Dear SF Hillel Community,
After more than a year of work in partnership with San Francisco State University (SFSU), I am pleased to share an important milestone in the Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) at SF State. Today, SF State released a statement with their findings from a campus climate survey and an action plan to combat antisemitism and cultivate a robust Jewish campus life. We are optimistic that this action plan, created in collaboration with the SFSU administration, led by President Lynn Mahoney, will improve the hostile campus environment many Jewish and Zionist students have experienced for decades. You can my read the full statement about this pivotal moment here.
This work was the result of a partnership with San Francisco State, Hillel International, the Academic Engagement Network, and San Francisco Hillel. In an effort to counter antisemitism before an incident occurs, Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative and the Academic Engagement Network’s Improving Campus Climate Initiative work collaboratively with university leaders to accurately understand the atmosphere on their campuses and take specific positive steps that enable Jewish students and all students to thrive. Since initiating this partnership 18 months ago, the SFSU administration has undergone a series of educational trainings on antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and how to ensure Jewish students are not just included on campus but celebrated, as every group of students should be. We hope that the Campus Climate Initiative can serve as a model for equity training, to be replicated to enhance campus conditions for students of all backgrounds.
We see this moment as a major milestone in the decades-long history of exclusion and hostility towards Jewish students. This is a critical first step in healing the trauma many Jewish students, faculty, and alumni have experienced and an important act of t'shuvah, of repairing the University’s relationships with Jewish students, alumni, and the entire campus Jewish community. We are grateful to the University for taking these critical steps, and will continue to work with them and hold them accountable when antisemitism occurs.
I especially want to recognize and thank our previous Executive Director, Rachel Nilson Ralston, who worked tirelessly over the last two years to ensure the progression and success of the initiative. Thank you, Rachel, for your dedicated commitment to equity and inclusion for all students. I also want to acknowledge and appreciate the leadership of SFSU President, Lynn Mahoney, who has made this initiative a priority since arriving three years ago, even as she was leading the university through a global pandemic. And I want to thank you, our supporters, our alumni, and our student leaders, for whom this issue has been a burden of worry for decades. Thank you for your advocacy in the community and care for our students. We hope that no future student will have the experiences many of our alumni share of hiding their Jewishness on campus and instead can publicly and proudly celebrate their Jewish identities. We believe that the work of the last 18 months is the first step to making that vision a reality.
Our work is not limited to San Francisco State. Though much of our time is spent addressing and combatting hostility on campus, the primary role of Hillel is not to fight antisemitism on campus. That is, of course, an unfortunate byproduct of our work and because of the environment in which we operate, and we will continue to as long as necessary. But at its core, SF Hillel is where Jewish students come to find community, make meaning in their lives from our rich, ancient traditions, pursue justice, and meet their basic needs. Hillel is where each and every Jewish student is given the tools to make a lifelong commitment to Jewish life, and learning, and to develop a thoughtful relationship with Israel. When Hillel is able to focus on our core mission, our professionals and student leaders are able to create real change in the lives of hundreds of students, helping them to author their adult Jewish identities, becoming Jewish leaders, professionals, and menches.
Over 90% of American Jews attend college, making it the single-most unifying experience for Jews ages 18-26. Those four years are the pivotal period when a young adult decides whether or not Jewish life is important to them. Without Hillel as their resource, they could become completely disconnected, and that’s why your support is so vitally important. As a community-funded Hillel, and the only Hillel in the city of San Francisco, we are grateful to you, our community, for your support. When you donate to SF Hillel, you are supporting one of the anchor Jewish organizations in San Francisco. You are enabling mentorship, Jewish education, and most importantly, a community for our college and graduate students to comfort them throughout their studies.
Thank you for being our partners in this work and trusting us to develop the future Jewish leaders of tomorrow, today.
Together, may we go from strength to strength.
Interim Executive Director