Two years seems like a long time.

It certainly has been for Rebecca Katzman, who experienced anti-Semitism firsthand at Toronto’s Ryerson University in August 2015.

That’s when staff at the School of Social Work disqualified her choice of placement: UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Prosserman Jewish Community Centre.

These very mainstream organizations were, she was told, anti-Palestinian. Katzman could potentially work there – but only if she pledged to preach pro-Palestinian politics.

UJA Federation and Prosserman were disqualified because they were Jewish.

After she complained, senior administrators eventually intervened to apologize to Katzman. But the damage was done. She completed her placement at a different organization, and her Ryerson experience was marred, with a member of our community feeling targeted.

Katzman graduates this year and has gone public with her story for the first time, forced to keep it secret for two years.

Every once in a while, extreme beliefs penetrate the mainstream and demand forceful condemnation.

Extremist anti-Israel activists in Europe have suggested that Jews and Jewish organizations be required to pledge allegiance to their cause – or be deemed offensive and suffer the consequences.

Ryerson has apologized for its horrible behaviour.

Ryerson has said it won’t tolerate anti-Semitism.

But Ryerson refuses to reveal the disciplinary action it says was taken. It declines to detail its steps to guarantee this won’t happen again. It rejects calls to show accountability.

Ordinarily, schools have a right to privacy on internal issues. But this is no ordinary matter. The Jewish community, other minority communities and the general public are questioning Ryerson’s commitment to ethnic diversity. All this, in Canada’s most multicultural city.

We call on Ryerson University to demonstrate the good faith that we have considered a hallmark of this increasingly important institution.

It has been two years. Let’s redress Ryerson’s racism before two more minutes pass.

In less than sixty seconds, you can help by taking action.

Here is what you can do:


Here is a sample e-mail that you can use in whole or in part when contacting Ryerson University and its School of Social Work:

E-mail subject line: Redress Anti-Semitism at Ryerson

Dear Drs. Lachemi and Barnoff,

The Rebecca Katzman affair at Ryerson’s School of Social Work has no doubt occupied your mind this last little while. I appreciate Ryerson’s statement of apology on the issue.

I would submit, however, that final steps need to be taken to ensure that nothing similar happens again. Katzman’s case is a clear case of anti-Semitism. Whatever one’s position on the Middle East, rejecting Jewish institutions for being Jewish is unacceptable. A student was made to feel targeted at her school of choice – solely because of her ethnicity.

While I appreciate any action taken to this point by administrators, I feel that a departmental failure like this requires more transparency to regain the public’s trust. I agree that internal Ryerson matters should generally remain private, but a larger issue should rule here. Respectfully, I request that you publicize:

  • What disciplinary actions have been taken already?
  • How can we be sure nothing like this will happen again?
  • What protocols and standards are in place to ensure that junior staff members follow appropriate criteria when making decisions like placement qualification?

Ryerson is situated in the vibrant downtown of our country’s most diverse city. As Ryerson continues to grow its profile among Canadian institutions of higher education, I ask that Ryerson lead the way on multiculturalism – and on accountability.


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