Anti-Semitism at the University of Minnesota?

ilan-cameraAs Jews, we are always extremely aware of anti-Semitic acts around the world. We support Israel when she is threatened, bring attention to the growing anti-Semitism in some European countries, and fight for a world where our customs and traditions will be accepted by all. So I was shocked to hear about the blacklisting of Ilan Sinelnikov from the U’s Student Service Fee Committee, which distributes funds to various on-campus student groups.

Ilan Sinelnikov is an Israeli-American who started the now national group Students Supporting Israel – SSI aims to promote pro-Israel ideals on-campus and bring awareness about the good that Israel achieves. Damien Carriere, who led the blacklisting of Ilan Sinelnikov, sent in an email, “[Ilan Sinelnikov] is a member of a hate group (SSI) and I think he comes in with a fishy agenda.” We never want to believe that anti-Semitism is an actual presence were we live, but it is in our own backyard, here at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

I couldn’t reach Ilan for a direct comment, but he posted this on his Facebook page on December 1st: “Antisemitism is still alive, anti-Israel activists are still working as hard as they can. This is exactly the reason to the foundation of Students Supporting Israel. This is why 24 campuses and Universities across North America joined the movement. This is the ONE, UNITED campus movement that stands on the front lines of our college campuses defending, Israel, America, Freedom, Democracy and Justice for all.”

This issue has truly united the Jewish students and stimulated the on-campus Jewish organizations to take action. Minnesota Hillel has been spreading word about the issue. In addition to housing SSI in their building, Hillel tells students about the scandal and acts as a resource for anyone who wants to learn more and get involved in the push to support Ilan. Alpha Epsilon Pi has released a statement condemning the actions of the Student Service Fee Committee. The brothers of the fraternity have used social media as a means to spread awareness in support of Ilan and the SSI organization. Personally, I am proud that the major on-campus Jewish organizations have taken the initiative to condemn this apparent anti-Semitic action and use themselves as examples of how to help. Additionally, individual students are doing their part.

There are many individuals on-campus that have been taking major roles in response to the incident. One example, Zachary Shartiag, Vice President of Students Supporting Israel and brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi, is heading the effort for a University statement, as the U has yet to comment on the recent events. “We are disappointed that we have yet to receive a response from the University’s administration,” says Shartiag. “We are also trying to make sure that GAPSA [graduate and professional student assembly] cannot do this to anyone else again in the future.”

As a Jewish student at the University of Minnesota I am saddened by the issue at hand. I am more than surprised that the University does not have a process to prevent these issues of bias and prejudice from occurring. However, as a Jewish student at the University of Minnesota I am incredibly proud of the Jewish response. I have seen organizations step up in support of Ilan Sinelnikov and act as they truly should – to be a place of good faith when the Jewish identity is being threatened. I have also seen individuals do more than what was ever expected of them and take the University administration head on. When this is all said and done, I hope that the University of Minnesota will support our side of the issue, as they should. But maybe more importantly this scandal has brought out the true identity of Jewish students on campus. We are a supportive, proud and united group that loves being what we are – a Jewish student at the University of Minnesota.

If you would like to read more about the Ilan Sinelnikov blacklisting, here is an article from The Washington Post.


(Photo: CAMERA)