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10-18-21-fall-campus-avi-singh
A flag with the Penn crest above College Hall, photographed on Oct. 18, 2021. Credit: Avi Singh

We, as over 120 students and alumni of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), write to express our disappointment and outrage with the SP2 and Penn administrations’ response to the ongoing genocidal violence of the Israeli government against Palestinians in Gaza. We write as social workers, social policy scholars and researchers, clinicians in training, and nonprofit leaders. We write as Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and allies striving to live up to our own — and our profession’s — values of dignity, integrity, and social justice. We write because we believe SP2 and Penn can do better by its Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and Jewish community members and because they must. 

We are in unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people in their movement for safety and liberation. We recognize the critical context of the 75-year Israeli military occupation of Palestine as the root cause of the ongoing loss of both Palestinian and Israeli lives.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 31, Israeli strikes have killed 8,648 Palestinians since Oct. 7. Everything there is to say has already been said — by Palestinians, by Jews, all calling for a ceasefire, an end to the siege on Gaza, and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It’s only those invested in keeping power structures as they are that are lagging behind with their silence or active silencing of those bringing attention to the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. In the first week of its siege alone, Israel dropped over 6,000 bombs into Gaza — an 140-square mile, open-air prison housing around 2 million Palestinians — while blocking access to basic necessities like electricity, food, and clean water. At SP2, a school that stakes its identity and values in its stated “commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, intersectionality, and social justice,” we’re seeing a response to an ongoing genocide that has been neutral at best and one-sided in support of settler colonial violence at worst.

Throughout statements released by SP2 Dean Sally Bachman and Penn President Liz Magill, the University and SP2 have systematically perpetuated the erasure of Palestine and Palestinians. And this isn’t surprising. Some of us have already had conversations with SP2 administrators and faculty expressing concerns with SP2’s close ties to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — an organization that has been condemned as harmful to marginalized groups by more than 200 organizations across the nation. We see how SP2 is taking its cues from this group in its messaging about Palestine, rather than the numerous Jewish groups that reject the Zionist political project of a state predicated on the removal of indigenous Palestinians.

By uplifting only the Israeli and Jewish experiences, while equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism (as Dean Bachman did in her emails to the SP2 community ahead of the Palestine Writes Festival, including in the SP2 Speaker Series featuring the ADL), Penn and SP2 have created an environment where Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are made to feel unwelcome and unsafe. They live and work in fear that they will lose their jobs, scholarships, and opportunities, all while mourning day after day the thousands of Palestinians murdered by Israeli military forces and settlers. With each passing day, Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism grow bolder in the United States. On Oct. 14, 6-year old Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed 26 times and killed in Illinois. Palestinian-Americans across the country and those who stand in solidarity with them are facing death threats, doxxing, and harassment. We are in solidarity with our Jewish peers in our firm rejection of antisemitism. We recognize its harm and real impacts in our communities, including the recent murder of Jewish activist Samantha Woll in Detroit. While we condemn antisemitism, and honor and mourn the Israeli lives lost, we cannot let our grief fuel Islamophobia, racism, and ultimately genocide. By accusing Palestinians and their allies of being antisemitic and hateful for demanding freedom from settler occupation, Penn and SP2 contribute to the atmosphere of racist violence experienced by their Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim community members.

We call on SP2 to:

  1. Provide concrete and explicit support not only for Israeli and Jewish students, but also for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students on campus and in our communities. To walk the anti-oppressive talk of the School’s own classes, SP2 must incorporate into its actions a stronger understanding of the systemic context of settler colonialism and the human impacts of collective trauma and traumatic grief.
  2. Condemn the ongoing genocidal violence in Palestine and uplift the demands for a ceasefire and end to the occupation.
  3. End the conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism in SP2’s community messaging and instead elevate the voices of Palestinians and, in particular, Gazans.
  4. Accurately represent the histories of settler colonialism and racialized violence against Palestinians in the Penn Experience and cease the use of resources from and collaboration with the ADL.

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

– Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and first president of South Africa

If you are a SP2 student or alum, and you would like to sign onto this letter, please fill out the form here: bit.ly/SP2forPalestine. The authors of this statement can be reached at  sp2forpalestine2023@gmail.com.

