Princeton USG Passes a ‘Resolution to Condemn and Combat Antisemitism’

November 17, 2022
USG Senate meeting

On November 16, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) passed a “Resolution to Condemn and Combat Antisemitism.” The resolution calls on the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS) to increase antisemitism trainings for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff.

It also urges the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity “to include statistics and other information regarding antisemitism in the annual Report on Bias at Princeton and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Annual Report.”

The resolution came on the heels of a November 13 USG meeting, at which USG treasurer Adam Hoffman ’23 proposed that the USG Senate sponsor a referendum supporting the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

The proposal failed after USG Senate member Judah Guggenheim ’25 publicly opposed the measure at the November 13 meeting, arguing against the following example of antisemitism provided by the IHRA definition: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by laying bare that claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a ‘racist endeavor’ is in itself.”

In response to that example, Guggenheim declared: “I wouldn’t say that arguing against that right [to Jewish self-determination] is antisemitic.” The referendum ultimately failed after Guggenheim’s public opposition, leading to severe pushback by the Jewish community on campus.

Already, the Center for Jewish Life had endorsed the IHRA, and Chabad responded to Guggenheim’s protest by affirmingits own support for IHRA. “It was clear that nearly all present at Sunday’s meeting appreciated the pernicious nature of anti-semitism and wanted a referendum on the adoption of language,” Rabbi Eitan Webb of the Princeton Chabad said in a statement. “In order to combat antisemitism, you need to first define it. That is what these discussions are about.”

“Our hope is that the definition is never employed. The way of Chabad is to invest in increasing acts of goodness and positivity. But we need a definition to exist, and I believe that this is a good definition,” Rabbi Webb said of the IHRA definition.

Following the response from the Jewish community, USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23 gathered with members of the Jewish community to hear their perspectives and find a path forward. Takeuchi then worked on a new resolution with Guggenheim, entitled “Resolution to Condemn and Combat Antisemitism,” which was proposed and passed on the evening of November 16 by the USG Senate.

Before the proposal of the “Resolution to Condemn and Combat Antisemitism” in the November 16 meeting, Takeuchi read aloud a statement she wrote “in consultation” with leaders of the Jewish community. The statement was sent out to the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) and Chabad email lists following the meeting.

“This was a timely proposal, especially amid rising antisemitism in the United States and worldwide, including in New Jersey,” Takeuchi said of Hoffman’s November 13 proposal in her statement.

In the weeks leading up to the resolution, antisemitism was a topic of conversation on campus and in New Jersey at large. There was a statewide alert issued by the FBI regarding a possible threat to New Jersey synagogues on November 3, 2022.

On November 5, the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) released a statement calling on the University to boycott Israel TigerTrek, a student-led winter break trip that brings a Princeton cohort to Israel to meet with key players in the nation’s high-tech startup industry.

The CJL was quick to condemn the statement, with its Executive Director, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf ‘91, releasing a statement to all Residential College listservs via HoagieMail condemning PCP’s words.

“The message crossed a line by engaging in age-old, classic antisemitic references to child killing, using well-known ‘dog whistles’ like Jewish ‘elitism,’ and rhetoric about colonialism which undermines Israel’s right to exist,” Steinlauf wrote of PCP’s statement.

He also announced that he will be running “a series of seminars to teach individuals across our campus community about the history, nature, dynamics, and challenges of dealing with antisemitism.” He emphasized that he is “particularly proud that the seminar promotes the official definition of antisemitism put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).”

In her November 16 statement, Takeuchi expressed gratitude for “the many students and student leaders, including those in the Center for Jewish Life and Chabad, who’ve made the time to meet with me since Sunday’s meeting.”

She emphasized that “USG, with utmost respect, will follow the lead of our campus’s Jewish community.”

Rabbi Webb expressed that “it was gratifying to see Princeton’s student government unanimously reject antisemitism.”

Hoffman also expressed a positive outlook on the successful resolution. “I was glad to see the CJL, Chabad, and the organized Jewish community stand together against antisemitism in all its forms,” Hoffman wrote in a statement to the Jewish Journal.

“Because of the Jewish community’s organized response to USG’s previous vote, we are moving in the right direction. I’ve been inspired by Rabbi Webb [of Princeton Chabad] and Rabbi Steinlauf’s [of the Center for Jewish Life] leadership in fighting antisemitism and pushing back against those in USG who opposed the IHRA definition.”

Alexandra Orbuch is a sophomore at Princeton University from Los Angeles, California hoping to study Politics. On campus, she writes for The Princeton Tory, the university’s journal for conservative thought, and the Princeton Legal Journal, the university’s undergraduate law review.

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