Photo Credit: Sent to The Jewish Press by NYU students.
At a rally hosted by NYU SJP. 2023

Jewish leaders and antisemitism watchdog groups are sounding the alarm over a series of highly publicized antisemitic incidents at American universities across the country. These incidents come on top of the dozens of anti-Israel rallies and protests by students on campuses that have explicitly or implicitly endorsed and supported Hamas, and have frequently included threatening language such as “Globalize the Intifada,” while many college presidents and administrations have refused to condemn the terrorist activities of Hamas. Secure Community Network, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure the safety of Jewish people in the U.S., reported that October had the highest number of antisemitic incidents in their 19 years of operation.

Noga Ginzburg, an Israeli graduate business school student at Columbia University, saw pictures on social media of a Times Square pro-Palestinian rally with Hamas flags and swastikas. She told The Jewish Press, “I know that some of my classmates went to this protest and [are] supporting the terror organization that basically murdered some of my friends and family… It’s hard for me to be in the same class with them.”


Ginzburg expressed how painful it is that the university allowed the next rally to be held a few days later on the campus. She described it as scary, with 60-70 percent of students covering their faces, some with green material that looked like the Hamas flag, and students shouting for an intifada. She said they were “screaming and calling the university…to cancel everything with Tel Aviv University, which is dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I went to Tel Aviv University and half of the students at Tel Aviv University are Arab.” By contrast, she said the Israeli rally was “very peaceful and quiet and beautiful to see.”

Jewish students are scared, Ginzburg said, and some have been physically attacked on campus. On October 11, a Columbia student, who will not return to campus out of fear for his safety, was beaten with a stick outside the library. During the Russia-Ukraine war and Black Lives Matter protests, “The university quickly responded and quickly condemned any violent act that happened, and was very strong in what they said,” said Ginzburg. “This time they choose to be kind of neutral and quiet, which is infuriating.”

Israeli Columbia Business School professor Shai Davidai said his parents, who are in bomb shelters in Israel, are ironically more concerned about his safety on campus than they are about their own. “I have deliberately not been on campus. I am afraid to go on campus,” he said. “The university does not value my life in the same way that it values the life and safety of all other professors.”

Davidai made an impassioned speech on October 14 at a Jewish Community Center in New York City, where he revealed how the president of Columbia University and its board of trustees allowed the anti-Israel organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to have a pro-Palestinian rally, which he said was really pro-Hamas. During the rally, The Kraft Center for Jewish Life, which houses Hillel International, went on lockdown, and discouraged students from leaving the building. The heads of the university did not acknowledge this occurrence.

When Davidai attended a vigil on campus on October 18 organized by Jewish American students to mourn for the Israeli massacre victims, he said, “No one from higher up in the administration, no one official from Columbia attended it.” Standing in front of a Star of David made of small candles placed on the ground, he issued a dire warning to parents:

“I’m speaking to you as a dad, and I want you to know, we cannot protect your children from pro-terror student organizations, because the president of Columbia University will not speak out against pro-terror student organizations, because the president of Harvard University, because the president of Stanford, because the president of Berkeley, they will not speak out against pro-terror student organizations.”

He said his own young children are a “legitimate target of resistance,” and that he would never send his daughter to Columbia because she would not be protected.

Davidai explained that he is not asking anyone to take a side on any issue other than to stand with humanity against terrorism. “In the name of freedom of speech, they are allowing thousands of students, staff, and faculty who explicitly and publicly support Hamas, a terror organization. You would never imagine [that] Columbia University, NYU, Harvard, anywhere else would allow a KKK rally – they would never allow a pro-al-Qaeda, or pro-ISIS, yet when it comes to Israeli lives, when it comes to Jewish lives, they allow a pro-Hamas rally,” he said.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder and director of AMCHA, an initiative dedicated to researching and combatting antisemitism at U.S. schools, said the antisemitism on college campuses is the worst she’s ever seen, and she’s been tracking antisemitic incidents for 20 years. She emphasized, “The thing that matters is our kids right now. Are universities able to keep our kids safe, and if not, we need to do something. We have to force them. Right now, to be a university president, you have to stand up. You have to have moral courage, and unfortunately, that’s one of the things that is lacking in most university presidents these days.”

She continued, “They are not safe on campus – they’re actually being threatened by what’s happened. Their physical safety, certainly their emotional well-being because they’re being verbally harassed, is absolutely threatened, their mental health is being threatened. American Jews need to be very, very, very frightened. We’ve been trying to raise the alarm for years.”

On October 16, New York University (NYU) members of the pro-Israel international campus movement Students Supporting Israel (SSI) filmed NYU students Yazmeen Deyhimi and Hafiza Khalique viciously tearing down posters on campus of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. They smiled as they brought to the trash pictures of missing elderly people and children, like a 10-month-old baby boy and his four-year-old brother, and a four-year-old girl who is an orphan now because both of her parents were murdered.

The following day, Ally Lax, co-president of SSI, emailed a letter reporting this incident to NYU President Linda Mills, Dean of Students Rafael Rodriguez, and 10 other administrators, which states: “For anyone to take down flyers of innocent Israeli civilians, whose lives are in immediate danger at the hands of their Hamas captors, displays a clear disregard for Jewish and Israeli life, which is horrifying beyond words. What is possibly more terrifying is that the NYU Jewish community shares a campus with students who are outwardly expressing Jew hate and celebrating our fallen. We are repulsed that our peers would proudly rip down these flyers. Your Jewish students are scared. We are scared to walk around campus. We are scared to go to class. We are scared to wear our Jewish garb for fear of verbal, or, in some instances, physical assault. NYU has a responsibility to protect all NYU students experiencing discrimination or hate.”

