After Holocaust Remembrance Day Protest, Young Israel Calls On Columbia University To Combat Anti-Semitism On Campus

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The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) today sent a letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and urged him to take action against the burgeoning anti-Semitism on the university’s campus (a copy of the letter is attached and the full text appears below).

Last week, a group of Columbia students commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day by lighting memorial candles and displaying written testimonials from Holocaust survivors was verbally harassed by student members of an organization entitled Students for Justice in Palestine, who shouted anti-Israel refrains. The NCYI noted that this marks the second consecutive year that Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter took provocative action in an attempt to interfere with the Holocaust Remembrance Day observance.

The NCYI also referenced recurring anti-Semitic acts on Columbia’s campus, which led students in the Students Supporting Israel organization to prepare a detailed accounting of these acts and formally submit it to the university for review.

“We believe that an event held on a college campus as part of the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day is not the time, nor the place, to allow belligerence by a group of students who calculatingly chose to be a disruptive force. We also do not believe that the University should stay silent in the wake of anti-Semitic acts directed at its students,” wrote NCYI President Farley Weiss, NCYI 1st Vice President Dr. Joseph Frager, and NCYI Executive Director Rabbi Marc Volk. “Holocaust Remembrance Day should be a day for reminiscence, reflection and respect, not racist anti-Semitic rants. An entire generation of Jews was brutally murdered by the Nazis and their memories deserve respect from all human beings, irrespective of one’s political beliefs. Inaction in the face of blatant anti-Semitism is not an option and Columbia University cannot and should not turn a blind eye to this type of bigotry and offensive anti-Israel hostility. The concept of ‘Never Again’ is premised on the fact that we can never remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism.”

The National Council of Young Israel urged President Bollinger “to take immediate steps to combat the blatant anti-Semitism that appears to have reared its ugly head on Columbia University’s campus and to ensure that future commemorations of Holocaust Remembrance Day held by Columbia students are shielded from protestors determined to shatter the serenity that this painful and poignant day on the calendar merits.” The letter also called on President Bollinger to publicly speak out and condemn any and all Columbia students who engage in anti-Semitic harassment on campus.

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The following is the text of the National Council of Young Israel’s letter to President Bollinger:

April 16, 2018

Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University
Office of the President
Columbia University
202 Low Library
535 W. 116th Street, MC 4309
New York, NY 10027

Dear President Bollinger,

As a multi-faceted organization that has ably served the broader Jewish community in North America and Israel for over a century, the National Council of Young Israel is writing to express its grave concern regarding a troubling incident that recently took place on Columbia University’s campus.

In accordance with the worldwide commemoration of Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, a number of Columbia students associated with a group called Students Supporting Israel were verbally harassed by members of an organization entitled Students for Justice in Palestine as they were attempting to honor the memories of the six-million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. As the students lit memorial candles and displayed written testimonials from Holocaust survivors in a respectful and appropriate tribute, the raucous group of protestors shouted virulent anti-Israel refrains, thereby deliberately disrupting what should have been a peaceful and solemn memorial display.

This marks the second consecutive year that Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter took provocative action in an attempt to interfere with the Holocaust Remembrance Day observance, which is a disturbing pattern that cannot be allowed to continue.

We fully recognize that different people have different points of view and political ideologies and are entitled to express those divergent opinions in accordance with the provisions set forth in the United States Constitution. As one of the nation’s preeminent First Amendment scholars and a champion of diversity, you of course know this to be the case. However, we believe that an event held on a college campus as part of the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day is not the time, nor the place, to allow belligerence by a group of students who calculatingly chose to be a disruptive force. We also do not believe that the University should stay silent in the wake of anti-Semitic acts directed at its students.

Holocaust Remembrance Day should be a day for reminiscence, reflection and respect, not racist anti-Semitic rants. An entire generation of Jews was brutally murdered by the Nazis and their memories deserve respect from all human beings, irrespective of one’s political beliefs. Inaction in the face of blatant anti-Semitism is not an option and Columbia University cannot and should not turn a blind eye to this type of bigotry and offensive anti-Israel hostility. The concept of “Never Again” is premised on the fact that we can never remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, it appears that there is a chronic problem at Columbia University that warrants your attention and demands action. The recurring anti-Semitic acts on Columbia’s campus, which have thus far not been duly addressed by the administration, led students in the Students Supporting Israel group to prepare a detailed accounting of these acts, which we understand has been formally submitted to the university for review. Pro-Israel students who attend your university have the right to immerse themselves in an academic environment without having to constantly worry about being harassed and disparaged by student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace and Columbia University Apartheid Divest.

We urge you to take immediate steps to combat the blatant anti-Semitism that appears to have reared its ugly head on Columbia University’s campus and to ensure that future commemorations of Holocaust Remembrance Day held by Columbia students are shielded from protestors determined to shatter the serenity that this painful and poignant day on the calendar merits. The demonstration against those commemorating the Holocaust was an act of pure hatred and intimidation that should be investigated by the University as a student code of conduct violation, and you and your administration should ultimately take appropriate action against the students that were involved. In addition, we call upon you, as President of the University, to publicly speak out and condemn any and all Columbia students who engage in anti-Semitic harassment on your campus.

We look forward to your timely response and are eager to learn about the measures that we hope you will implement to address our concerns and those of your students.

Sincerely yours,

Farley Weiss, Esq., President

Dr. Joseph Frager, 1st Vice President

Rabbi Marc S. Volk, Executive Director

1 COMMENT

  1. Get all liberal secular Jews out of the university and anti-Semitism will subside. They hate Jews and would love to see Israel and America destroyed.

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