Jewish faculty members create group to counter antisemitism on Montreal campuses

"Unsafe for the campus community," says Ada Sinacore, chair of the Montreal Academic Network Against Antisemitism, a new group formed to combat antisemitism on campuses in Montreal. Swidda Rassy reports.

By Swidda Rassy

A group of Jewish faculty and staff members across CEGEPs and universities in Montreal has been created to counter antisemitism on campuses across the city.

The Montreal Academic Network Against Antisemitism (MANAA), which comprises of over a hundred Jewish faculty and staff members, aims to combat misinformation and anti-Jewish hate through outreach and education.

“Trying to get rid of some of the stereotypes that are out there, debunking the violence that exists against us, as you’ve seen with swastikas painted on synagogues, gunfire at Jewish schools,” said McGill University professor and chair of the MANAA, Ada Sinacore.

The group met with McGill University president Deep Saini on June 19 to discuss their demands which include the university implementing antisemitism and anti-Jewish hate in its Equity, Diversity & Inclusion policies; developing mandatory trainings about antisemitism and anti-Jewish hate; using the full extent of its policies and the law to take action against antisemitism; and not adhering to divestment discussions against Israel and any Israeli organizations.

“Our first goal has been about on campuses, but we see that its affecting other people. We have been contacted by many people affected by this, even non-Jews affected by this so, if they ask for the education material, we are happy to provide them,” said Sinacore.

The group wants McGill to provide a memorandum of action which includes a timeline of when these demands will be implemented.

During the meeting, the group also stated that McGill has failed to ensure workplace safety thus failing to protect the rights of Jewish professors, staff and students.

“Protesting is one thing, creating an encampment on campus that’s unsafe for the campus community is not about free speech or peaceful protest,” said Sinacore.

The MANAA was officially launched with the support of Federation CJA, in partnership with the Bronfman Jewish Education Centre (BJEC) on May 30.

Since April 27, a pro-Palestinian encampment has been set up at McGill University’s downtown Montreal campus.

For months, protestors have been calling for McGill to divest funds from companies protesters say are supporting Israel’s actions against Palestinians.

Members of the encampment have said they will not be leaving until their demands are met.

The MANAA wants the encampment to come come down as they say slogans displayed on the school’s lower field are antisemitic.

However, one protestor CityNews spoke with on Friday disagrees. “This is an absurd claim that we have huge members of the, like many members of the McGill Jewish community of students who are here at the camp day in and day out,” said the protestor who did not give CityNews his name.

“We host Jewish community events and we create a space for those sort of things. This camp stands against antisemitism,” he adds.

Montreal mayor Valérie Plante has said that the city can not intervene at McGill because it is private property.

“The university has basically said that the mayor has tied their hands in terms of the encampment being taken down,” said Sinacore.

On May 15, a Quebec Superior Court judge rejected McGill’s provisional injunction request to dismantle the encampment.

The university had asked a judge to order the protesters to stop camping on or occupying its grounds and to authorize Montreal police to assist the school in dismantling the encampment if called upon.

McGill said the encampment posed a “security, safety and public health risk” and has caused tensions to escalate on campus.

After failed attempts at negotiation, McGill announced on June 18 that they are ceasing negotiation discussions with members of the encampment.

A statement from McGill University to CityNews reads in part, “McGill is holding consultations with and actively listening to members of its community affected by the encampment and related protests. This includes consultations with Jewish colleagues and students who have been particularly, and often directly, affected by the rise in antisemitism on campus and in wider society. There is zero tolerance for antisemitism and other forms of hate and social oppression at McGill. We are committed to action that ensures safety, respect, and inclusion for all members of our campus. We are exploring and will soon implement concrete, direct measures in addition to those already in place, to uphold this commitment.”

“I think there are many professors very concerned about teaching their courses right now,” said Sinacore.

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