Carleton University professor Deidre Butler flew to Toronto to proclaim her solidarity with the students speaking out against antisemitism

A rally organized by Canadian Women Against Antisemitism at Toronto’s Earl Bales Park on Sunday, May 5, focused on some recent student experiences. Deidre Butler, the director of the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, made a point of flying in to speak for four minutes. “Students have been on the front lines facing that hatred personally but also working tirelessly to stem that tide,” she says about her motivation to attend. “They have borne this on their shoulders, they are raw and exhausted.” Here’s what she said to those in attendance: 

I am here as a professor and as the co-founder of NECA, the Network of Engaged Canadian Academics. We are 225 Jewish and non-Jewish faculty, from 34 universities and colleges across Canada.

We stand with you, as your professors, as your allies—because there are no universities without students. 

NECA’s mission is to combat antisemitism and protect Jewish identity on Canadian campuses including when Israel and Zionism are central to that identity. Everyone’s academic freedom is strengthened through a diversity of perspectives.

We are your professors. We stand with you and we hear you.

We hear your shocking stories of being spat on, being told you belong in ovens, that Hitler should have finished the job.  

We hear anti-Israel activists claiming that their voices are being silenced, yet we see and hear them working actively to silence Jewish students in classrooms, in student clubs and unions, and in public spaces.

We hear how you are avoiding certain professors, courses, and programs because your perspectives, questions and lived experience are not welcome.

We are your professors. We stand with you and we hear you.

We hear you when you’re outraged by tokenism—when only some Jews  are invited to speak for our community, to drown out your voice, to rewrite your identity to exclude the historic, religious and cultural connection to Israel that is so important to so many Jews. 

We see how many of you are forced to denounce your connection with Israel to be able to participate in progressive spaces that should be yours. You should never have to hide a core part of your identity, of what makes you proud as a Jew.

We see how Jewish students and their allies have been intimidated, swarmed and filmed, threatened with physical and sexual violence, and subjected to the most vile calls for violence.

We are your professors, we see you and we hear you.

We also know how strong and resilient you are. We see and hear that too.

We see how hard and proudly you are working against antisemitism, how you stand up for each other, how you celebrate your Jewish identity.

We see you wearing your Magen David necklaces proudly, and we see you tucking them away because sometimes you have to be smart and careful.  

We see you and we are proud of all of you.

Since Oct. 7, faculty and students have come together on our campuses, we have shared our pain and our anger together, our bewilderment that those we respected and thought were friends and colleagues stood against us or stood silent. We spoke about our compassion for the other, here and in Israel and in Gaza, our desires for peace, justice and healing for all, values that are central to our community and our identity as Jews.  

Antisemitism is the world’s oldest form of hatred, and many of your professors have fought similar battles to the ones you are fighting now. We have the experience, expertise, tools, and the relationships to support you in the classroom, with clubs and unions, with campus safety and the administration.

And so, I want to share with you a message from faculty…

You’re not alone:  Come see us at our offices, even if we are from a different department, we want to help.

Protect your future: Students are vulnerable. We can advise you on how to protect yourself and your future.

Use the policies: Let us help you navigate these processes so you receive the support all students deserve. 

Connect with trusted faculty: Ask your friends, talk to Hillel, or reach out to us at NECA to put you in contact with faculty who want to help and will put your interests first.

At this moment when we are facing the worst wave of antisemitism in decades, you are modelling Jewish values and working towards the world you want to see: a world where you stand up for yourself and for others, a world where the hostages are home, a world where there is justice and peace for all.

We are your professors, and we stand with you. Am Yisrael Chai!

Prof. Butler’s view of the audience at Earl Bales Park on May 5, 2024.