update deskSchools & Higher Education

Brandeis University student senate votes not to denounce Hamas

“I hope that those senators will reach out to the Jewish community and let us explain how their votes are hurtful, and frankly threatening,” said senior Meshulam Ungar.

Brandeis University, August 2018. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.
Brandeis University, August 2018. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.

“Brandeis was founded by the American Jewish community, and while we are a secular school, we maintain close ties with our founding community and their values,” Ronald Liebowitz, the university’s president, stated on Oct. 23. 

Brandeis University was “among the first universities to condemn the attacks by Hamas, and we have, since the attacks on Oct. 7, supported Israel’s right to defend itself. This will not change,” he added. 

Student leaders may have missed that memo. The Brandeis Student Union Senate voted 10-6 (with three abstaining) not to condemn the Hamas terrorist organization for the attacks that killed 1,400 and wounded thousands, with some 200 civilians taken hostage in Gaza. 

Yoni Kahn, a senior at the university and a student senator, said that he stands with Palestinians, but “this is about condemning an extremist organization.”

Hamas was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States on Oct. 8, 1997.

Another student senator, Allison Weiner, said of the resolution calling for Hamas to release hostages immediately, that it’s “ridiculous to call on an internationally recognized terrorist organization to do anything.”

Eamonn Golden, also a student senator, said the resolution was intended to “show students that we’re in solidarity with them in their time of need.”

Sophomore Stephen Gaughan announced his resignation in The Justice, the campus student newspaper. He called the vote “a sincere disgrace to every member of the Brandeis community and an evisceration of the legitimacy entertained by Student Union as a representative body.”

Meshulam Ungar, a senior majoring in history and part of the American Jewish Committee Campus Global Board, told JNS that the Student Union is “marginal” on campus and that the school’s president has also supported Jewish students.

“When there are nearly double the number of Jews on campus than people who vote for Student Union president, Student Union Senate’s representation could be called into question,” Ungar said.

“I hope that those senators will reach out to the Jewish community and let us explain how their votes are hurtful, and frankly threatening,” he added.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union sent an email, with the subject line “Condemning the Hamas Attacks,” to the Brandeis community. A copy was provided to JNS. (The Senate is one of the five branches of the Student Union.)

“The Student Union strongly condemns Hamas, including their recent and horrific terrorist attacks against Israel,” per the email.

“A recent student-led letter circulating our campus states ‘There is no justification for kidnapping men, women, children and Holocaust survivors; desecrating bodies; killing civilians; and taunting and beating children. This was inhumane violence,'” the letter added. “We agree wholeheartedly with this statement and the need to support our community during this time.”

Brandeis describes itself as “animated by a set of values that are rooted in Jewish history and experience” and “committed to making its community truly inclusive by seeking students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds, cultures, religions and experiences.”

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