Blue Ribbon Commission on Antisemitism and University Responses
In 2021, rising antisemitism on college campuses prompted immediate action by the administration, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL), and the Division of Student Affairs.
In line with our institutional values, Temple maintains that positive dialogue and education are among the most critical tools to combat intolerance, ignorance, and discrimination. Discrimination may include antisemitism, racist or incendiary language, hate speech, calls to violence, and the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or identity.
The commission, co-chaired by Susanna Lachs (LAW' 78), the former chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and Temple Professor Lila Corwin Berman, Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History and Director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, was comprised of 20 representatives with a wide range of views and affiliations, including:
- Andrew Goretsky, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League
- Jonathan Broder, co-chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Community Engagement Committee
- Marcia Bronstein, the regional director of the American Jewish Committee
- Laura Levitt, Professor of Religion, Jewish Studies and Gender at Temple University.
The commission's recommendations either have been or are in the process of being implemented. They include the following:
Establish a working group to promote intergroup understanding.
Response: A sub-group of IDEAL's DEI Collaborative (comprised of DEI liaisons from schools, colleges, and departments, and DEI experts) was formed to focus more concretely on promoting intergroup understanding. The sub-group began meeting in the Fall of 2022.
Invest in educational opportunities in and out of the classroom to increase knowledge about antisemitism and facilitate better ways to address it.
Response: Temple has created a Center for Interfaith Inclusion to offer educational resources on religious identity, traditions, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of religious bias, hatred, and bigotry. This resource is, in addition to the Center for Anti-Racism, the centerpiece for the university's various Anti-Racist scholarship and activities.
The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History works with IDEAL and the new center to coordinate and bolster educational resources and campus-wide programs.
Communicate values clearly and often–welcome diversity, protect campus members from discrimination and harassment, and promote the conditions for free inquiry in which all campus members can participate and can have difficult conversations.
Response: As the commission indicates, this recommendation is significantly furthered by implementing the other two identified above. Several efforts have been made and are ongoing to advance more precise and consistent communication, particularly with students and student-facing organizations.
- President Wingard participated in a 2021 dedication of Chabad at Temple University's new Stanley Middleman Center for Jewish Life, which expands Temple's commitment to supporting our Jewish students.
- To engage with students, President Wingard visited Hillel at Temple soon after arriving at Temple in 2021 to meet with students and its executive director Rabbi Daniel Levitt to understand and learn from students' personal experiences.
- Temple is a participant in Hillel International's Campus Climate Initiative, playing a role in combating antisemitism and ensuring Temple continues to provide a safe and welcoming place for all community members to learn, work and live.
- President Wingard and Professor Berman attended the American Jewish Committee's University Presidents' Summit on Campus Antisemitism.
- President Wingard and Provost Mandel led a delegation to the Middle East, including Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, engaging with educators, alumni, civic and business leaders, and government officials to discuss strengthening academic partnerships and exchange opportunities. The conversations prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
- President Wingard hosted a breakfast for faith-based leaders in North Philadelphia, near main campus.
- Provost Mandel worked with the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership to create a new interfaith prayer room in the Howard Gittis Student Center for students of all faiths to pray, reflect and meditate on campus. The prayer room adjoins a newly constructed ablution room, a space for washing oneself before prayer, as practiced in some faith communities.
- Temple Hillel celebrated paying off the mortgage on its campus building and naming a library in honor of Professor Edward Newman. Professor Newman dedicated his career to championing disability rights.