Taking on Antisemitism

Institutions of higher education are facing rising antisemitism on campus, which profoundly affects both Jewish and non-Jewish faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Jewish students have been the target of overt expressions of antisemitism, which in many cases, has prompted college administrators to respond decisively to the problem. Sometimes, however, there have been debates as to what writings, events, or speech are antisemitic, often leading to confusion about what actions to take. To deal with the complex issues of antisemitism in the context of higher education, the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), an international leadership-training organization, has created a new program to empower Jewish and non-Jewish students, faculty, and staff to identify antisemitism and work constructively with campus partners in addressing the issue. The goals of the training program include understanding antisemitism as a systemic oppression, using criteria to evaluate when something is antisemitic, recruiting and building allies, and working with others to stay in coalition to take on all forms of oppression even when things get hard.

NCBI piloted the model training program in August 2020, which it called the New England Campus Antisemitism Leadership Training. With funding from the Joyce and Irving Goodman Foundation, NCBI recruited three New England institutions of higher education for the initiative: Middlebury College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Williams College. Collaborating with campus rabbis, NCBI recruited participants for an intensive three-day training program. The key elements in the training program were identifying and recognizing the dynamics of antisemitism, building relationships with other traditionally marginalized groups to learn from them about their oppression and to share with them experiences of antisemitism, and acquiring interpersonal skills to have difficult conversations that lead to stronger coalitions.

After the initial training, NCBI continued to provide monthly coaching and guidance to program participants, which began in September of 2020 and continues into the present. The NCBI support helps participants address the antisemitism that they are encountering on social media, with friends and family, and on campus.

This report, “Taking on Antisemitism with a Coalition-Building Approach” summarizes the process for establishing the model program, the training provided, the experiences of the participants, and their related follow-up work. NCBI hopes that the pilot training program may benefit other institutions of higher education, encouraging them to replicate similar training programs to address campus antisemitism.

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