JCRC Statement on Alarming Anti-Jewish University Protests

JCRC Statement

The following is a statement from Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington:

“This week, as Jewish people celebrated the Passover story of freedom and liberation,  we also marked 200 days since Hamas’ barbaric attack on October 7  — the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Seder tables around the world featured an empty chair, as we held in our hearts the innocent people still held hostage by Hamas and mourned all those who have lost their lives in Israel and Gaza as a result of an unprovoked terrorist massacre.

Amid such a profound and somber moment, it is outrageous that protestors at colleges and universities nationwide have marked this moment in a completely different fashion: by ratcheting to an even higher degree their months-long campaign to threaten, harass, intimidate, and ultimately drive out Jewish members of their communities. And it is infuriating that so many college and university leaders have chosen to sit by and watch rather than stand up for and support their Jewish students, faculty, and staff in their hour of need.

The current campus climate for Jewish people throughout the country has no modern equivalent. The Anti-Defamation League documented 922 antisemitic incidents on college campuses in 2023 — a staggering 321% increase over 2022. More than 700 of these incidents occurred after October 7th, when Jewish people were reeling with shock and grief. Time and again since that horrific day, we have witnessed the complete and utter failure of college and university leaders to provide a safe and secure learning environment for people of Jewish faith.

This cruelty manifests on many campuses in varying ways, but the recent events at Columbia University represent a deeply unsettling microcosm of the current environment: protestors condoning terrorists, encampments that disrupt learning and safety and prevent Jewish students from attending classes, and calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of the state of Israel. The end result is Jewish students, faculty, and staff feeling unwelcome, unsupported, and unsafe.  

As strong proponents of free speech and peaceful assembly, we believe deeply in the right of all people — even those with whom we strongly disagree — to make their voices heard. But threats and actual instances of violence cross the free speech line. With good reason, no institution of higher education would ever tolerate this type of vitriol directed towards any other racial, ethnic or religious group; yet it is somehow deemed acceptable when the targets are Jewish. The inability and unwillingness to protect Jews amounts to a cruel double standard and demonstrates stunning cowardice. It is extraordinary to see administrators, faculty members, and students having the gall to side with terrorists instead of denouncing antisemitism and embracing their Jewish colleagues and peers.

American Jews will not accept second-class status in our own country. Any campus leader too afraid to take a stand against extremists should step down; any student who threatens or harms Jewish members of the campus community simply because of their faith should face discipline up to and including expulsion. We cannot allow this current reality to become a new normal.

Our message to every Jewish person on every college and university campus in America is simple: we are with you. You are not alone. Extremists will never win. And we will do everything in our power to ensure you can live open and proud Jewish lives.”