Statement Regarding the University and Antisemitism

May 30, 2021

The last few weeks have been exhausting and terrifying for Jews everywhere. We have seen an eruption of violent antisemitism unparalleled in the last 75 years.

Jews have been assaulted on the streets of New York and Los Angeles, synagogues and even Jewish preschools have been vandalized. This week the Governor of New York felt compelled to order state troopers to protect Jewish spaces. According to FBI statistics, 60% of all religion-based hate crimes are against Jews, despite the fact that we are only 2% of the population, a statistic that has remained steady for over 20 years.

Here in New Brunswick in recent weeks, identifiably Jewish students have been verbally assaulted, some report having their car tires slashed. This follows, of course, on the heels of vandalism at the AEPi House, a Jewish fraternity, on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day.

Contributing to feelings of fear and intimidation, the torrent of hatred spewing from social media is unprecedented. It has been called a “social media pogrom.” The lack of support from the media, political leaders, celebrity influencers, and our university, has compounded our sense of isolation.

On Wednesday of last week Chancellor Christopher Molloy issued a statement acknowledging “the sharp rise in hostile sentiments and antisemitic violence in the United States” as well as “recent incidents of hate directed toward Jewish members of our community.” He went on to connect these to other injustices in America, referencing Asian American Pacific  Islanders, Hindus, Muslims, indigenous peoples, and the murder of George Floyd.

But Thursday, Chancellor Molloy issued a new statement: what amounted to an apology for having condemned antisemitism, spurred by a campaign by Students For Justice In Palestine. In a six page instagram message, SJP expressed outrage that any acknowledgement of antisemitism could occur without also condemning Israeli policy regarding Palestinians.

Even though his original statement already condemned all forms of bigotry, because it specifically called out antisemitism, the Chancellor chose to apologize for having “failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members.” As if condemnation of antisemitism is some form of anti-Palestinian sentiment.

What SJP and the Chancellor have said, in effect, is that NO condemnation of hatred against Jews, of attacks on Jews, of threats against Jews, is legitimate in and of itself. Such bizarre moral logic is twisted, wrong, and must be condemned.

One only has to compare the University’s statement in March, condemning anti-Asian prejudice without qualification or reference to any other minority group, to realize just how grossly prejudiced the University’s attitude toward its Jewish community has been.

Taking a positive step, on Saturday President Holloway issued a “Statement on Hatred and Bigotry,” affirming that Rutgers “deplores hatred and bigotry in all forms. We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against anti-Semitism.”

We welcome this statement as an important first step in rebuilding the trust which is essential and desired by all. But the still relatively new Rutgers Administration needs to face the fact that the University has an established pattern of minimizing antisemitism.

  • When a violent antisemite murdered several people at a kosher grocery in Jersey City in 2019, intending to kill Jewish children in the school next door, the Chancellor’s statement condemning the murders somehow managed to avoid any mention of Jews or antisemitism! When Hillel leadership expressed our indignation at this gross oversight, we were met with a stony refusal to acknowledge the issue. Indeed, erasure of Jews and hatred of Jews was no oversight. It was intentional, a feature not a bug.

  • This past March 2021, the University announced a symposium called Unpacking Hate, which specifically referenced racism, Islamophobia, anti-Asian bias, etc…but made no reference to antisemitism. Despite the global and national rise in anti-Jewish hatred, despite the evidence in FBI hate crime statistics, despite the targeted murder of Jews right here in New Jersey, when a university symposium to discuss hate and prejudice was convened, prejudice against Jews was not even a consideration alongside other forms of hatred.

The University has demonstrated a pattern: when it comes to recognizing prejudice and bias, Jews don’t count. The University seems unable to recognize that Jews are a vulnerable minority and that anti-Jewish prejudice is real. This repeated erasure of Jewish concerns and identity is painful and bewildering to every member of the Rutgers Jewish community.

Rutgers University is home to over 6,000 Jewish undergraduates, perhaps the largest such population of any campus in America. We have the largest Hillel in the country and an internationally renowned Jewish Studies department. With such incredible resources at hand, we continue to believe that Rutgers truly is a great place to be Jewish. Unfortunately, too often our university appears, at best, to take our community for granted. On behalf of the Jewish students, parents, and alumni of Rutgers; the Jewish community of New Jersey, and Jews across America; and all people of goodwill, open hearts and common sense; Rutgers Hillel calls upon the University administration to acknowledge the pain it has caused the Jewish community, and to sit down with us and together forge a new path towards true diversity, equity, and inclusion.