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Jewish students, faculty and staff at the University of Illinois continue to stand in solidarity with Steven Salaita

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Following the firing of Steven Salaita from his position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), a group of Jewish faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members from UIUC issued a letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise and the Board of Trustees. This letter, like many other letters issued to the Chancellor and the Board in the wake of this conflict, opposed the administration’s decision not to approve Salaita’s hire. This particular letter specifically rejected the administration’s position that Salaita was fired in order to protect students from anti-Semitism. The letter condemned the conflation of critique of Israel with anti-Semitism and insisted that such conflations minimize the voices of those who resist real and violent prejudice. Ultimately, the letter was the first step towards creating a Jewish front in the battle to reinstate Professor Salaita.

Despite great effort to the contrary, on September 11th the Board of Trustees, UI President Robert Easter and Chancellor Wise voted not to appoint Salaita to the position of Professor with the American Indian Studies Department at UIUC. As a result, many have redoubled their efforts toward the ultimate goal of Salaita’s reinstatement, both within UIUC and outside.

Now, the Jewish students, faculty and staff of UIUC who stand in solidarity with Steven Salaita seek support in reemphasizing and strengthening their message to the university administration. On Thursday, September 25th, there will be a Rosh Hashanah Tashlich service for Palestine and Professor Salaita. In this service, an adapted script from Jewish Voice for Peace will be used that takes as it’s focus the casting off of both personal and collective sins, particularly that of the ongoing Israeli occupation of and violence in Palestine, and the collective sin of the silencing and firing of Professor Salaita. All are welcome to join the event in Champaign, or on Facebook to virtually extend support.

On September 20th, the following addendum was added to the original University of Illinois Jewish Community Letter in Support of Our Professor Steven Salaita:

**Addendum added 9/20/2014, after the 102nd signature**

Given the recent decision on September 11th of the Board of Trustees not to approve Professor Salaita’s hire, and given the continued effort to control the conversation over Israel and Palestine by wielding accusations of anti-Semitism, we are now expanding the original message of this letter. We are also adding President Robert Easter to our list of recipients (see the recent news of his direct involvement in the firing of Professor Salaita: The implications of the board’s decision reach far beyond the UIUC campus into a larger context of corrupt U.S. academic institutional support for Israel. Therefore, we invite all Jews who agree with the original spirit of this letter to sign below. We invite all Jews to stand with us in our continued opposition to the administration’s claim that it’s actions protect us. We invite all Jews to join us  in our continued pledge to ensure that others do not conflate Judaism and Zionism or anti-Semitism with critique of the Israeli state. We invite all Jews to organize with us in support of our Professor Steven Salaita.

If you are Jewish and you with to add to the voices of the Jewish students, faculty, stuff, alumni and community members of UIUC in support of Salaita, you are invited to sign the letter here.

Samantha Brotman

Samantha Brotman is a Visiting Lecturer & Arabic Specialist at the UIUC's Intensive English Institute. She also works as a project coordinator with The Arab Studies Institute. She is an alumna of University of Oregon and of Georgetown University's MA in Arab Studies, where she researched Christian and Jewish Zionism. She drafted the Jewish Community Letter in Support of Professor Salaita in September 2014. Samantha has also helped to establish a chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace in Champaign, IL.

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13 Responses

  1. Mooser on September 23, 2014, 10:59 am

    “If you are Jewish and you with to add to the voices of the Jewish students”

    What if you are one of those (as the great Graham Kerr once noted, in relation to crab gender preference) “who just don’t know?”
    Wouldn’t be a lot easier, and wouldn’t the integrity of the letter be better assured, if somebody could examine me, tell me if I am Jewish or not, and I’ll know whether I can, in good conscience, sign the letter?
    I mean, I want to sign, but I’m not sure it would be right. But if somebody who knows can assure me I’m Jewish (a certificate to that effect, signed and notarized, would be nice, too) I’ll put my ol’ John Hancockowitz on the letter right away.

