American Studies Association and other organizations.” In addition, President McRobbie concluded his letter with the words, “”Indiana University will contact the ASA immediately to withdraw as an institutional member. We urge the leadership of the ASA and other associations supporting the boycott to rescind this dangerous and ill-conceived action as a matter of urgency.”

The SSI students and so many of us have been horrified to watch the increase in anti-Semitism on college campuses across the country. Much of the anti-Semitism has been unleashed through the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel) that has been plaguing college campuses. The Simon Wiesenthal Center website released, “A new study by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Trinity College shows that American colleges and universities are not ivory towers of tolerance regarding Jews, but hotspots of anti-Semitism where 54 percent of all students report that they have either experienced or witnessed an anti-Semitic incident during the past year.” Please watch this video to see some of the anti-Semitism on other campuses across the country, Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus

The SSI student leaders provided a shining example to all of us and a path for IUSA leaders to follow and set an example of the importance of standing up for our beliefs and fighting against hatred, bigotry and injustice. I could not be more proud of and grateful to our students! And I want to offer a special thanks to Dotan Jakoby the Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow who has mentored and supported the group since he joined the Indiana University Hillel staff in August 2015.

I hope that the passage of this resolution can serve as a model for other campuses in their efforts to end the BDS movement. “With the passage of this Resolution, the IU student government body has made a critically important statement. A statement that is certainly in line with what IU President McRobbie has expressed several times in the past: that while university campuses are indeed the marketplace of all ideas and opinions, they must also be the place where students learn to engage in serious and complex issues with both civility and respect. We hope to see the Student Government bodies of the other seven IU campuses throughout Indiana to follow the lead of IU Bloomington’s students.” (Lindsey B. Mintz, Executive Director, Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.)

May we all be inspired by the passage of this resolution and learn from our students about the importance of standing up in support of Israel.


About the Author
Rabbi Sue Laikin Silberberg is Executive Director of the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center at Indiana University
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