BDS resolution is Passover surprise for Jewish students at Tufts University

College campus leaders are increasingly embracing anti-Israel stances, and critics warn Jewish students are caught in the crossfire. (Reuters)

College campus leaders are increasingly embracing anti-Israel stances, and critics warn Jewish students are caught in the crossfire. (Reuters)

Members of the Jewish community at Tufts University say they were “deeply disturbed” when a sudden boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) resolution was voted upon in the student senate just days before Passover.

Even though the vote never took place, the attempt at getting a vote by an anti-Israel group left Jewish student leaders at the Medford, Mass., school feeling blindsided.

“Yesterday, without any forewarning, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) put forward this resolution, to be voted on by the [Tufts Community Union (TCU)] student senate this Sunday night,” the campus Hillel’s executive director, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, said to the Algemeiner Journal.

“The Hillel Jewish community is deeply disturbed by this vote, and by the way the resolution was brought so close to Pesach [Passover], at a time when many of our students are home with their families, readying themselves for the holiday,” said Summit, who also serves as a research professor in the department of music and the Judaic studies program.

Since the resolution was presented, the school’s Hillel chapter has been in close contact with a coalition of Israel-related student groups, including Tufts Students for Two States and the Tufts American Israel Alliance.

“The phenomenal student leaders have been working very hard to oppose this from the moment we found out,” Summit said. “BDS is not a productive way to promote any sort of useful dialogue.”

One student affiliated with Tufts Students for Two States told the Algemeiner that the pro-Israel community at Tufts quickly banded together and mobilized to postpone the vote.

“We are trying to explain to [student] senators that days before Passover is not an appropriate time for such a vote, because we need to have a much longer conversation on this topic,” Keren Hendel said to the news site. “[T]he senate is not the best place for that discussion, as its job is to decide on issues central to student life on campus, and this is a larger international issue. We don’t know if this vote will pass, or what would happen if it does.”

“And our goal is to make sure we don’t find out.”

But the vote was passed during a contentious four-hour meeting of the Tufts Community Union Senate according to Tufts Daily. The hearing drew nearly 100 students, some of whom expressed their dismay over the resolution during a question-and-answer period.

A vote was then held at the end of the marathon hearing session with 17 in favor, six opposed and eight abstentions. 

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @perrych