Union College Strengthens Support for Jewish Students

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Photo Courtesy Cole Keister

Union College in New York has been selected to participate in the fifth cohort of schools in Hillel International’s 2024 Campus Climate Initiative (CCI).

This cohort will connect higher education administrators with Hillel representatives in an immersive learning journey to combat hate in all forms and ensure a positive campus environment for Jewish students. Since the CCI began in 2020, more than 70 schools have participated.

Among the membership efforts are monthly virtual sessions to educate participants about critical issues related to Jewish student inclusion, Jewish identity, community diversity,
and antisemitism, through content presentations, group discussions, and case studies.

Additional programs include campus climate surveys, data contribution, and a two-day member retreat for all current and prior participants. The cohort comes at a crucial time, as Hillel reported a 700% increase nationwide in campus-related antisemitic incidents in the past year.

Hillel International is the world’s largest Jewish campus organization. Established in 1923, Hillel serves 160,000 students annually and through the CCI has partnered with 50 institutions to date.

The work with Hillel comes amid several other steps being taken by Union leadership to promote understanding among interfaith populations and foster a safe, inclusive environment for Jewish students, and those who hold other beliefs, to express their faith-based identity.

Additional measures in this effort include a community forum on constructive engagement with a network of Jewish, Sikh, Christian, Muslim, and pagan faith leaders; review and modification of bias reporting systems, free speech, and student safety policies; course revisions to emphasize the rise of antisemitism in Holocaust and World War II curricula; and campus climate surveys to locate the specific needs of Union’s population, 12% of whom are Jewish.

In a statement last fall, President David R. Harris, PhD, announced the exigency of the measures being taken. “Union must continue to be a safe home for education, informed discourse, and a respectful exchange of perspectives and ideas,” he said. “Anything less is antithetical to the values of Union and has no place on our campus, in the words we use, or in our hearts.”