Jewish students at Columbia University facing growing anti-semitism on campus say they are feel unsafe and abandoned by campus administrators and some of their faculty and classmates, as tensions from the war between Israel and Hamas spill over onto college campuses.

Their concerns are echoed by many students across other New York colleges, including Cornell University and Cooper Union, who have reported feeling threatened on campus or isolated in their condemnation of Hamas’ terror attacks on civilians.

“This is a failure of the university to create a setting where students see each other as human,” said Yoni Kurtz, 21, a junior at Columbia studying history.

Kurtz and dozens of his Jewish classmates at Columbia have been stunned by a series of incidents, including an assault on campus being charged as a hate crime and a swastika found Friday in a school bathroom. They gathered Monday to say the university’s official response to these reports and others has been inadequate.

“We got to this point because the Columbia administration by their inaction has enabled antisemitic rhetoric to spread,” said Eli Shmidman, who is in his second year at Columbia Law School. Shmidman reported a student who approached him in a main thoroughfare of Jerome Greene Hall in the middle of the afternoon and said “f*ck the Jews.”

Shmidman wears a traditional Jewish kippah and suspects he was targeted. While the law school sent out an email condemning the “antisemitic epithet directed toward a visibly Jewish member of our community,” he said he received few updates about his report or what disciplinary action was taken against the student.

“[College officials] have a real responsibility,” said Julie Rayman, Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs at American Jewish Committee. “Sometimes it’s about getting what you’re saying right — but we’re past that in this moment.”

“The statements … empower or embolden hate or tamp down on it, but action is critical,” she continued. “It’s at such a fever pitch on campus.”

Rayman met Monday with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, and about a dozen other Jewish community leaders. There, Hillel International shared data that since Hamas’ attacks, there have been 7,211 reported incidents on college campuses, including 15 reports of physical harassment. Rayman suspected that is an undercount, reflecting only what gets elevated beyond the news or a campus investigation.

Cornell University’s campus Jewish life organization was under the watch of state and campus police on Monday after death threats and antisemitic messages were posted online against the group, officials said. And last week, Cooper Union came under fire for its response to a pro-Palestinian rally, as Jewish students claimed they were forced to lock down in the campus library amid the protest.

“The university, which knew what was going on, did nothing to stop it,” said Gerard Filitti, an attorney with the Lawfare Project, which focuses on Jewish people’s rights and was in touch with seven or eight Cooper Union students about potential charges. “When this was unfolding, did nothing adequate to protect them.”

At Columbia, university administrators said they were taking action to protect Jewish students.

“As President [Minouche] Shafik and the administration have consistently made clear, antisemitism or any other form of hate are antithetical to Columbia’s values and can lead to acts of harassment or violence,” said university spokeswoman Samantha Slater.

“When this type of speech is unlawful or violates University rules, it will not be tolerated. We are using every available tool to keep our community safe and that includes protecting our Jewish students from antisemitic discrimination or harassment,” she said.

Shafik on Friday sent an email to students and faculty that several antisemitic incidents are being investigated and in some cases, disciplinary actions are already underway. “I want to reiterate that antisemitism, like any form of bigotry, is an assault on everything we stand for at Columbia,” Shafik said. “ Palestinian, Muslim, or Arab students have also been subjected to harassment and targeted by doxing, a dangerous form of intimidation.”

The conflict in the Middle East erupted Oct. 7 with the Hamas terror attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, laregely civilians. Israel’s military has responded with a counteroffensive that is said to have killed more than 8,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

“I’ve definitely heard stories — real tension — in the classroom of students feeling singled out by their professors to express their political views on geopolitical issues, as being held responsible for the actions of a government of which they may or may not support,” said Kurtz, the Columbia student.

Similar dynamics were playing out across the street from Columbia, at Barnard College.

“What happened in Israel to the men, the women, the children, the babies and the elderly is not social justice,” said Jessie Brenner, a sophomore at Barnard. “It’s not resistance, as countless students are saying. It is terrorism.”

“Every day as I walk on campus, I feel dehumanized, I feel unheard, I feel unsafe, I feel abandoned. And I feel like the people who I thought had my back are turning against me simply because I am Jewish.”

She said a group chat was created to escort Jewish students around Columbia’s campus who do not feel safe walking alone.

“How much clearer do we need to be?” asked Brenner. “We do not feel safe here. When will our administration get the message?”


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