Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism
“Penn has a moral responsibility to combat antisemitism and to educate our community to recognize and reject hate in all its forms.”
Penn President Liz Magill
Penn is distinguished by our long history of being an especially welcoming place for Jewish people. We trace our pride back to 1772 with the enrollment of Penn’s first Jewish student, Moses Levy, who later became the first Jewish Trustee of the University. We celebrate other milestones, including the establishment of the Jewish Students’ Association at Penn in 1924, the election of Martin Meyerson as the first Jewish Ivy League President in 1970, and the hosting of the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive—a collection of more than 50,000 video testimonials of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses—beginning in 2012.
Like many, however, we are deeply troubled by resurgent antisemitism, hatred, and bigotry in society and on college campuses. Penn must do more. Antisemitism can take many forms. Incidents on Penn’s campus this fall—an individual shouting antisemitic obscenities and destroying property in Hillel, a swastika painted in an academic building, and hateful graffiti outside of a fraternity—are recent examples. Regardless of form, they are all appalling and unacceptable. We unequivocally condemn such hateful acts. They are an assault on our values and mission as an institution and have no place at Penn. We recognize it is our collective responsibility as a community to stand clearly and strongly against antisemitism in all its odious forms. Penn has work to do.
Penn is committed to a whole-University approach, anchored in the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, to combat antisemitism now and in the future and to ensure that our campus culture will not tolerate antisemitism. To meet this evil, Penn is initiating a series of action steps to prevent, address, and respond to antisemitism.
Broadly speaking, this work will center on three areas for actions: Safety and Security, Engagement, and Education.
As we move forward with this important work, we will ensure that our programmatic efforts consider the interconnectedness between antisemitism and other forms of hate, including Islamophobia, so that we are fostering a welcoming community for all. Penn commits to harnessing the urgency of this moment to counter and combat antisemitism and other forms of hate. Detailed above are initiatives that will focus on addressing immediate priorities while also laying the groundwork to achieve longer-term priorities for the Penn community.
Penn’s Path Forward: A Closing Message from President Magill
Antisemitism is pernicious and persistent. Penn is called to counter this evil urgently on our campus and in society. Because hatred of one vulnerable group is so often intertwined with threats toward others, we will also vigilantly combat other forms of hate aimed at members of our community due to their background or beliefs.
As we move forward, we will ensure that our work is well-integrated into planning efforts for Penn’s future at the highest levels. Penn’s senior leadership will also work with School and Center leaders to encourage and support the efforts outlined above so our work is integrated into unit-level conversations and planning.
At this moment of seemingly intractable division, Penn has an obligation to do what it has done for nearly three hundred years: create knowledge, share it for good, and educate the next generation. This work demands great resilience and resolve. It calls for patience and respect—respect for ideas that differ from our own, respect for each other. Our commitment to address the scourge of antisemitism around us is where this work will begin. But it is not where it will end. If we are to move forward as a community—a Penn community—then we must stand together as a community that sees and hears all its members. That condemns hate and finds ways to respectfully debate and talk across differences. That leads with care and compassion.
My thanks to all those who have contributed so swiftly and thoughtfully to the creation of our Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, to those who are partnering with us to enact this urgent priority, and to all of you for everything you do for Penn. We will move forward, together.