Franciscan University President Offers Safe Haven to Jewish Students

October 18, 2023

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—In the wake of the horrific Hamas terrorist attack on October 7 and the ongoing Israeli military response, Franciscan University of Steubenville has created an expedited transfer process for Jewish students in danger of antisemitic discrimination and violence on campuses across the United States.

“With our fellow Christians around the world, we are praying for justice and peace,” said Father Dave Pivonka, TOR ’89, president of Franciscan University. “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.”

Franciscan University’s administration has taken action to expedite their transfer process and make plans to accommodate any additional students. 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.

“Our community will welcome them with generosity and respect,” said Father Pivonka. “Our religious differences will not cause any conflict. On the contrary, at Franciscan, our radical fidelity to Christ and the Catholic faith demands of us fraternal charity toward our Jewish brothers and sisters, as it does toward all people.”

Mindful of the many Jewish students who may want to transfer immediately out of universities where they face hostility, Father Pivonka has invited presidents of other faithful Catholic universities to join Franciscan in this effort.

Franciscan University and The Philos Project recognized the need to confront a resurgent antisemitism many months ago when it organized a joint conference, Nostra Aetate and the Future of Catholic-Jewish Relations at a Time of Rising Antisemitism, for October 24-26. The conference coordinators never imagined the tragic timeliness their event would take on.

“It is a great source of distress and sadness that the recent Hamas terrorist attacks—in themselves unspeakable evils—have led to yet further increases in threats of violence against the Jewish people,” said Dr. Stephen Hildebrand, vice president for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University and conference organizer. “We affirm the Church’s repeated condemnations of antisemitism made necessary throughout history and today by ongoing acts of violence and discrimination against the Jews.”

The Catholic Church has acknowledged her own past failings in fraternal charity toward the Jewish people and roots her repeated condemnations of antisemitism in the Gospel. According to the Vatican Council II document, Nostra Aetate, “The Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” This condemnation has been forcefully repeated by Pope Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. The bishops of the United States have also expressed their unanimous condemnation of antisemitism.

Jewish students who would like to transfer to Franciscan University of Steubenville can email [email protected].

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