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Upholding Our Values Amid Campus Protests

As an advocate for freedom of speech and a staunch defender of moral responsibility, I believe deeply in protecting this freedom—it is crucial to the foundation of our democracy, which is often more fragile than we realize. We are witnessing a period of intense activism on university campuses. where students are voicing their demands for dignity and a world with less violence and war.
As the chaplain at Concordia University in Montreal for almost 20 years, I am no stranger to activism. I would fully support and sympathize with these noble intentions if that’s what they actually were.
However, the situation becomes intolerable when protests threaten the safety of individuals based on their identity. Whether it’s LGBTQ students facing violence from homophobes, students of color threatened by white supremacists, or immigrant students endangered by xenophobes, our response must be unequivocal: we shut it down.
And it is equally true, though perhaps less comfortably acknowledged, that when Jewish students are threatened by hostile, violent Jew haters, we must also shut it down. Some may argue that not all participants in these protests harbor antisemitic beliefs, positioning themselves merely as advocates for justice. Yet, when elements within these protests call for “global intifada” or the eradication of Jews “from the river to the sea,” we are not facing mere advocacy but calls for violence and genocide. When violence is practiced and when some justify the killing of Zionists as a form of “resistance,” this too must be shut down.
We must uphold the principle of responsible protest and simultaneously demonstrate zero tolerance for movements rooted in hatred. While students certainly have the right to express their views, even those we find distasteful, they must not infringe upon the rights of others to feel safe and secure as they go about their daily lives.
As we navigate these turbulent times on university campuses, I want to extend a heartfelt message to all Jewish students, whether you find yourselves on either side of the protests or observing from the sidelines: Always be proud of who you are and of your Judaism. Embrace your heritage loud and proud. Show the strength, resilience, and compassion that come with our rich tradition. Let your Judaism shine as a symbol of integrity and kindness in discussions, in your actions, and in your daily lives.
In the heat of impassioned protests, it is crucial for everyone to take a moment to reflect on their own positions and privileges. Engage in critical thinking and resist the pull of groupthink. It’s easy to get swept up in the energy of a crowd, but true activism requires understanding the complexities of the issues at hand. Consider the impacts of your actions and words, not just on your cause but on the people around you. Stand firm in your beliefs, but remain open to dialogue and learning.
I am immensely grateful to all the non-Jewish allies standing with us for the security of our Jewish students on campus. In these challenging times, let us remain committed to the principles of freedom of speech, peace, and justice, striving always towards a world where all can thrive free from fear. May we see better times soon, and may our collective efforts foster an environment of understanding and respect.
About the Author
Rabbi Yisroel Bernath is a World Renowned Matchmaker, Relationships Coach and Lecturer. Cherished for his incredible warmth and non-judgmental personality, this hipster is not your typical rabbi. Rabbi at Rohr Chabad NDG and is the Jewish Chaplain at Concordia University and has helped hundreds of singles break through the 'singles wall'. He founded JMatchmaking International (a network of Jewish dating sites) and has made over 200 successful matches so far, hence the "Love Rabbi" moniker. But you certainly don't have to be Jewish to make good use of his advice.
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