Open Letter from the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver to the AMS

Editor's Note: After this article was first published, AMS Council decided during its February 28 meeting to remove the referendums discussed here for failure to comply with the AMS Bylaws.

The Rabbinical Association of Vancouver represents the unified voices of local rabbis.

Dear Mr. Du and AMS Council Members,

We are reaching out to you as rabbis of synagogues in the Vancouver community. We are gravely concerned about some of the recent developments at UBC that affect Jewish students and we write to ask you to please reject the recent referendum that poses a significant threat to the inclusivity, diversity and fairness that define UBC.  

This referendum, which seeks to call on UBC to terminate Hillel BC's lease, support BDS and sever academic ties with Israel, affects not just a segment of our student body but strikes at the very principles upon which our university stands. 

As rabbis who went to universities in North America, we remember fondly the diversity on our campuses, as well as the safe spaces that our Hillels provided, including religious, cultural and social programming for not just Jewish students, but anyone interested in connecting. The fact that Hillel Houses at UBC and around the world engage in frequent interfaith and intercultural programming and dialogue, and have done so for many decades, only brings more irony to the suggestion that Hillel should be kicked off of campus.  

This is a stark reminder of the antisemitism that Jews have faced for centuries as we’ve been driven from prohibited from public spaces and even forcibly removed from countries themselves. For a lot of our history, and even until recent times in Canada and elsewhere, Jews were not allowed in large numbers, or at all, in universities. Will this be one of the next steps for UBC and the AMS?  

Another part of the referendum, which proposes the removal of Israel from the university's exchange program roster, is frankly quite disturbing. Many of us studied at universities in Israel, for a semester or year, or even longer, thriving in the sea of ideas and knowledge that should be present in an institution of higher learning. But more than that, we interacted with and befriended, fellow students, and professors, from a large multitude of backgrounds: Christian, Muslim, Arab, Druze, Bedouin and Jewish. Shutting down academic exchange does the opposite of what is vital and needed in this divided world. 

By allowing this referendum onto the ballot, the AMS risks sanctioning an environment where antisemitism can flourish under the guise of political discourse. This is not the legacy that UBC should aspire to. A university must remain a beacon of safety and support for all its students, including its Jewish population. 

Also, the proposed by-law amendment to alter council representation clearly aims to exclude certain voices, particularly those of Jewish students, from our community's dialogue. This is not merely a departure from UBC's commitment to equity and inclusivity; it is a step towards a divisive and exclusionary governance model. 

The stakes of endorsing these referendums are high, with long-lasting implications for the AMS's reputation (as well as UBC’s reputation) and the cohesive fabric of our UBC community. They represent more than policy changes; they are a test of our collective resolve against antisemitism and exclusion. 

We count on your leadership to do the right thing. The integrity of our treasured local university and the welfare of its entire student body are in your hands. 

The members of the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver  

Rabbi Jonathan Infeld, Chair 

Rabbi Phillip Bregman  

Rabbi Carey Brown  

Rabbi Hannah Dresner  

Rabbi Philip Gibbs  

Rabbi Arik Labowitz  

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz 

Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt  

Rabbi Adam Stein  

Rabbi Susie Tendler

This is an opinion article. It reflects only the author's views and may not reflect the views of The Ubyssey as a whole. Have something to say about what you just read? Contribute to the conversation and send a letter to the editor in response, or your own submission at