Jewish students at Dalhousie University discovered how they can fight BDS and other anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments on campus at meetings Feb. 6 and 7.
Some leaders of the Halifax Jewish community learned the same things at a post Monday-morning minyan breakfast at Beth Israel Synagogue Feb. 8.
Both events were co-ordinated by the Atlantic Jewish Council.
“Focus on influential persons on campus – professors and administrators – to develop positive relationships and ensure those leaders reject BDS [boycotts, divestment and sanctions] when it comes along,” Allyson Grant told each group.
The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ (CIJA) recently appointed program co-ordinator for university and local partners urged the Halifax community to support students, be strategic in their planning, be positive and make their opposition to anti-Israel sentiment “be about the effect BDS will have on students.”
Grant, based in Ottawa, has a history degree from the University of Calgary and is working on her masters in public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa. A non-Jew, she took an undergraduate course about Israel in Calgary, and “that convinced me to support Israel, a country I felt people misunderstood.”
She joined CIJA after working in communications for the Liberal party during last fall’s election, gaining organizing experience that she’s brought to her new position.
Last month, Grant helped Jewish students and their supporters at the University of Waterloo Jewish defeat a referendum pushing for the university’s Federation of Students to support BDS.
“BDS is not having a lot of real effect,” she said. “You win some, you lose some. When the other side wants to talk about it, we want to counter it by developing those positive relationships with influential people.”
She noted that the Waterloo BDS campaign, which advocated cutting Waterloo’s ties to Israeli educational institutions, was emphatically defeated by a vote of 2,329 to 1,803.
“Our message was to invest in their own [the students’] future. Don’t cut ties with cutting-edge institutions, key educational entities,” said Grant.
“It’s important to be positive and work with the key people on campus to generate support,” she concluded.
With Israeli Apartheid Week looming at Dalhousie Feb. 22 to 27, the Atlantic Jewish Council’s Hillel co-ordinator, Arielle Branitsky said Dal’s Jewish students don’t feel threatened.
“We’re being proactive, trying to build positive relationships with all students on campus,” Branitsky said.
“We’ve run a couple of successful Challah For Halifax events, selling challah buns to raise money for Feed Nova Scotia and giving a Jewish presence to the campus. We’ll be sure to have a booth during Israeli Aparheid Week.”
She added: “Allyson’s being here to speak to our students and give them guidance was very important to building our confidence in how to handle issues.”