Are Jewish Students at York U Free to Speak?

October 8, 2019


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Toronto (October 8, 2019) – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is actively investigating after receiving an alarming report that a Jewish student at York University was surrounded by a mob shouting “intifada” yesterday, requiring protection from campus security.

An undergraduate student was sitting at a table in Vari Hall yesterday with a sign reading “I’m a Zionist, ask me why.” As a member of a group called Herut Canada, her aim was to educate interested students about Israel and Zionism, offering pamphlets highlighting Israel’s achievements and addressing myths about the country.  Throughout the morning, the student says that a crowd of angry students continued to grow around her table, yelling and chanting things like “wipe Israel off the map,” “Jews control the world” and other antisemitic slogans. Campus security officers eventually arrived to disperse the crowd of 40 students yelling at the Jewish student, and stood beside her table for the remainder of the day, she told FSWC.

After speaking with the student, FSWC immediately reached out to the office of York President Rhonda Lenton to demand an explanation for yesterday’s events, requesting a detailed plan from administrators for ensuring that  Jewish students can speak freely on campus without fears of intimidation. FSWC will be meeting with administrators directly regarding this matter later this week.

“That a Jewish student, who wished only to share information about Israel to any student who was interested, would require campus security to protect her from a crowd using vile, antisemitic language – it is disgusting and outrageous,” said Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of FSWC. “Universities are supposed to be an area for the free exchange of ideas. If Jewish students feel scared or intimidated to speak on campus, this is a threat not just to the Jewish community, but to the freedom of all Canadians.”