Community rallies to defeat BDS at UMN

UMN Student Association Forum, 2016

UMN Student Association Forum, 2016

Leeore Levenstein, a sophomore, feels supported and welcomed by the Jewish and Israel organizations on campus. She’s traveled to Israel twice with groups from UMN and is active in Hillel, Chabad, and Students Supporting Israel. But there have been times, she says, that she hasn’t felt supported by the University itself.

“When anti-Semitic events have oc- curred there has largely been silence from administration,” said Leeore. “I’ve often felt neglected and uncared for as a Jewish student on campus.”

And so, when Students for Justice in Palestine introduced resolutions earlier this year calling for UMN to boycott Israeli companies, Leeore felt scared. To her, and to other Jewish students on campus, the focus on only Israeli companies was a direct attack on the Jewish community on campus—and a threat to each of them as individuals.

“I felt ready to do whatever it took to make sure that the resolution would not pass,” says Leeore.

For the past several years, reports of anti-Semitism have been on the rise on college campuses across the United States. Leaders in the Twin Cities Jewish community knew that our local campuses weren’t immune. So they got to work. Soon after, MILC was born.

The Minnesota Israel Leadership Collaborative (MILC) is a joint program of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Israel Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, Minnesota Hillel, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas(JCRC), and Students Supporting Israel (SSI).

When Jewish students at the U needed support, MILC—and the entire community—were there.

Leeore worked with SSI President Sami Rahamim and other students to lead efforts against the divestment resolution. Together, they created a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and encouraged students to show their support of Israel at Minneso- ta Student Association (MSA) forums.

In the end, MSA voted to strike the divestment resolution. And one month later, when a similar resolution was back on the table, pro-Israel students rallied again. Thanks to their efforts, the resolution was amended to remove all references to specific companies—it now calls for the University to responsibly invest.

“We are extremely proud of the students....for their tireless work on these measures...They rallied an impressive campaign to urge their peers to vote against the divestment resolution,” said JCRC, SSI, and Minnesota Hillel in a statement following the decision.

Leeore says the Jewish community made a great effort to be involved with the process, and that its support was crucial.

“It showed that what happens on campus does have greater implications for the community,” said Leeore. “Specifically, JCRC, Hillel International, and Minnesota Hillel led a lot of the support. MILC gave us the platform for a lot of our efforts. It allowed everyone to have a role that suited their strengths and ensured that we got everything we needed to fight divest­ment.”

Kol hakavod to the students on campus who fought against anti-Semitism. But the fight isn’t over. And when our students need support again, MILC—and all of the organizations involved in it—will be there.