Colombia U rabbi to Jewish students: Stay away from campus

In an unusual message, Rabbi Elie Buechler tells hundreds of Jewish and Israeli students to return home until 'reality in and around campus dramatically improves'

Tzippy Shmilovitz, New York|
Columbia University’s Orthodox rabbi Elie Buechler sent a message to Jewish students on Sunday, after the end of a tumultuous week of protests against Israel in the New York campus, urging them to stay away from campus "until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved.”
Buechler sent a WhatsApp message to 300 Jewish students. “The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy.”
Protest at Columbia University

Columbia University has been one of the most active centers of anti-Israel protests since the Hamas’ murderous terrorist attack on October 7. Despite lowering tensions at most U.S. campuses in recent months, escalations have remained exceptionally high at Columbia University.
Earlier this week, pro-Palestinian students set up a solidarity with Gaza tent complex on campus, which included several dozen tents. The university asked the New York Police Department to remove the tent, leading to the arrest of over 100 protestors. As a result, demonstrations against Israel reignited on several other campuses in the United States.
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הפגנה פרו פלסטינית מפגינים מחוץ ל אוניברסיטת קולומביה ב ניו יורק ארה"ב
הפגנה פרו פלסטינית מפגינים מחוץ ל אוניברסיטת קולומביה ב ניו יורק ארה"ב
Pro-Palestinian rally outside Columbia University
(Photo: Reuters)
Videos have surfaced on social media in recent days showing Jewish students being verbally assaulted on the streets near Columbia University after leaving campus. In one clip, protestors swore at them and told them to "go back to Poland." In another video, pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted at Israeli students, "We’re all Hamas. Remember October 7, it won’t happen once but ten thousand times over."
Most of these harassments and scares take place outside the campus itself, and the university has no way to restrict freedom of expression, but the sense of insecurity among Jewish students at Columbia is very high.
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הפגנה פרו פלסטינית מפגינים מחוץ ל אוניברסיטת קולומביה ב ניו יורק ארה"ב
הפגנה פרו פלסטינית מפגינים מחוץ ל אוניברסיטת קולומביה ב ניו יורק ארה"ב
Pro-Palestinian protest near Columbia University
(Photo: Getty Images)
"It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved,” Rabbi Buechler wrote. “It is not our job as Jews to ensure our own safety on campus,” he said. “No one should have to endure this level of hatred, let alone at school,” he added.
Columbia University’s president Nemat Shafik testified before Congress last week, on the antisemitism on campus and the university's failure to address the growing violence and the threat to the Jewish students.
Shafik said the university was facing a "moral crisis" with antisemitism on campus, and it had taken strong actions against suspected perpetrators. It had suspended students who participated in unauthorized protests, for example, and terminated a professor who supported the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, she said.
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Minouche Shafik
Minouche Shafik
Nemat Shafik
(Photo: AFP)
"Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who want to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country," Shafik told the committee.
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