To date, this letter has received no response.

Student co-presidents of SSI described events that transpired on the NYU campus on October 17 during one of the SJP rallies, which coincided with an SSI rally. The participants covered their faces with Covid masks, keffiyehs, and ski masks. “Honestly, when we came face to face, it was very scary,” sophomore Ally Lax said. “They were handing out masks, so you couldn’t see who anybody was, you could only see their eyes. They were giving death threats to us. They were telling us to come over, see what happens, telling people that they’re going to rape them because they’re Jews.” NYPD separated the two groups, but Lax said, “They were screaming across, ‘We’ll rape you, we want to kill you. They made the hand gesture to slit your throat. It was very scary, the whole thing was horrible.”

Fellow SSI leader Bella Ingber believes the pro-Palestinian rally participants covered their faces as an intimidation tactic, and it amplified their frightening messages. “They were shouting at us ‘Intifada! Intifada!” she said. “The implications of that word are so heavy because of the history that’s attached to the word. It basically calls for the extermination of any and all Jews and Israelis.”

She added, “Both my grandfathers survived the Holocaust, and were forced to flee their home countries in Europe – Poland and Germany – because of religious persecution, and their neighbors turned a blind eye to the direct hate that they were bearing the brunt of. I never thought that I would see the day in the United States of America where I was subjected to the same thing, and it’s horrifying to witness.”

In terms of campus security, Ingber said, “We don’t feel seen by them at all.” She referenced a letter students received on October 12 from Fountain Walker, vice-president for Global Campus Safety, and Rafael Rodriguez, dean of students, a day before the former leader of Hamas called for a “Day of Rage” targeting Zionists. There was no mention of Jewish people in the letter, which began by stating, “In the last few days, we have heard concerns from members of our community who feel afraid.” Ingber stated, “It was that first sentence that made NYU Jewish students lose all faith.”

Not only are NYU leaders, professors, and security apathetic about the danger Jewish students are in, some of them are inciting hatred and antisemitism by joining the pro-Palestinian rallies and rhetoric. Signs stating “Faculty for justice in Palestine” were held up at rallies, and there was a sign hanging in the library that said, “DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) = supporting Palestinian staff + students.”

Lax disclosed, “A lot of students have been coming to Bella and [me] and saying [they have] been experiencing a lot of antisemitism, whether [it’s a] professor allowing students to say false information, whether they’re allowing their students to glorify the murders or to be excited by the murder.”

On October 17, professors wore masks covering their faces at a library protest, where they took turns spreading propaganda and demonizing Israel. One professor accused Israel of being “a settler state driven by insane hatred and bloody violence.” A video Lax sent to The Jewish Press shows her friend, who is Jewish, crying on the stairs during the library protest. L’Heureux Lewis-Mccoy, associate professor of sociology of education, used his phone to film her close-up as she cries. After viewing the video, criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman texted that this is “aggravated harassment. He should be sued [for] intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Another SSI leader, Kayla Hutt, disclosed that, right after the terrorist attacks, a professor started teaching his class about a philosopher “who believes that the only way to achieve liberation is through violence.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, founder and chairman of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, reported that antisemitism on campus has resulted in physical assaults against Jewish students. He stated, “We speak every day to Jewish students who are afraid to go to class or to go about their daily lives on campus, because there are credible threats against them. Universities need to take action. Universities should not permit their facilities and resources to be used by groups that align with terrorists.”

Marcus stressed that it is imperative that the Biden administration act swiftly. “The Biden administration has continually delayed the regulations that it has promised on combating antisemitism. With only a matter of weeks left before this regulation is due, it’s critical that they be held accountable to issuing the proposed regulation under the current timetable.”

Regarding implementing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, Marcus explained that this administration “has not been as clear as it should about its use of the IHRA working definition on college campuses. They need to say it clearly, boldly, and not just to the Jewish community, but also to college and university administrators. It should be about enforcing the law and making sure that college administrations are complying.”

On October 19, Senator Josh Hawley, R-MO, urged the Senate to support his resolution condemning antisemitism on college campuses. He explained that it “condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas… denounces this violent rhetoric here in the United States against Jewish people, Jewish Americans, and of course, the State of Israel, and recognizes the right of Israel to defend itself.” Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, blocked the resolution.

Five days later, more antisemitic instances occurred. On October 24, SJP at George Washington University projected messages like “Glory to our martyrs,” and “Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” a call for the takeover of Israel by killing the Jews, onto the outside of the library.

The next day, a group of frightened Jewish students at Cooper Union sequestered themselves and called police from inside the library as an angry pro-Palestine mob pounded on the windows and library doors. The Jewish students had planned to hold a vigil for the murdered Israeli victims of the October 7 terrorist attacks. A student who was interviewed after she was released told reporters that she was very upset with the school because for over two weeks, she had been asking them to protect Jewish students, with little to no response.

On October 26, the Senate passed the antisemitism resolution Hawley had proposed the preceding week.

Rep. Randy Fine, a Republic state legislator in Florida, said there are still pro-Hamas protests on Florida campuses because the laws are not being enforced. However, the protests have not been as extreme in Florida schools as they are in other states. “At the end of the day, when it comes to protecting Jews, as we always have, we’re going have to protect ourselves,” he said, adding, “I think this is a coordinated effort to intimidate us into not speaking out to scare us. This is all coordinated. None of it’s organic.”


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