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Canada U of T student union apologizes to Jewish group after denying kosher food campaign

21:40  18 november  2019
21:40  18 november  2019 Source:   nationalpost.com

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an old church with University College, Toronto in the background: The Kosher Forward campaign argues that Jewish students deserve to have the same access to food on University of Toronto's campus as any other student.   Credit: Flickr/cmh2315fl The Kosher Forward campaign argues that Jewish students deserve to have the same access to food on University of Toronto's campus as any other student.  Credit: Flickr/cmh2315fl

The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union has apologized to the Jewish student group Hillel and agreed to consider its proposal for accessible kosher food on campus.

The UTGSU apologized  after one of its members submitted a motion on Nov. 11 for the UTGSU to officially support the Kosher Forward Campaign, while having the UTGSU’s Executive Committee present it at the next General Council/Board of Directors meeting.

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General Council/Board of Directors meetings allow members to discuss major problems and policy issues within the organization — in this case the UTGSU. The Executive Committee oversees all day-to-day management of UTGSU finances and is responsible for ensuring that the policy changes and current priorities are implemented.

But in response on Nov. 14, a member of the UTGSU, the External Commissioner, emailed Hillel  insinuating the group “might be reluctant to bring the motion forward to the UTGSU General Council/Board-of Directors as a result of Hillel being ‘pro-Israel’.”

The UTGSU has since issued an apology:

“The External Commissioner did not intend to do harm in using this language,” wrote the UTGSU in an email to Hillel, “but recognizes that this is not an excuse for the harm that the wording of this response caused to the individual receiving it, as well as to Jewish students at U of T…. The UTGSU Executive Committee is deeply sorry for the harm that this response has caused.”

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Following the apology, the proposal will now be considered.

The External Commissioner has also brought the request forward to the UTGSU’s Equity and Advocacy Committee as a way for the student group to support the Kosher Forward Campaign. They’ve also provided the Hillel member, who’s also part of the Board of Directors, with direction for how they can submit their motion directly to the UTGSU’s General Council/Board of Directors. The next General Council/Board of Directors meeting is set to take place on Nov. 26.

Hillel is a campus organization for Jewish students across many different universities. “Hillel Canada’s mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may further enrich the Jewish people and the world, “ according to Jewish Canada.

“Hillel Canada works closely with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (www.cija.ca) to engage students as participants in Israel advocacy programs on campus and as advocates for Israel within student government and campus policies.”

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According to a Hillel University of Toronto press release , the UTGSU initially denied the request through an email response, because of the group’s “pro-Israel” activities, while “the Executive Committee strives to abstain from this type of discourse in order to ensure the will of the membership is accurately reflected in any votes on these motions.”

According to B’nai Brith Canada , a human rights group, “the will of the membership” is an apparent reference to the UTGSU’s adoption of the Palestinian-led movement, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), against Israel, while UTGSU is the only student union in the country with a “committee dedicated to promoting the BDS Movement.”

The Kosher Forward campaign argues that Jewish students deserve to have the same access to food on campus as any other student.

“Hillel strongly condemns this type of rhetoric, which associates support of the State of Israel with a campaign to make campus more accessible for Jewish students,” Hillel University of Toronto wrote in their press release before the apology.

“Kosher Forward requires the support of more than just Jewish students to make kosher food on campus a reality. In its unwillingness to support Hillel in this campaign, the UTGSU has violated its mandate to support its Jewish students by conflating the largest representative of Jewish students on campus with the actions of the Israeli government. This inability to separate Jewish individuals from the Israeli government’s actions is, indeed, a form of antisemitism.”

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