Concordia student union apologizes to Montreal Jewish community

Student union does mea culpa for long history of anti-Jewish behaviour, including hosting Jew hating Nation of Islam speaker.

Tags: Montreal
Dan Verbin ,

Montreal
Montreal
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The day before Yom HaShoah, the student union of Montreal’s Concordia University sent a letter of apology to the Jewish community.

The letter, which was posted on the student union’s Facebook page, stated that they wanted to “strive to acknowledge our mistakes and being the process of correcting ourselves.”

They said that they had been “indifferent” to the concerns of Jewish students and the “struggles they have faced” and that in the past they have spoken frequently about fighting other forms of discrimination but always avoided bringing up anti-Semitism.

They wrote that the Concordia campus is a place where Jewish students are afraid to openly identify as Jewish and must “tuck their Star of David necklaces under their shirts for fear of having insults hurled at them for things they do not control and are not responsible for.”

They noted that the campus is full of anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism and that the Jewish community does not feel safe at campus events.

They said they would strive to foster a more inclusive atmosphere for Jewish students.

Nicole Nashen, a student union councilor and the incoming president of Hillel Concordia, told the Montreal Gazette that she was touched by the letter.

“As someone who was scared to enroll in Concordia because of its reputation, I was pleased to see it was taking the initiative to acknowledge the wrong it did for decades, and putting actionable steps towards correcting that wrong and trying to mend that relationship,” she said.

“Our first reaction is gratitude and pride in the students of our community who very intelligently and very courageously engaged in the necessary dialogue to bring this about,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Quebec (CIJA) in an interview with the Montreal Gazette.

He said that CIJA accepts the student union’s apology and expects the body to display “improved behavior.”

The Concordia student union has long been associated with anti-Semitism, added Poupko.

“I remember being at a (Concordia student union) event close to 30 years ago, when they hosted the No. 2 to Louis Farrakhan, where he gave a speech for the (student union), which was three hours in length, denouncing Jews and Judaism in ways that were obscene,” he said. “To many, that is ancient history, but our involvement on this issue on Concordia campus goes back a long time.”



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