zara raven, MSW ‘25 

Sarah Pallivalapil-Karerat, MSW ‘23

Eva Steele, MSW ’23

Stephen Chao, MSW ‘24

Lenny Schnier, MSW ‘24

Emma James, MSW, MSSP ‘25

Bhairavi Mehra, MSW ‘25

Elizabeth Langer, MSW ‘23 

Paola Salas, MSW ‘25

Rose Khan, MSW, MSSP ’23

Jack Reibstein, MSW ‘25

Grace German, MSW ‘24

Farhanah Faizal, MSW ‘24 

Anna Bacharach, MSW '25

Lynette Pinto, MSW '25

Makayla Buchanon, MSW '25

Sheldan Dalsimer, MSW '26

Sayeeda Rashid, MSW, NPL '20

Mary-Brent Brown, MSW '23

Chayo Lavin, MSW '23

Hannah Toneff, MSW '23

Wesley Alvers, MSW '23

Robin Ortelere, MSW '23

Hannah L. Smith, MSW '24

Melissa Echeverry, MSW '23

Rachel Marx, MSW '23

Kyle Arbuckle, MSW '23

Nathan Nyitrai, MSW '24

Taylor Crumpton, MSW '08

Logan Fosu, MSW '25

Hannah Prativa Spielberg, MSW '20

Sarah Marcus, MSW '20

Annie Xu, MSW '24

Cece Sadek, MSW '24 

Emily Walter, MSW '23

Rebecca Del Rossi, MSW '23

Christina Bartzokis, MSW '25

Joelle Eliza Lingat, MSW, NPL '24

Beth Hollingshead, LSW, MSW '14

Winnie Chang, MSW '24

Monica Brodovsky, MSW '24

Shug Miller, MSW '25 

Athena Turek-Hankins, MSW '23

Sarah Nichols, MSW '23

Sruti Bhakta, MSW '25 

Elyse Cinquino, MSW '24

Diane Yu, MSW '24

Breanna Sheehan, MSSP, NPL '25

Tori Parker, MSW '24

Georgia Garrow, MSW '24

Casey Bohrman, MSW, PhD '13

Sarah Kim, MSW '24

Nora Ahern, MSW '17

Myles Browne, MSSP '24

Eduardo Villegas, MSW '00

Jessica Zipin, MSW '20

Jalen Belgrave, MSSP '24

Maria A. Giraldo Gallo, NPL '23

JD Del Rosario, MSW '24

Clayton Kaledin, NPL '23

Nora Reynolds, MSW '23

Luc Teyssier, MSW '23

Ajanee Russell, MSSP '26 

Caitlin McDermott, MSW '25

Lena Burleson, MSSP '23

Mallory Trainor, MSSP '24

Matt Encarnación, MSSP '24

Rachel Quinn, MSW '23

Cydney Edwards, MSW '23

Angel Saysay, MSW '09

Kate Dietrich-Manion, MSW '23

David Wengert, MSW '11

Laura Hannon, MSSP '24

Emily Sullivan, MSW '23

Maggie Dougherty, MSW '24

Omar Ibrahim, MSSP '23

Mel Kadar, MSSP, NPL '23

Nada Blassy, MSSP '22

Emily Polstein, MSW '20

Teressa Coenen, MSW '23

Gabriella Ayala, MSSP '22

Davina Scott, MSW '25

Leah Pranschke, MSSP '22

Alexandra Blaine, MSW '23

Halla Anderson, MSSP '23

Cliff Long, MSW '23

Tyler Rizzo, MSW '25

Yifan Zhang, MSW '25

Priyanka Padidam, MSW '23

Joslyn Trovati, MSW '21

Meghan Eife, MSSP, DA '25

John Garlets, MSW '25

Lani Morris, MSW '23

Talysa Omara Jimenez, MSSP '24

S. Bousquet, MSW, MSSP '23

Emilia Feldman, MSW '22

Yaoyao Lin, MSW '25

Daria Hurley Abady, MSW '22

Beca Zhang, NPL '24

Mary Zheng, MSW '22

Chris Nguyen, MSW '23

D'Jonita Cottrell, MSW '24

Gabriella Lozano, MSW '22

Leaf Ye, NPL '24

Cheylane Brown, MSW '25

Karen Leigh Beebe, MSW '23

Alex Pitts, MSW ‘24

Devin Welsh, MSSP, DA ‘25 

Kathleen Rooney, MSW ‘24

Anna Zhu, MSW ‘23

Mairead Ferry, MSW ‘24

Megan Gafvert, MSW, MSSP ‘22

Oliver Jane Jorgensen, MSW, NPL ‘26

Beth Varley, MSSP ‘24

Francis Snow, MSW ‘20

Ami Deshpande, MSW ‘20

Naomi Black, MSW ‘20

Amy Filip, MSW ‘25 

Emory Bartholet, MSW ‘24

Laura Miles, MSW ‘23

Alice Wang, MSW ‘19

Olivia Benson, MSW ‘19

Carolyn Ziembo, MSW ‘19

Joey Wong, NPL ‘20 

Mikela Sheskier, MSW '24

Amanda Mahany, MSW '25

Brisa Ables, MSW '25

Samantha Stephen, MSW '25

Yun Zhan, MSSP '24

Anna Ferris, PhD '25

Gina Weires, MSW '23

Andrea K Rusli, MSSP, DA '25

Victoria Price, MSSP '20

Britney Acevedo-Corona, MSW '24

Nicole Sugarman, MSSP '21

This letter's list of signatories was last updated on Nov. 7, 2023.