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22 Apr, 2024 22:20

Rabbi tells Jews to leave prestigious American university

Pro-Palestinian students at Columbia have camped out in protest of Israel
Rabbi tells Jews to leave prestigious American university

Columbia University in New York City decided to hold virtual classes on Monday, after a rabbi urged Jewish students to stay home because they were no longer safe.

Hundreds of students were arrested last Thursday after setting up a ‘Gaza Solidarity Encampment’ on campus. A group of Jewish counter-protesters got into an altercation with the demonstrators on Saturday evening, prompting Rabbi Elie Buechler to send out the warning.

“What we are witnessing in and around campus is terrible and tragic. The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism, and anarchy,” Buechler, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC), said.

“It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved. 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,” the rabbi continued in a post to the JLIC WhatsApp group.

With the Jewish holiday of Passover starting on Monday evening, the Ivy League school’s president, Minouche Shafik, announced that classes would shift to online learning if possible, “to de-escalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps.”

While some US lawmakers have called for the police, National Guard, or even the military to break up the protest, Shafik said a “working group” at Columbia will try to resolve the crisis peacefully.

“We should be able to do this ourselves,” Shafik said, urging “better adherence to our rules and effective enforcement mechanisms.”

The encampment is the work of Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine, who described it as a protest against the school’s “continued financial investment in corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine.”

When a group of around ten pro-Israel students attempted a counter-protest, one protester held a handmade sign describing them as the next target of Hamas, the Gaza-based group behind the October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the current conflict.

“Columbia has lost its campus. Jewish students are no longer safe on campus,” David Lederer, one of the counter-protesters, told USA Today via email. The sophomore said the experience changed his mind about staying on campus.

In a statement on Sunday, the White House denounced “calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community” adding that anti-Semitic language, “like any other language that is used to hurt and frighten people, is unacceptable and appropriate action will be taken.”

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