A group aimed at combating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement announced on Sept. 10 that it is providing a $25,000 grant to UC Berkeley’s Anti-Semitism Education Initiative.
The group providing the grant, the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that describes itself on its website as a group that aims to empower students and faculty on college campuses to combat the delegitimization of Israel and anti-Semitism.
According to a press release, UC Berkeley’s Anti-Semitism Education Initiative will be supported through AEN’s nationwide Improving the Campus Climate Initiative program, in which AEN will engage with university officials about how to properly combat anti-Semitism on campus.
“Our new initiative aims to creatively engage an important subset of university administrators and staff members who have an outsized role in addressing the issues that directly impact Jewish student life on campuses, particularly in better identifying and responding to situations where a critique of Israel or Zionism goes well beyond a heated political disagreement and is in fact a dangerous form of antisemitism,” AEN’s Executive Director Miriam F. Elman said in a statement. “The challenges facing Jewish students on campus today are best addressed not by criticism from the sidelines but by offering support, resources and guidance to those campus officials charged with protecting the rights of all students.”
The organization will also work with campus Hillels on the matter.
UC Berkeley’s Anti-Semitism Education Initiative first was launched at the end of 2019. The university’s Center for Jewish Studies, Hillel, Institute for Jewish Law and the Chancellor’s Committee on Jewish Life and Campus Climate oversee the program and “have hosted workshops for campus staff and students, brought major speakers to campus, penned op-eds in national publications, and created multimedia presentations, including an online module that is now part of new student orientation.”
One of the speakers that was brought to campus under the initiative was renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt in February. Lipstadt also co-authored a July CNN op-ed with UC Berkeley Jewish Studies professor Ethan Katz, one of the leaders of the university’s Anti-Semitism Education Initiative, with the headline “Far more unites Black and Jewish Americans than divides them.”
Additionally, the initiative is hosting several speakers in September and November to discuss Black and Jewish relations.
“There are no quick fixes when it comes to combating campus anti-Semitism and addressing a hostile academic environment,” Elman said. “The Berkeley model is exceptional because it recognizes that doing this work effectively requires a sustained, long-term effort.”
Katz also said in a statement, “The challenges we face defy easy answers but we can see that our work is already spreading greater awareness, and we regard that as a crucial first step. We are gratified that the AEN has recognized the promise in our initiative and its approach. We look forward to working with them to take our efforts to the next level.”