On Jan. 25, Judith Dworkin, the director of McMaster Hillel, delivered a presentation to the President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community in Council Chambers of Gilmour Hall.
Dworkin’s presentation came in the wake of the swastikas found in the men’s bathrooms of Burke Science Building last spring. It also followed a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in Hamilton, such as the swastikas drawn on sidewalks and on a rail trail in the city and the hate mail received by Temple Anshe Sholom in December 2017.
“[After these events transpired], the Jewish community was in shock,” said Dworkin.
In her presentation, Dworkin outlined a number of definitions of anti-Semitism, traced the origins and history of the swastika.
“[The swastika] is particularly traumatizing to the Jewish community and other communities who perished in the Holocaust,” she said.
In addition to increasing awareness, Dworkin’s presentation ignited dialogue about how the university and community should tackle anti-Semitism in the future.
“McMaster Hillel believes that the university should provide resources to students which will help educate the campus community on the topic of anti-Semitism, specifically in areas on how to recognize, where to report and what to do if experienced,” said Michal Coret, president of McMaster Hillel.
Following the presentation, PACBIC members discussed how the university should both prevent swastika graffiti from reappearing on campus and address anti-semitism more broadly.
A key recommendation put forward entailed putting up signs in washrooms on campus, which would serve to both highlight that swastika graffiti is prohibited and give students direction in the event that they come across it.
PACBIC members also expressed interest in adding facts about marginalized groups to these signs, which would be part of a larger effort to increase intersectional education within the McMaster community.
Chukky Ibe, McMaster Students Union president, suggested that university courses be created to educate students about the histories of oppressed groups.
“McMaster Hillel believes that the university should provide resources to students which will help educate the campus community on the topic of anti-Semitism, specifically in areas on how to recognize, where to report and what to do if experienced.”
“We need to talk more about anti-Semitism and marginalized communities and use an academic approach to make an early intervention,” said Ibe.
Another proposal consisted of building a resource identifing anti-semitism through the McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office, which would be similar to the Challenging Islamophobia on Campus Initiative Report published in February 2017, which addressed another form of religious discrimination.
“The EIO, the office of the [McMaster president Patrick Deane], McMaster chaplaincy and other faith-based groups, Student Support and Case Management Office and others will continue to provide education and programs in support of an inclusive community,” said Pilar Michaud, director of human rights and dispute resolution at the EIO.
McMaster Hillel aspires to continue to work with the EIO to combat anti-Semitism.
“Our hope is that the Equity and Inclusion Office will help provide university resources on campus and ensure Jewish students are able to access them when necessary,” said Coret. “We are optimistic that these resources will be available in the near future.”
The university and student groups continue to work together to identify and combat anti-Semitism on campus and in the community.