U-Va. student diversity council rethinking ban on Jewish group

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Students lead a march through University of Virginia’s campus after a deadly white nationalist rally last August. File photo.

A minority students group at the University of Virginia is reconsidering its decision to deny admission to the school’s Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), an umbrella group.

In February, the school’s Minority Rights Council (MRC) — which includes the Queer Student Union, Asian Leaders Council, Muslim Students Association and other groups — voted against granting full membership to the JLC. The reason, according to a MRC statement in March, was the inclusion under the JLC umbrella of Hoos for Israel, a pro-Israel group.


But in an about-face, the statement said the MRC will review and possibly reverse its decision. It did not provide a timeline for doing so.

“Many students under the MRC umbrella believed at the time that HFI operated in a way which made these students feel concerned and unsettled,” the statement reads, without elaboration. “However, the MRC strongly supports Jewish students’ needs and concerns and believes that Jewish representation in MRC is vital.”

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The MRC is an influential group at U-Va., according to a student who asked to remain anonymous because of conflicting responsibilities on campus. The group endorses candidates for student office and organizes protests and educational events throughout the school year.

Neither the MRC, JLC nor Hoos for Israel agreed to comment for this article. In an email declining an interview request, Wittney Skigen, a vice chair of the JLC, said “we are currently in a place where productive discussion [between the two groups] is possible.”


According to the Cavalier Daily student newspaper, the MRC’s decision to deny the JLC full membership, taken on Feb. 25, came three days after pro-Palestinian demonstrators disrupted a Hoos for Israel event featuring former IDF soldiers.

In its March statement, the MRC said that it offered several forms of conditional membership to the JLC, including a non-voting “formal partnership” to “hold the MRC accountable to inclusion of Jewish voices.”

“JLC did not view these as sufficient alternatives to full membership, a decision we understand and respect,” the statement read. “Moreover, continued dialogue among MRC and JLC … led us to realize that we have more to learn about HFI and JLC and would benefit from further elaboration of HFI’s nature and operations. We’ve therefore decided to reopen the option of JLC joining the MRC in full.”

In a statement released the same day, the JLC said that it sought admission to the MRC after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville rally last August.

“We felt that not having representation within the MRC meant missing far too much of the conversation and opportunities for community-building at the University,” the JLC statement read. In a 25-minute conversation with the MRC, the statement said, the group “tried to explain that the phrase ‘pro-Israel’ carried many meanings throughout the Jewish community: from the belief that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination, to supporting or disagreeing with the Israeli government, to believing in a two-state solution, and everything in between.”

Ultimately, the JLC said, neither of the offers put forth by the MRC “granted the Jewish community the respect extended to other minority populations.”

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