    • just on September 23, 2014, 11:34 am


    • sjb229 on September 23, 2014, 12:12 pm

      As one of the people who drafted this letter, I can tell you that I have no interest in policing what “being Jewish” is here. If you feel like you are part of the Jewish community and are angry that the UIUC administration claims it is trying to “protect” you and/or people like you by firing someone for supposedly anti-Semitic remarks, and you want to sign the letter, please do!

      • W.Jones on September 23, 2014, 1:08 pm


        He is the local humorist, don’t feel bad.

      • on September 23, 2014, 1:40 pm

        Non – Jews cannot sign the letter? Why exactly is that?

      • Mooser on September 24, 2014, 2:34 pm

        .” If you feel like you are part of the Jewish community…/ …please do!”

        – sjb229, thanks, that’s more than good enough for me! Thanks! I was a little hesitant, having my Jewish bona fides so often disparaged here, so I get doubtful.

        But your warm-hearted and welcoming reply, reassured me completely. Thank you.

      • Mooser on September 24, 2014, 2:59 pm

        “Non – Jews cannot sign the letter? Why exactly is that?”

        Excuse me, but the person his or her own self who drafted the letter just said:

        “If you feel like you are part of the Jewish community and are angry that the UIUC administration claims it is trying to “protect” you and/or people like you by firing someone for supposedly anti-Semitic remarks, and you want to sign the letter, please do!”

        Seems pretty clear, and open to me. Try eating lunch at a good kosher deli first and see if that doesn’t help.

    • Susie Kneedler on September 23, 2014, 3:29 pm

      Mooser, you’re a seer prophesying Laughter of Conscience, so I say you can sign in “Great Conscience.” (Now if only I knew how to send you that notarized Certificate of Gratitude for All the Howls of Joy You Give, as we figure out how to work for good–in Palestine and here.)

      • Mooser on September 24, 2014, 2:47 pm

        Hey, I get worried, Susie. What if I were adopted? And my parents forgot to tell me?
        What if somebody switched me in my cradle with a non-Jewish child when my parents weren’t looking?
        What if the family history isn’t right, and my family has been impersonating Jews for several generations, for all the bennies?
        I worry about these things, I want to be true to myself, and I would hate to try to be something I’m not, and could never be.
        (apart from a religious conversion as approved by the Israeli Orthodox Rabbinate, of course)

        I mean, either you got it, or you don’t, right? If I can’t make it, I don’t want to fake it.

  2. Gene Shae on September 23, 2014, 11:19 pm

    Wow. Useful idiots keep,coming out of the woodwork
    And to sjb229. I don’t take umbrage to his Antisemitic comments. It’s his intolerance to ideas other than his own and poor scholarship. The school deserves better.
    Regardless, bringing him back would create a circus. If he is so great, I am sure some other school will scoop him up. (lol)

    • eGuard on September 24, 2014, 7:53 am

      Gene Shae: I don’t take umbrage to his Antisemitic comments.

      How generous. But you are bigoted enough to label Salaita’s comments anti-Semitic in the first place.

      • Mooser on September 24, 2014, 2:51 pm

        “I don’t take umbrage to his Antisemitic comments.”

        Is that a sudden tornado I feel, or just a big sigh of relief from a Professor in Illinois?
        I mean, imagine what would be sure to happen if Gene Shae took umbrage!
        Anyway, I’m sure it would be a bum voyage, if he did.

  3. just on September 24, 2014, 2:58 pm

    I am glad that this is not going away.

    Neither is this:

    “Dozens of faculty members at Ohio University have come out in support of the student senate president who took a bold stand for justice in Palestine on 2 September and who has faced death threats and threats of rape since she videotaped herself pouring a bucket of fake blood over her head to protest Israel’s abuse of Palestinians.

    Megan Marzec has been at the center of a targeted campaign by anti-Palestinian individuals, Zionist groups and Israel-aligned media calling for her resignation. The Ohio University administration has both criticized her action and refused to publicly condemn the threats against her.

    “We are appalled by the death threats and other forms of intimidation that she has faced in response [to the video]. We are also disappointed in OU administrators and community members who have criticized her act but have not publicly defended her against this violent response,” the faculty letter states. ”

    much more here:

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