In late December, The Algemeiner – a Jewish newspaper in the United States – ranked McGill University as the fourth worst university for Jewish students in its first annual list of “The 40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students” in North America.
The Algemeiner editors reviewed anti-Semitic actions on campuses according to the definition by the U.S. State Department. In the description of why McGill University is considered anti-Semitic, they highlighted a student who was targeted by anti-Israeli groups because of her advocacy, anti-Israel protests on campus, a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus, and The McGill Daily censoring pro-Israel content.
Hillel McGill is a Jewish student organization that supports the Jewish student population at McGill. Hillel McGill Vice-President Noah Lew, U1 Arts, said he does not believe that McGill deserves its poor ranking on the list.
“I strongly believe that the experience that many Jews have is excellent,” Lew said. “There are many Jewish organizations on campus: Hillel, Israel on Campus, [and] Chabad. [However,] many [Jewish students] refer to BDS as negatively affecting their experience.”
Melissa Freed, U1 Arts, who experienced anti-Semitic bullying in elementary school, said that she was surprised to see McGill University on this list, she has witnessed and experienced actions that could be misinterpreted as anti-Semitism.
“There’s very noticeable ‘Free Palestine’ graffiti on a building at the corner of Pine and Park,” Freed said. “Of course there are other factors too, the lack of kosher dining options, for example, that make it harder to be Jewish here than at other schools. However, I do suspect that the ranking was based with the belief that anti-Israel is the same thing as anti-Semitism.”
Unlike the beliefs of the article accompanying the ranking, Freed said she disagrees that BDS works against Jewish people.
“[BDS] is strictly political,” Freed said. “They oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, and their actions are meant to further that message. It can certainly feel a bit hostile, especially for Jewish students who are more pro-Israeli occupation, but I do not feel physically threatened by the movement.”
According to Jonathan Boretsky, U1 Science, The Algemeiner ranking is misguided as it ignores important factors.
“I think the list is very misfounded,” Boretsky said. “The list should be titled ‘Most Active Anti-Israel Campuses with Sizeable Jewish Populations.’ I think McGill suffers from other problems unique to Montreal, but these problems are not in the spirit of the list and probably were not at all considered. For example, being a commuter school makes Hillel attendance difficult.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Chabad. The Tribune regrets this error.