The Universities and Colleges Union has voted to distance itself from the European Union's working definition of antisemitism at its annual congress in Harrogate.
Delegates overwhelmingly supported the move on the part of the union's leadership, which believes the definition from the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia prevents open discussion of Israel. The union has a history of anti-Israel activism and on Sunday voted through a boycott motion.
Last week, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust wrote to the union and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission urging a rethink on the issue.
The Jewish organisations urged the union to adopt the definition of racism contained in the Macpherson report on the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. This defines a racist incident as one which is viewed as such by the victim or a third party.
EHRC chair Trevor Phillips wrote back saying he was surprised the lecturers' union had not consulted him before taking action on the issue.
Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: "After today's events I believe the UCU is institutionally racist."