University Housing personnel receives anti-Semitism training

By Laszlo Richard Toth, Staff Writer

University Housing paraprofessionals were given anti-Semitism training over winter break, which contributes to an ongoing controversy on campus relating to the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The plan to institute anti-Semitism training was first announced by Chancellor Robert Jones in an October Massmail

The training came as part of a response to a swastika found in the Foreign Languages Building. It also responded to a presentation titled “Palestine & Great Return March (Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror),” given to housing staff on the Palestine-Israel conflict, which some took to contain anti-Semitic content.

However, many students, most notably the Students for Justice in Palestine, argued the presentation was not anti-Semitic, and it was wrong for the University to imply anti-Semitism is synonymous with anti-Zionism. This led to the Illinois Student Government to pass Resolution 3.29, which among other things, condemned the conflation of the two. 

The training was administered by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago on Jan. 17. 

The day prior, the SJP released a statement on its social media accounts, which heavily criticized the JUF and the University’s role in selecting it, referring to the JUF as “an anti-Arab, Islamophobic group, that Chancellor Jones has personally chosen to bring to campus.” 

The statement also criticized the JUF for donating to certain organizations “that engage in spreading Islamophobia, anti-blackness and other forms of racism,” and provided a brief list of organizations that the JUF has helped to fund.

The JUF stated its support of marginalized communities, stating that it “stands strongly and proudly against hatred in all of its forms, including anti-Semitism.”

“The opportunity to train staff at the University of Illinois was a welcome invitation,” the JUF said in an email statement. “We believe that through this initial engagement, we have raised awareness of not only the particulars of anti-Semitism, but that hatred toward Jews never stops there and that no oppression can truly be solved until all of us can live safely.” 

The training itself only lasted for about an hour. Mark Andre Adalin, sophomore in LAS and resident adviser at Florida Avenue Residence Hall, was present at the training. He stated the presentation itself maintained a focus on the history of anti-Semitism. 

However, Adalin said the housing staff readily voiced their concerns during the training, especially concerning certain agencies the JUF funds. 

“When people were presenting and people felt that they were not in a safe zone, a lot of students spoke up,” Adalin said. “For both sides, seeing the presentation and having people react to it at the same time, both experiences were really good for learning for both the RAs and the (multicultural advocate)s.”

Despite the mixed feelings toward the JUF and the ongoing controversy on campus relating to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the training overall provided an open discussion. 

“It was (overall beneficial),” Adalin said. “People learned a lot of things from it, not only from the presentation but the way a lot of students reacted.”

That being said, Adalin mentioned there were only about 15 minutes available at the end of the 45-minute presentation for questions, preventing further discussion. 

“I felt like everything was being rushed, and if we did have the time to ask more, I feel like the questions would have been a lot more in-depth for them to answer,” Adalin said. 

The SJP was unavailable for comment. 

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