‘Our Jewish brethren need a friend. We wanted them to know that they’re not alone.’
Two Catholic universities in Ohio are offering direct admittance to Jewish students this fall while condemning the rise in antisemitism on U.S. campuses.
Franciscan University of Steubenville and Walsh University in North Canton welcomed Jewish students to transfer to their campuses in recent announcements, noting many are “in danger of antisemitic discrimination and violence on campuses across the United States.”
Walsh Director of University Relations Kim Graves told The College Fix their eight-week term will allow Jewish students to transfer quickly.
“Walsh University is known locally to be welcoming to the Jewish community, and we extend our campus to Jewish students nationally during these times that shock the conscious,” Graves said in an Oct. 30 email to The Fix.
To be admitted, students must complete an application and send their transcripts. Graves said the admissions staff will work with transferring students as much as possible to match previous financial packages, fulfill living requests and make the transition as easy.
Franciscan Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephen Hildebrand told The Fix in an Oct. 27 email that the university will use a mix of already existing courses, specially created courses or directed studies, and the university’s seven-week online courses to accommodate transferring students.
Franciscan also is working to make religious and living accommodations for Jewish students.
“Some very generous Jewish scholars have offered to help us with the teaching of seminars and the like,” Hildebrand said. “In terms of housing, we have some solutions ready to go. For kosher diet and worship needs, we would work with nearby local Jewish communities to address these needs.”
“In the case of mental health needs, the University has existing resources to deploy,” he continued.
Hildebrand told The Fix that Franciscan wants to offer friendship to Jewish students.
“For us, this is very simple,” Hildebrand said. “Our Jewish brethren need a friend. We wanted them to know that they’re not alone.”
Catholic universities respond to antisemitism on U.S. campuses
Franciscan was the first of the two universities to announce its plan to admit Jewish students on Oct. 18.
“Despite the logistical challenges that have come with this year’s record-breaking enrollment, Franciscan University administrators believe creating a safe haven for these students is the right thing to do,” its announcement states.
Franciscan University President the Rev. Dave Pivonka said they felt compelled to take action in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attack against Israel on Oct. 7.
“With our fellow Christians around the world, we are praying for justice and peace,” Pivonka said in the statement. “But with too many universities preaching tolerance but practicing prejudice, we feel compelled to do more. We are witnessing a very troubling spike in antisemitism and serious threats against Jewish students. We want to offer them the chance to transfer immediately to Franciscan.”
About a week after Franciscan’s announcement, Walsh introduced similar plans to admit Jewish transfer students, effective immediately.
The university wants to provide “a safe place of refuge for any Jewish college student experiencing anti-Semitism by providing direct admittance,” its Oct. 23 announcement states.
Franciscan, Walsh participate in symposium on antisemitism
Leaders of both universities took part in a symposium Oct. 24 at Franciscan where they joined others in signing a joint statement opposing antisemitism.
Walsh University President Tim Collins said it’s important for Catholics to take a strong stance against all forms of “hatred, bigotry and racism,” according to a university press release.
“The sacredness of life and the equal intrinsic transcendent dignity of all human persons is under attack today, globally and in Ohio. We hold a deeply rooted Catholic conviction that citizens have an ethical responsibility to speak out against grave injustices. At this inflection point in our world, we encourage men and women of good will to stand with us alongside the Jewish community in this time of calamity and denounce anti-Semitism and racism in all forms,” Collins said in an Oct. 16 statement ahead of the event.
The statement, “Coalition of Catholics against Antisemitism: Statement of Solidarity and Action,” emphasizes the importance of Catholics and other Christians taking action to oppose antisemitism.
“Antisemitism in our community, even when it is not the action of Catholics or other Christians, demands condemnation,” it states. “We reject hatred, bigotry, and racism in all their forms. As Catholics and Christians, we believe that antisemitism is at its heart a spiritual evil.”
It urges Catholics in leadership roles, including parents, and teachers, professors, “to fearlessly confront antisemitism, and to take steps to combat all forms of hatred against the Jewish people.”
The statement also condemns the “popular ideological movements that seek to use anti-Zionism as a pretext for hatred of the Jewish people” and encourages the development of “Catholic-Jewish studies programs and institutes” and “deeper ties with Jewish scholars on these subjects.”
Additionally, it asks Catholic lawmakers to take action to protect Jewish communities and their houses of worship, and calls on Catholics to encourage others to repent from the sin of antisemitism.
The symposium, “Nostra Aetate and the Future of Catholic-Jewish Relations at a Time of Rising Antisemitism,” was cosponsored by Franciscan and The Philos Project, a nonprofit focused on promoting Christian engagement with the Near East.
IMAGE: Franciscan University of Steubenville/Facebook