Columbia rabbi tells Jewish students to go home for their own safety as pro-Hamas protests intensify

"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," the rabbi said.

Published: April 21, 2024 1:24pm

A top rabbi at Columbia University and Barnard College is telling students to go home "as soon as possible," and remain there for their own safety at this time after anti-Israel protesters attacked Jews and hurled antisemitic threats at them.

"What we are witnessing in and around campus is terrible and tragic. 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," Rabbi Elie Buechler said in a mass message to Columbia and Barnard students Sunday morning. 

"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," wrote Buechler, who is affiliated with the Orthodox Union, one of the largest Orthodox Jewish organizations in the U.S.

Buechler said he sent the message to more than 290 Jewish students in response to the "horrific" videos of "protesters on campus calling for Jews to be killed, just off campus Jews being yelled at to 'go back to Poland', text messages I'm getting constantly from Jewish students about how unsafe they feel," according to CNN's Jake Tapper.

Columbia University has been wracked by anti-Israel protests since Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas and other terror groups invaded Israel and killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others. Demonstrations increased over the past week after Columbia University President Nemat Shafik and other school administrators testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee about antisemitism on campus. 

New York Police Department officers arrested dozens of people in connection to a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" protest on campus Thursday but anti-Israel demonstrations continued throughout the weekend. 

A video emerged over the weekend of Jewish students at Columbia being told to "go back to Poland," although about 90% of Polish Jews were killed during the Holocaust. 

In another incident, at least one student continued to show support for Hamas' military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, on Saturday, even though the group, which carried out the Oct. 7 attack, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, Egypt, Canada and other countries. 

A girl stood in front of a group of Jewish students at Columbia who were waving American and Israeli flags on Saturday as she held a sign stating, "Al-Qasam's next targets." 

There have also been multiple reports of pro-Israel people being assaulted at Columbia. For example, Israeli Olympian AJ Edelman posted on X, formerly Twitter, last week a photo of his neck with red marks and the caption, "This is what protests @Columbia result in if you're wearing a kippa."

Jews are not the only ones being assaulted. Video shows Arab Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad was also told to "jump off a building" before being assaulted by a masked demonstrator last week.   

Even though police cleared out the encampment on Thursday, footage from Columbia on Sunday shows students apparently camping out on the quad again as they chant phrases such as "Free Palestine!"

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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