Jewish students in Columbia report feeling attacked amid ongoing protests

Days after the president of Columbia University testified before Congress, the atmosphere on campus remained tense Sunday, rocked by pro-Palestinian protests that have drawn the attention of police and the concerns of some Jewish students. Over the weekend, student-led demonstrations on campus led to separate, more agitated protests by demonstrators unaffiliated with the university. Some of these protests took a dark turn on Saturday night, leading to the harassment of Jewish students who were targeted with anti-Semitic vitriol, leaving some fearing for their safety. The acts of anti-Semitism were condemned by the White House and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Jewish students supporting the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus said they felt solidarity rather than a sense of danger, even as they condemned the acts of anti-Semitism. Reports of anti-Semitic harassment surfaced on social media over the weekend, including a video showing a masked protester outside the university gates chanting anti-Semitic remarks. Chabad of Columbia University expressed disgust and concern about the physical safety of Jewish students on campus and hired additional armed guards to escort students walking home from their facilities. Meanwhile, Columbia University officials said they are committed to ensuring the safety of their students and were providing additional support and resources to maintain a safe environment.

The unrest on and around Columbia’s campus stemmed from the university president’s testimony at a Congressional hearing on anti-Semitism, where she pledged to address anti-Semitism on campus by disciplining professors and students in language that could be considered anti-Semitic are. The testimony angered supporters of academic freedom and emboldened protesting students who had set up a tent camp on campus, leading to their arrests. However, police involvement caused further uproar, with students continuing their protest despite being told to leave and some re-erecting their tents without permission on Sunday.

There is a wide range of opinions among Jewish students at Columbia, with some supporting the protests in solidarity with Palestine while denouncing anti-Semitism. While some Jewish students have expressed concerns about the safety of their peers protesting for Palestinians, others feel targeted and unsafe on campus. The tension has led to increased security measures on campus, with one rabbi suggesting that Jewish students should leave until the situation improves. In response, Hillel released a statement calling for increased safety measures on campus and in the city to ensure the well-being of all students.

Despite the differing opinions among Jewish students, there is a sense of solidarity and activism on campus, with different groups coming together to support each other. While some students have experienced anti-Semitic incidents in the past, the recent escalation has raised concerns about campus safety and security. As tensions continue to rise, efforts are being made to restore calm and ensure that all students can coexist peacefully on campus. Going forward, it will be essential for the university and local authorities to address these challenges and create a safe and inclusive environment for all students.