Northwestern, UC Berkeley Students Receive AJC Award for Fighting Campus Antisemitism

Tel Aviv–June 13, 2023–Northwestern University students who worked with school officials to create a more inclusive environment for Jews on campus, and California law students who led the Jewish communal response to a coalition of student groups with anti-Zionist views, were honored by American Jewish Committee (AJC) today.

The students received the AJC Sharon Greene Award for Campus Advocacy, given to college-based advocates who combat antisemitism while supporting Jewish life on campus.

Among those honored were Lily Cohen, the Northwestern student who was vocal about her Jewish pride in speaking out against anti-Israel students, and Ethan Less, a Northwestern Hillel leader, who worked with Cohen to help foster a more constructive dialogue on issues affecting Jewish students.

The second award was given to Charlotte Aaron, Milton Zerman, and Hannah Krutiansky on behalf the Jewish Law Students Association at the UC Berkeley School of Law,

“What these students did is anything but easy,” said Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman, AJC Senior Director of the Alexander Young Leadership Department. “When faced with scorn and ostracism, not only did they refuse to back down from their beliefs, they set the table for impactful change that will make Jewish students feel more welcome.”

The award was established by the family of the late Sharon Greene to recognize the efforts of college students who fight antisemitism.

The awards were presented today at AJC Global Forum 2023 in Tel Aviv.

Cohen last year wrote an op-ed that appeared in the campus newspaper, where she expressed her pride in being Jewish and slammed the use by anti-Israel students of the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which had been plastered all over campus.

“From the river to the sea” is a common catch-all phrase from activists advocating for Palestinian control over all Israeli territory, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, erasing the State of Israel and its people. AJC’s Translate Hate glossary considers the phrase antisemitic by calling for the elimination of the Jewish State or suggesting that Jews should not have the right to self-determination.

“Spewing hate will never end in peace, and tearing down other causes is not a constructive way to promote your own,” Cohen wrote in her op-ed.

In response, copies of the op-ed were tacked up all over campus with the phrase painted over it. Cohen, along with Less, a Northwestern Hillel leader, used the incident to work with the college administration and student leaders to foster a healthier dialogue on Israel and campus antisemitism.

“I feel privileged and honored to have been chosen by AJC to receive the Sharon Greene Campus Award as a representative of the challenges we have all faced as proud Jews,” Cohen said. “With this award, I reaffirm my commitment to Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy on behalf of the American Jewish community that has so generously uplifted me.”

Milton Zerman, Charlotte Aaron, and Hannah Krutiansky are leaders of the Jewish Law Students Association at the UC Berkeley School of Law. They led the Jewish student response to a coalition of more than a dozen student groups who passed a bylaw that banned the participation of pro-Zionist speakers at events they run.

Critics, including Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Berkeley School of Law, said that the move amounted to antisemitic discrimination. A complaint was filed in the Office of Human Rights in the federal Department of Education, which is investigating whether Jewish students “experienced a hostile environment at the law school based on their shared Jewish ancestry.” 

Zerman, Aaron, and Krutiansky were cited for their extensive work to counter that narrative and ensure there is a robust Jewish community to stand up to antisemitism and provide a place for Jewish students to find community and stand up to antisemitism.

“Many Jewish students experienced isolation, choosing not to attend events out of concern for how they would be perceived and whether they would be welcomed,” Zerman said. ”But setbacks like the ones we faced don’t discourage us. We are inspired by the vitality of our community and the continued pride of our Jewish peers."

More information on AJC’s Campus Affairs programs can be found here.

AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York City, 25 offices across the United States, and 14 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, AJC's mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.

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