Photo Credit: Zoom screen grab
Students take part in Zoom forum on campus antisemitism hosted by Touro University, along with Professor Samuel J. Levine and Touro’s president, Dr. Alan Kadish.

On Monday night, December 18, Touro University hosted “Antisemitism on College Campuses: Students Speak Out.” The discussion was led by Touro’s president, Dr. Alan Kadish, who was joined by Samuel J. Levine, director of the Jewish Law Institute at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Touro Law Center. The speakers included Gabriel Diamond, a senior at Yale; Talia Dror, a junior at Cornell; Jillian Lederman, executive chair of the Hillel International Israel Leadership Network and a student at Brown; and Marie-Alice Legrand, a Columbia Law school student.

The forum followed weeks of Jewish students being made to feel isolated and even segregated as their complaints about antisemitism – in the wake of the October 7th terror – have not been taken seriously by college administrators, they said. University responses have been muted and the hate has been explained away. Committees have been formed, but as one student noted, this has led to bloat and not action.


Jewish students recounted how they were made to explain Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza. Another student recalled seeing a campus apartment with an Israeli flag broken into and a death threat left by the burglar. Students were also told that the word “intifada” could be understood in different ways; school administrators suggested a “dialogue” with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on this topic.

When “Kidnapped” posters for the victims of Hamas were torn down, this was brushed aside as a need for more “space” while flyers for an LGBTQ event stayed up for weeks after the event ended. Any promises of security in the dining hall seemed like another stab at “separate but equal” because the Jewish students were made to feel they would only be safe in the kosher dining room but not the main one on campus.

Gabriel Diamond said that arrests and firings seem like window-dressing that does not address the larger problem; that is, if you are perceived as being privileged, in a position of power or a persecutor, there is no instance where you can be seen as a victim. This has allowed antisemitism, racism, and anti-Israel views to fester on campus. Unless the claims of Jewish students are taken seriously, the actions and rhetoric of administrators will be equivalent to playing whack-a-mole with individual perpetuators. Diamond’s school, Yale, is ranked 234 out of 248 for free speech on campus by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). This is despite Yale’s purported commitment to free speech.

He said that Jewish students set up a table at Yale with the placard “Let’s Talk About Israel” so that students could discuss the current climate with others. The table talks have worked to educate some students who otherwise knew very little about the region. Students are also given resources to combat pro-terror voices. This, Diamond said, can be a model for other college campuses. The situation at Yale has been better than other colleges, but this is a low bar. He added that he worries about Jewish students being increasingly targeted.

Jillian Lederman commended Brown University’s taking action against 41 pro-Palestinian student protestors who held a sit-in at school administrative offices demanding a ceasefire; while the university respected the students’ rights to voice their opinions, once office hours ended and the students refused to leave, the administration called in the local Providence, R.I., police. The university’s statements afterward took a different tone, however: Brown’s President Christina Paxson did not even mention Jewish students in a prepared speech. Instead, she said that students should not be made to feel unsafe for wearing keffiyehs or hijabs. She was booed by pro-Palestinian students anyway.

Lederman discussed attempts at outreach to other students at Brown, but there have not been as many as there should be. “I think this is a huge priority for next semester,” she said. However, when a large-scale event like the October 7th terror attacks happen, college campuses should be the place for conversation and discussion with experts. And of course, a place to mourn. When you are boxed in as a racist, she said, this dialogue cannot occur. SJP students and other student groups have declined to engage in dialogue (even before October 7). Lederman says the first step is to assume the best in each other – don’t assume the other student wants you dead. It is important to have events and bring students together where conversation can take place. Brown seems to be taking steps to in this regard.

While the chant “From the River to the Sea” sounds alarming enough as it calls for the takeover of the entire State of Israel by the Palestinians, students at Cornell have expanded this to “From Gaza to Ithaca.” In other words, Jews need not apply to Cornell University…or live for that matter. This was frightening to student Talia Dror, who, while appreciative of the arrest of Patrick Dai, who issued deadly threats against Jews online, is worried that the hateful actions and rhetoric have not abated. Recently, student protestors occupied two buildings on campus calling for Cornell to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.

As a non-Jewish student at Columbia Law School, Marie-Alice Legrand brought another perspective on the current climate for Jews on prestigious university campuses. She said that even the mere showing of support for Israel has made students both Jewish and non-Jewish the subject of threats, public humiliation, and ostracism. Legrand stated that anti-Israel events were regularly held on campus, including one that told students to discuss what to do about the “occupation” while they were playing Super Mario Brothers video games.

Legrand further recounted how she lost friends at law school when she posted statements in support of Israel on October 9. This has been shocking to her. Yet this issue, she says, has clearly been there for decades. The need to find a new group of friends overnight is not something that happens in a vacuum. Legrand noted that while she may have turned a blind eye to the hostile environment toward Jews before October 7, she is now viewed as a “token Zionist girl.” She was even pushed out of the mock trial institute. Jewish students who have shown support for Israel have suffered as well.

Dr. Kadish said that Touro has the space to welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds and certainly wants to be a place where Jewish students feel welcome. (This doesn’t mean that admission for Jewish students is automatic. The Touro graduate admission preference is directed toward its own undergraduate students, as in every university.) Steps taken by schools such as Brown and Columbia Law School at dialogue and combating antisemitism are a positive first step toward education and conversation, noted Lederman and Legrand. Professor Levine thanked the students for taking the time to speak out. Dr. Kadish praised the students for their courage as well.

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