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South Africans take battle against antisemitism global

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Kayla Diamond has been elected vice-president of global outreach for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Campus Global Board which tackles antisemitism in tertiary education institutions throughout the world. Another South African, Erin Dodo, was elected to this board in August.


Diamond has served on the board since it was established at the AJC’s Global Forum in New York last year and believes that she brings experience of antisemitism in South Africa and knowledge about apartheid.

Diamond was assigned her new role after she pointed out the lack of global presence on the board.

Under the auspices of the AJC, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organisations, the board is dedicated to empowering Jewish campus leaders as they confront increased antisemitic and anti-Zionist sentiment at tertiary education institutions across the globe.

Dodo decided to join the board at the AJC’s Global Forum last year. “It occurred to me that South Africa and the experience of our Jewish community really needed to be included in the global fight against antisemitism,” she says.

Joining the board was “a natural move” for her as she was already involved in many Jewish advocacy organisations. A former University of Cape Town Student Representative Council member, she is chairperson of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) Western Cape, and is a Lauder Fellow with the World Jewish Congress (WJC). Dodo, whose passion has “always been politics”, is also part of ActionSA.

Diamond, who served on the SAUJS board for three years and is now on an Emerson Fellowship with StandWithUs in South Africa, says the Campus Global Board’s past year, which ran from August 2022, comprised mainly of Americans along with international students from Canada, Hungary, and South Africa.

This board was “brilliant”, she says, but she realised it needed members from more countries. She discussed it with the head of the programme, and the duo subsequently conceptualised the position of global outreach. Diamond filled the post, and the board now boasts 10 international students.

Diamond says her main goal is to create relations between university students from all around the world and allow them to bond over the fact that they are going through the same thing.

She also hopes to bring a South African speaker to America for Israel Apartheid Week, and to hold workshops at which university students from around the world come together to brainstorm ideas on how to combat antisemitism.

Dodo says her involvement with the WJC has given her “an incredible understanding” of antisemitism in America and worldwide. “The experience I have gained on South African campuses can help the board in combating antisemitism because South African campuses have experienced it for a long time,” she says.

Dodo points out that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) coalition and Israel Apartheid Week, an annual BDS campaign, originated in South Africa. She believes she can help the board with her experience of growing up learning about apartheid and then seeing Israel being portrayed as an apartheid state at tertiary institutions.

Diamond says she can share her learning of how antisemitism has been tackled on campuses in South Africa. The country is “the epicentre of the narrative that Israel is an apartheid state”, she says. “People hear the word ‘apartheid’, and they automatically believe that if it’s going on somewhere else, we need to jump on the bandwagon. But we have incredible speakers who have gone through apartheid themselves. They’re coming forward and saying, ‘It’s unfair to call Israel an apartheid state because I’ve been there, and it’s taking away what my family went through.’”

Since it was established by 81 American Jews in New York City’s Hotel Savoy in 1906, the AJC has fought against various forms of discrimination. It was active in protesting Nazi mistreatment of German Jews, and participated in events in the Civil Rights Movement.

Diamond says the AJC’s Campus Global Board has done incredible work so far, including creating relationships and working to educate members of student representative councils. “Some years ago, I didn’t think university was a space where Jewish students felt comfortable in. Nowadays, I believe, it’s a much more pleasant environment.”

Diamond and Dodo will be based in South Africa while on the board, and will head to Atlanta, United States, in about two weeks to meet the other board members for the first time. “We’re also going to Washington in June next year for the Global Forum, where we’ll meet again,” Diamond says. “With technology, we’ll meet constantly on Zoom and hold workshops online.”

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