update deskSchools & Higher Education

Columbia-Barnard rabbi tells Jewish students to stay home for safety

"No one should have to endure this level of hatred, let alone at school," the co-director of Columbia/Barnard OU-JLIC wrote.

An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" on display at Columbia University during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in 2017. Source: Facebook.
An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" on display at Columbia University during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in 2017. Source: Facebook.

Rabbi Elie Buechler, who co-directs the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) for Columbia University and Barnard College, told Jewish students on Sunday to stay home until the campus environment improves.

“What we are witnessing in and around campus is tragic. The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD [New York City Police Department] cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy,” the rabbi wrote to a group of 290-plus students on the WhatsApp messaging app.

“It deeply pains me to say that I strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved,” he wrote.

Buechler sent the message in response to “just horrific” videos of protesters “calling for Jews to be killed,” CNN‘s Jake Tapper reported.

“It is not our job as Jews to ensure our own safety on campus. No one should have to endure this level of hatred, let alone at school,” Buechler said.

A White House spokesman commented on Sunday about violent anti-Jewish protests at Columbia University, although U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to issue a statement personally about the antisemitism.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable and dangerous,” stated Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary.

“They have absolutely no place on any college campus, or anywhere in the United States of America,” Bates continued. “Echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organizations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable.

“We condemn these statements in the strongest terms,” he said.

Within Our Lifetime, a group whose leaders have been accused of inciting violence, held a “Flood Columbia For Gaza” protest at 9 pm on Saturday, The Columbia Daily Spectator student newspaper reported.

Protesters chanted, “Columbia you will see, we are all SJP” and, “We will free Palestine, within our lifetime.” (In November, Columbia suspended the school chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine for holding an unauthorized campus event that “included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”)

On police barricades, protesters hung a banner reading, “From Gaza to Jenin, revolution until victory,” a sign associated with previous Within Our Lifetime protests.

The protest came despite Columbia University President Minouche Shafik calling on the NYPD to forcibly clear an unauthorized anti-Israel protest encampment on the school’s South Lawn on Thursday.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reported that police arrested more than 100 of the anti-Israel demonstrators for trespassing. The students, whose hands were zip-tied, were loaded into police buses.

The protesters, who demand that the university immediately divest from Israel, reestablished their tent encampment on Friday morning on a central campus lawn opposite the one where hundreds had been removed less than 24 hours earlier, the New York Post reported.

In a letter to the university’s president dated April 19, a Columbia Jewish alumni group warned, “At present, new, unauthorized protests are disrupting classes and creating an irrefutably unsafe environment for Jewish students.

“It is clear to us that Columbia is now under mob rule—a mob, by the way, that is only interested in attention and chaos, rather than thoughtful dialogue or reasoned debate,” they wrote.

The alumni referred to a petition by Jewish students asking to take their remaining spring semester courses online out of fear of classroom violence.

On Friday night, protesters were filmed screaming at two Jewish students, “The 7th of October is going to be every day for you.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul condemned the antisemitic threats against Jewish students and the glorifying of the atrocities on Oct. 7, writing in an X post overnight on Sunday that “the First Amendment protects the right to protest but students also have a right to learn in an environment free from harassment or violence.”

The Democrat added, “At Columbia or on any campus, threatening Jewish students with violence or glorifying the terror of October 7 is antisemitism.”

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