Event Educates UK Students, Organizations on ‘Antisemitism Past and Present’

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 29, 2021)  In an effort to foster productive dialogue about antisemitism, the University of Kentucky’s Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Kentucky Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Kentucky Hillel hosted an educational event on Tuesday.

The presentation titled, “Antisemitism Past and Present,” was led by led by Jason Horowitz, director of Heritage Education and Partnership at Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) — a historically Jewish fraternity.

ZBT was founded in 1898 at the City College of New York. During that time, Jewish people were excluded from joining fraternities and sororities. Being recognized as the first Jewish collegiate social fraternity, ZBT offers continued educational programming on the subject matter, even though they became nonsectarian in 1954.

“ZBT was honored to have more than 130 undergraduates participate in a very important conversation regarding antisemitism,” Anthony Haddad, assistant director for growth at ZBT, said. “We’re also excited to have an amazing partnership with Kentucky Hillel and the IFC, who helped make this happen.”

“Our community was glad to welcome Horowitz and Haddad from the national office of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity for the antisemitism program. It went exceedingly well, as these presenters were able to engage with our community and teach them the importance of addressing this pertinent topic,” Kyle Heffernan, the president of UK IFC, added. “We’re excited for the opportunity to continue building upon the foundation this program has created for the future of IFC’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.”

Approximately 150 people across 14 organizations at UK joined the live webinar, which provided a lesson on the history of hostility and prejudice against Jewish people.

“I’m proud of how student leaders from the Jewish community and the IFC stepped forward to take concrete actions to foster a more inclusive and safer environment for students,” Justin Sadle, director of Jewish Student Life, added. “While there is always more work to do, the response from students has shown a willingness to put in the time and effort needed.”

Additionally, as part of the presentation, participants were provided with resources on how to positively engage with the Jewish community at UK — whether through courses from Jewish Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences or programming from Jewish Student Life.

“This is an example of students in Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Kentucky Interfraternity Council taking a leading role and involving university partners to affirmatively state that identity-based bias and hate have no place at the University of Kentucky,” Janice Kuperstein, professor, associate dean and diversity officer in the College of Health Sciences, said. “As Kentucky IFC has stated, ‘change cannot come without an increase in education, training and practice.’ This presentation is one example of such education.” 

“I’m heartened to see the strong attendance at an event that was planned and implemented to immediately respond to recent campus events. This is the beginning of an important series of collaborations that will result in increased curricular offerings and programming at UK and beyond,” Janice Fernheimer, the director of Jewish Studies, added. “While this first event focused on antisemitism, Jewish Studies is collaborating to develop sustained educational programming.”

Additionally, Jewish Studies is working with the College of Education and Fayette County Public Schools to develop Holocaust curriculum that will prepare Kentucky state teachers to fulfill the state mandates for Holocaust education.

For students interested in pursuing a Jewish studies minor, the deadline to become a Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Scholar has been extended to May 15.

Kentucky Hillel, a cultural and spiritual hub of Jewish student life in Lexington, is always looking for more members to join and get involved. To learn more, you can visit the organization’s website.

More About ZBT at UK

In 1942, ZBT launched its 25th chapter on UK’s campus. They remained active until 1970 but have been absent since then. However, ZBT plans to rejoin the UK community this fall. Those interested in learning more about ZBT at UK, can listen to oral histories from its alumni in the Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project or can reach out to Haddad.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.