update deskSchools & Higher Education

‘We will not stop standing up,’ say Jewish students at Columbia University

“Judaism cannot be separated from Israel,” the students wrote. “Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.”

A view of protesters demonstrating outside the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 25, 2024. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.
A view of protesters demonstrating outside the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 25, 2024. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.

More than 500 Jewish students at Columbia University have signed their names to an open letter articulating their support of Israel.

“Over the past six months, many have spoken in our name. Some are well-meaning alumni or non-affiliates, who show up to wave the Israeli flag outside Columbia’s gates. Some are politicians looking to use our experiences to foment America’s culture war,” the students write.

“Most notably, some are our Jewish peers who tokenize themselves by claiming to represent ‘real Jewish values,’ and attempt to delegitimize our lived experiences of antisemitism,” they add. “We are here, writing to you as Jewish students at Columbia University, who are connected to our community and deeply engaged with our culture and history. We would like to speak in our name.”

Contrary to what others have said, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel, according to the students, who note they are unwitting political activists due to surging Jew-hatred.

“We proudly believe in the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity,” the students write. “Contrary to what many have tried to sell you—no, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel. Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.”

“We will not stop standing up for ourselves,” they added. “We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists.”

The American Jewish Committee called the letter a must-read. “We commend these students for giving a powerful voice to their identity as Jews and their proud connection to Israel,” the AJC said.

Daniel Sugarman, director of public affairs for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the letter expressed “what the overwhelming majority of Jewish people feel.”

“While there’s a lot being said in the media, in Congress and across the country—we must listen to the students,” wrote Jonathan Allen, who works in government relations at the Anti-Defamation League.

“It’s not only magnificently written, but it also clearly articulates their experiences on campus for the past six months,” wrote Shai Davidai, a Columbia Business School professor who has been a leading supporter of Israel on the Ivy League campus.

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