The University of Michigan will launch new initiatives as part of a universitywide effort to combat antisemitism and support religious diversity and inclusion on campus.
As an initial step, the university is establishing the Raoul Wallenberg Institute on the Ann Arbor campus to leverage U-M research and scholarship around global antisemitism and divisiveness.
“Through these efforts, we are bringing together leading U-M expertise and diverse perspectives toward a safer and more inclusive world, and even more, a brighter world of peace,” President Santa J. Ono said in announcing the efforts during the Dec. 7 meeting of the Board of Regents.
“At the University of Michigan, we aspire to lift the distinct, ineffable potential of each individual, no matter their background or belief,” said Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Antisemitism is antithetical to everything we stand for as a campus and community, and we are committed to ensuring that we are a place where all students can live in peace and safety, and where they can learn and grow and thrive.”
The institute will be housed within LSA, with collaborations throughout the university community. U-M will share programming, priorities and structures as the institute takes shape, the provost said.
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expects to announce complementary efforts related to enhancing religious inclusion and interfaith engagement in the coming weeks.
The recently released DEI 2.0 strategic plan includes a campuswide action item focused on advancing religious, spiritual and interfaith diversity across schools, colleges, units, offices, programs and community spaces.
History and current events
The institute’s launch comes in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli citizens by Hamas, and amid the ongoing military conflict in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank — developments that have reverberated around the world and on American college campuses.
In 2022, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism reported the highest rate of recorded antisemitic incidents in the United States, prompting the White House to release its U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism in June.
U-M has long served as a hub for the Jewish-American university experience. In the early 20th century, elite northeastern institutions often imposed quotas on Jewish admissions, prompting many to apply to U-M and other prominent public universities.
Today, the university is home to 6,500 Jewish students, extensive academic expertise on Judaic studies and antisemitism and an array of vibrant organizations that serve the campus Jewish community.
Raoul Wallenberg, the institute’s namesake, was a Swedish humanitarian, diplomat, businessman and architect. While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in German-occupied Budapest for six months in 1944, he saved thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust by issuing protective passports and sheltering Jews in buildings that he marked as Swedish territory.
Wallenberg graduated from U-M with a degree in architecture in 1935. He was posthumously recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli Holocaust memorial organization Yad Vashem.
The Wallenberg Medal at U-M is awarded annually to outstanding humanitarians who emulate Wallenberg’s courage, vision and leadership — values that will be core to the new institute’s work. Notable past recipients include Elie Wiesel, John Lewis and Desmond Tutu.