Combating anti-Semitism with CSU’s Presidential Task Force

Molly O'Shea

In June 2020, the Presidential Task Force on Jewish Inclusion and the Prevention of Anti-Semitism was established to continue the University’s efforts in educating its community on Jewish culture, creating an inclusive environment and preventing anti-Semitism, according to the Office of the President

The Task Force is chaired by department of communication studies affiliate faculty member and Colorado State University Special Advisor on Prevention of Anti-Semitism Carolin Aronis and John Henderson, who is the assistant dean of students in the Division of Student Affairs.


It also includes faculty, staff and students from: Chabad, Hillel, the office of the Vice President for Diversity, several academic departments, the Division of Student Affairs, the Vice President for Research and a representative of the Fort Collins community, as described on the Task Force website.

Aronis explained that the Task Force is still in the research and collecting data phase, with the goal of learning exactly what recommendations to make to allow for the safest and most inclusive environment for the Jewish community. Preliminary recommendations will be made in December, and final ones in June 2021, Aronis said.  

“Colorado State University Jewish members have approached us, very pleased with the current trajectory.” -Carolin Aronis, CSU special advisor on prevention of anti-Semitism

We started talking in the spring of 2019 after Magdalena Serpa had done an official report about the uptick in anti-Semitism in the Northern Colorado area and she presented them to the county as a part of a community project they had going on,” said Mariah Kornberg-DeGear, a Task Force member and campus director at CSU Hillel. “She then utilized me as well as students at Hillel and other CSU faculty to research their experiences at CSU, so it developed into conversations about how to instigate change.” 

There has already been an increase in awareness at the University of the Jewish community’s needs, culture, history and involvement in diversity, Aronis said.

“Colorado State University Jewish members have approached us, very pleased with the current trajectory,” Aronis said. 

Kornberg-DeGear reported that the Task Force played a large role in helping Jewish students that were living on campus this fall. When a few of the dormitories were first shut down due to COVID-19 cases, housing reached out to Kornberg-DeGear and the academic advisor of Hillel to find out how they could better assist their Jewish community members.

The dorm quarantine fell over Yom Kippur, which is one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar and also a time of fasting and reflection, according to Kornberg-DeGear.

The Task Force has also already started forming relationships with other groups and clubs on campus with the help of the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative Council, Aronis said. 

Aronis said that for the Task Force to get to where it is today, she and Henderson, along with other Task Force members, participated in discussions and investigation to become as informed as they could with the struggles the University’s Jewish community faces. 

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, executive director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado, and one of the founding members of the task force who spent 15 years fighting anti-Semitism on campus and in the region, expressed what other goals he has for the community and University going forward.
“I would like to see proactive and preventative measures including both a vigorous disciplinary process and comprehensive educational outreach,” Gorelik said. “The administration’s support and stance need to be firm and outspoken. They need to be expressing that anti-Semitism is not just unacceptable but will simply not be tolerated. I just yearn to see that sense of fear, isolation and alienation no longer be a part of the Jewish student’s experience here, as has sadly been the reality for many years.” 

“I led a research phase within the Task Force where we gathered attestations and observations from Task Force members and others about experiences of anti-Semitism and Jewish exclusion at CSU in recent years,” Aronis said. “We have by now almost 40 pages of incidents and observations; most of them are not reported and/or known to the University.”


While there have been some improvements in the University’s relationship with its Jewish members, Aronis said there is still a long way to go.

“There has been an unprecedented surge in anti-Semitism that has come to the forefront that can no longer be ignored.”– Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, executive director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado

Many Jewish students, faculty and staff are harassed, attacked (and) discriminated (against), and their needs are mostly neglected by the system,” Aronis said. “CSU owes the Jewish community some healing and sustainable change.”

Aronis said the ultimate goal of the Task Force going forward is to grow the University’s commitment to the safety and inclusion of the Jewish community.

“There has been an unprecedented surge in anti-Semitism that has come to the forefront that can no longer be ignored,” Gorelik said. “There was certainly always a degree of protest, but for the most part, it was, like many social injustices, not always addressed. President McConnell realized this and gave anti-Semitism its own forum. We are very grateful after all these years that we are finally in a place where it can get its unique attention.”

According to Aronis, this would show itself, among other ways, in widespread education about Jewish identities and about incidents of anti-Semitism by examining and potentially changing the response taken by the University. Another goal is to establish a center for the Jewish community to gather on campus.

Aronis also said that one of the early outcomes of the Task Force’s work was to inform all faculty members at CSU of the Jewish High Holidays in September, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and allow students to take these days off per an email from the Provost’s Office to all faculty members, reminding them of the University policy for holiday observances.

The email and the work done by the Task Force led to a reminder about holidays in general celebrated by all cultures, Aronis said. 

According to the Office of the President’s page on the Task Force, the Task Force will provide reports in August and October of this year and in February and April 2021. 

In December 2020 a preliminary recommendation will be presented, and in June 2021 the Task Force will submit an in-depth report with recommendations that will provide a roadmap to institutional and systemic change specific to preventing anti-Semitism and promoting and supporting a Jewish-inclusive campus,” the Office of The President‘s website said

The Task Force is a follow-up to the proposed action plan for “Prevention of Anti-Semitism on CSU Campus” that was put forward in June 2019, according to Kornberg-DeGear. 

The action plan stated that there was to be an established, official committee under the University president by the fall of 2019. The action plan provided an outline for what the Task Force, partnered with the University, needed to accomplish and a timeline through the fall of 2020, according to Magdalena Serpa and Aronis. 

“The Jewish community is usually an unrecognized minority group and was historically dismissed from many initiatives that relate to diversity, equity and social justice on campus,” Aronis said.

She said that in a public university that is committed to protecting human rights and to the creation of an inclusive environment for all of its members to thrive and succeed, “this work of the Task Force is the least we can do.” 

“We can create a happier, more peaceful, diverse and unified community, and I am hopeful for a more optimistic future,” Gorelik said.

Molly O’Shea can be reached at or on Twitter @Molly_O23.