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LETTER: Minority Rights Coalition must make strides towards equality

For the MRC to continue to stand for minority rights and equality, rather than hypocrisy, a clear choice must be made

<p>As alumni and former leaders in the JLC and HFI, we greatly appreciate the efforts the MRC has taken to bring a Jewish voice into the organization.</p>

As alumni and former leaders in the JLC and HFI, we greatly appreciate the efforts the MRC has taken to bring a Jewish voice into the organization.

To the Minority Rights Coalition,

As alumni and former leaders in the Jewish Leadership Council and Hoos for Israel, we greatly appreciate the efforts the Minority Rights Coalition has taken to bring a Jewish voice into the organization. Events, like those that occurred in Charlottesville last summer, were a reminder to the whole community and nation that racism and anti-Semitism still exist. Those events have also reminded us that the Jewish community still needs allies against hate, and that Jews have much to contribute to ensure that all are given respect and dignity. The MRC and JLC have important common goals to achieve together. While we each have reservations about some of the stances taken by the MRC, we respect the choices of the JLC leaders on Grounds. They best understand what path the JLC must take and the MRC's respect for their decisions throughout this process is extremely encouraging. 

What is not encouraging is the hypocrisy of the MRC’s posture towards Hoos for Israel considering the MRC’s historical embrace of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine. The MRC stated in a public letter that the reason they decided to withhold full membership from the JLC is the presence of HFI as a constituent organization. The MRC’s specific reservations about HFI go unstated and can only be guessed at. What must be equally guessed at is why the MRC has no similar reservations about SPJP. 

While not officially considered an active CIO as of this year, SPJP is still listed in updated materials as a member of the Middle Eastern Leadership Council — one of the MRC’s full members. By definitions clear in the MRC's letter, this makes SPJP a longtime constituent organization of the MRC.  Given the clear symmetry of HFI and SPJP’s purposes, the decision to embrace one for years and exclude the other now requires thorough explanation and suggests a severe double standard. 

Beyond this hypocrisy, the need for JLC membership in the MRC — and specifically for the representation of HFI — is highlighted by recent troubling events.

On Feb. 22, a dozen pro-Palestinian protesters entered and disrupted the panel discussion “Building Bridges” hosted by HFI and the Brody Jewish Center. The protesters were invited to join and have their voices heard in a respectful forum, but refused. The disruptions were severe enough to cause University Police to come to Clark Hall in order to ensure both the safety of students and the peaceful, lawful use of University space. Understandably, an investigation was opened in response to the demonstrators' exploits. 

The disrupters' actions against fellow students and against University policy resulted in condemnations by The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board and Dean of Students Allen Groves. The theatrics even received national and international media attention including in the Washington Post and Times of Israel. One student attendee went on record in The Cavalier Daily stating that he felt threatened and that the disrupters were "very antagonistic and almost militant.” Protecting students from this type of intimidation is one of the core reasons why the MRC needs to exist. Excluding the JLC and HFI from the MRC sends a clear message that the MRC does not consider the protection of Jewish students from intimidation a part of their mission when such intimidation occurs in the context of anti-Israel activism. We hope that such a message is accidental, and will be swiftly corrected.

Given the hypocrisy and double-standards suggested by the MRC’s uneven treatment of HFI and SPJP, and the recent demonstration of how anti-Israel activism can be a channel for intimidation of Jewish students, it appears that two choices present themselves to the MRC.

The first choice is the immediate approval of the JLC, and by extension HFI, to full MRC membership with all the benefits and responsibilities therein. A seat at the table is not an endorsement, but a commitment to respectful, open dialogue.

The second choice for the MRC, one we are loath to even suggest, is to offer the MELC the exact reduced membership options given to the JLC as detailed in the MRC public letter. If HFI and SPJP are just opposing interest groups, then there is no reason to bar either’s umbrella CIO from equal status in the MRC. If, however, one or both groups deserve condemnation to the extent that their umbrella group is affected, then that umbrella CIO must earn its full membership status in the MRC. 

For the MRC to continue to stand for minority rights and equality, rather than hypocrisy, a clear choice must be made. We call on the MRC to deliberate on these options and, crucially, to make their decision and reasoning public, as they have done with their initial rejection of JLC membership.


Keenan Davis, HFI President and JLC Member 2009-10, CLAS ‘11

Shoshana Spiro, HFI President and JLC Member 2011-12, CLAS ‘12

Joel Taubman, HFI President and JLC Member 2012-13, SEAS '13

Jeremy Conover, HFI President and JLC Member 2013-14, CLAS ‘14

Kayla Pomeranz, HFI President and JLC Member 2014-15, CLAS ‘15

Jennifer Sachs, HFI President and JLC Member 2015-16, CLAS ‘18