The University of Maryland’s student government faced backlash from the school’s Jewish community this week after scheduling a vote over an anti-Israel resolution on Passover.
The Student Government Association (SGA) is set to vote Wednesday on a bill, sponsored by a group called Divest UMD, that calls on the university to cut ties with companies that do business with Israel.
According to a Facebook page dedicated to the campaign, Divest UMD was started by students and faculty members who felt that the school should distance itself from any organization or business that is actively “contributing to and/or exacerbating egregious human rights violations in occupied Palestine.”
“Our goal is to secure a promise; a promise that our leaders are willing to ensure that not one single cent of our University’s endowment is being used to oppress marginalized peoples.”
Members of the university's Jewish community have said that because the vote falls during Passover, it prevents them from being able to participate.
Maryland Hillel staff member Elan Burman told The Algemeiner: “The timing of this resolution is particularly insensitive given that many Jewish students will be away from campus this weekend for Passover, and will be celebrating the intermediary days of the holiday when the vote takes place.”
American Jewish Committee Director of Campus Affairs Zev Hurwitz told The Jewish Journal that bills such as the one sponsored by Divest UMD were divisive in nature and that the timing of the vote seemed to “isolate the Jewish community on that campus.”
He continued, “Introducing an anti-Israel bill during a time when many Jewish students are off campus, celebrating a Jewish festival with their families, demonstrates a shocking disregard for Jewish student voices.”
However, the SGA was defending the vote, telling Fox News on Tuesday that the scheduling made it “not possible” to push for a later date.
“In the UMD SGA bills are submitted 2 weeks prior to when they are heard. Once submitted, a bill will sit on ‘first reading’ calendar for one week, then move to ‘second reading’ calendar,” a spokesperson for SGA’s Director of Communications office said in an email. “The last day to submit bills for this legislative session was April 14th, to be heard on April 24th. This was when the bill sponsor submitted the bill.”
The spokesperson continued, “Unfortunately, it is not possible for this bill to be moved to another date as Wednesday, 4/24, is the last meeting for bills to be heard during this legislative session.”
SGA urged students who were worried about the timing of the vote to submit an online student concern.