From Yoni’s Desk: What’s a Jewish student to do?

McGill University (Credit: Viola Ng )

Put yourself in Jordyn Wright’s shoes. Wright is a Jewish second-year science student at McGill University. She is very involved in student government, serving on the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) legislative council and the SSMU board of directors, as well as student government in her own faculty.

Over the weekend, Wright revealed the harassment she has been facing simply because she plans to travel to Israel during winter break on a program which, she explained on Facebook, “entails visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to meet with politicians, journalists and locals from all sides to better understand a very nuanced geopolitical conflict.”

For this apparent misdeed, she has been attacked by the SSMU, which has called for her resignation, and interrogated by her faculty council. “The SSMU president,” Wright wrote, “personally singled me out, and actively encouraged others to attack me.” The science executive committee gave her an ultimatum: “Either I withdraw from the trip or I resign from my position. If I do not resign, I am being implicitly threatened with impeachment upon my return.”

(Oh, and by the way, Wright says a non-Jewish member of the SSMU is also scheduled to attend the same upcoming Israel trip and has faced zero pressure from the student government.)

What would you do if you were Jordyn Wright?

If you were brave enough, you might take your story public and state unequivocally that you won’t resign. You could point out the blatant hypocrisy, the clear fact that Jewish kids are being forced to play by a different and ever-changing set of rules than the rest of the student body. As Wright noted, “Those who have sought to remove me from student government frame my participation as a conflict of interest issue. If that were the case, then why is a SSMU executive with a pro-BDS sticker on their water bottle not facing the same scrutiny?”

Perhaps your story would garner some media attention and the university might be propelled to react. That’s what happened just a few weeks ago, when the
McGill Daily refused to publish a rebuttal to its asinine definition of Zionism. But even then, after the Daily was forced to publish the pro-Israel letter, it was accompanied by a lengthy editorial that concluded by accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing.

So what’s your next move when you can see that the deck is clearly stacked against you?

It’s a question Canadian Jewish university students have been grappling with these last few weeks, not just at McGill, but at the University of Toronto and York University, too. At the former, the graduate students’ union was forced to apologize over an email that suggested it could not support a Hillel campaign for more kosher food on campus because of the Jewish group’s pro-Israel stance. At the latter, the federation of students just passed a motion opposing “representatives of the Israeli state or any other imperialist power” visiting campus.


With all this open anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism at play, you might very well wonder aloud why, amid all the meaningful talk about diversity, one community is so obviously being excluded. You would question how Jewish and pro-Israel students could respond in a meaningful way. You might even start to think that the only way to even the score is to adopt the tactics of your antagonists – the ones who shout “Viva, viva intifada” while silencing and intimidating you.

You would be wrong to do that, mind you, but right to question the paucity of tangible options available. It’s up to pro-Israel groups and the leadership of the campuses they serve to provide a better answer – and soon.