Before Eva and Marvin Schlanger wrote their end-of-year checks to Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the two alumni of the public school called the Rutgers Hillel to inquire about the climate on the campus of their alma mater, to which they have been donors for many years.
That’s when they learned Yoel Ackerman, a Jewish law student, faces expulsion from Rutgers for “doxxing” two students who spread Hamas propaganda on social media.
“We did a bit of research on that and our conclusion was that it was clear that this was a Jewish student, who was intimidated and was being hassled for merely speaking out about what actually happened on Oct. 7,” Marvin Schlanger told JNS.
The student bar association threatened to suspend Ackerman, and the administrative processes the university had in place designed to give the student a fair hearing came up short, according to Schlanger. (Ackerman is reportedly suing Rutgers.)
“He didn’t get due process that every student is entitled to. We found this quite disturbing,” said Schlanger.
The Schlangers, who thought that donors pulling funding from the University of Pennsylvania presented “a pretty good model for getting the attention of the administration,” wrote to Jonathan Holloway, the Rutgers president, expressing concern.
“We waited a few weeks and got no feedback at all from anybody in the administration, nobody from development, nobody from the senior levels of administration,” said Marvin Schlanger. “That’s why we went public with this. Our position is that our checkbook is closed until we see action on the part of the administration at Rutgers that they are committed to protecting the Jewish students—to protecting all students, but the problem is with the Jewish students on campus.”
“This is now a couple of months later, and we still have not heard anything by writing, by phone call from anybody in the administration,” he said.
The Schlangers did not tell JNS how much they have given to Rutgers over the years, but they directed JNS to a WHYY report that their Eva and Marvin Schlanger Family Foundation has given more than $130,000 to Rutgers in the past decade.
Marvin has donated to the school of engineering, which he attended, and Eva, a graduate of the Rutgers Arts and Sciences College, has supported a full scholarship for a woman studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the donors told JNS.
The Schlangers, who are not involved in Ackerman’s lawsuit, didn’t comment on it to JNS. But they discussed what would have to change at Rutgers for them to reopen their checkbooks.
“I’d like the Ackerman situation to be clarified. I’d like to see the university take clear action to ensure he gets due process. I’d like to see a statement from the administration recognizing that the Jewish and pro-Israel students have been intimidated and have felt threatened and the university is 100% committed to protecting them on campus,” Marvin Schlanger said.
There have been several other antisemitic incidents on the university’s campuses, according to Schlanger. The Jew-hatred represents “a continual drift in this direction” over the years at Rutgers, he added. “But the Oct. 7 attack, invasion, by the Gazans has unleashed what the Wall Street Journal refers to as the ‘global war on Jews.’”
‘No Hillel at the time’
In the 1960s, Eva Schlanger and her peers started a Jewish group called Ha-or (the light) at Rutgers. “We never had any issues,” she told JNS. “We had a meeting space, if we so wanted it. We had speakers and entertainment and events. To my mind, it was never an issue.”
With a lot of commuter students, there was a “fair number” of Jewish students at the time on campus, she said. “I don’t think it was entirely Jewish, but I think it was closer to 50-50 ratio.”
“I never had an issue. I was there through the Newark riots, and when I went back to school after the riots, I never felt threatened. I never was afraid,” she said. “Classes went on, and at the time Rutgers was spread out over hotels and different venues all across Newark. There were never any incidents I was aware of.” (From July 12-17, 1967, 26 people were killed and 700 were injured in the riots, which the National Guard was called in to quell.)
“I essentially enjoyed my time at Rutgers,” she said. “It was kind of a hip place to be.”
Marvin Schlanger lived on the New Brunswick campus as a student. “Rutgers was considered a great school for people to come from the Midwest. It was more affordable than the Ivy League schools, so it was an attraction to people from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana,” he said. “People from up and down the East Coast: Long Island, Upstate New York, etc. We had quite a mix of people on campus.”
He can’t think of any overt antisemitic acts, but “occasionally you would run into something that should have been interpreted as an antisemitic kind of comment, born more out of ignorance than maliciousness,” he said. “I think people learned what they learned at home, and they would say something not being sensitive to the fact that those comments are really antisemitic.”
“What’s changed is that things that people would not say back then in polite company are considered acceptable speech today,” he said. “Only an extreme antisemite would stand up in a public gathering and say, ‘The Jews control Congress.’ They might have thought it, but it wasn’t something that someone openly said in polite conversation.”
“Unfortunately today, it’s now acceptable for people, including people in authority in Congress, to say that decisions in Congress about Israel are made because of the money,” he said.
“It was easier being a Jew and a supporter of Israel on campus when we were in school than it is today,” he said.
Eva Schlanger told JNS that it’s important for Jews not to go around in fear, even as antisemitism has spread on campuses.
“You can’t let your world shrink as a Jew. That’s not a good example to set for your kids going off to college or yourself,” she said. “On the other hand, I’m not sure if I had a student today that I would send them to—and I’ll use this example—Berkeley. I might be hesitant to throw them into the jaws of that.”
Paula Joffe, the recently retired executive director of StandWithUs in the Mid-Atlantic, told JNS that antisemitism has been afflicting high schools and middle schools, in addition to colleges and universities.
“It becomes incumbent upon members of the broader community to make a stance and demand change for the protection of our children,” she said. “Alumni must use the power of their collective network to put financial pressure on universities.”
Joffe called for better monitoring of curricula and textbooks as well. “Our children deserve an honest and unbiased education, certainly not one that is filled with disinformation and intimidation,” she said.
Marvin Schlanger hopes that things will change at his alma mater.
“We want to donate to Rutgers. This is not about not donating,” he said. “What we need is some clarity from the Rutgers administration, and we haven’t had that.”