A pro-Palestinian demonstration in Washington, Nov. 4, 2023. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
NEW YORK CITY – Jewish college students are now suing their respective colleges, feeling their safety is at risk as antisemitism goes unchecked on several campuses. One attorney tells CBN News some faculty members are even encouraging students to engage in genocidal chants at major universities.
Litigation comes as a widening investigation by private law firms and the Department of Education puts several top American universities under the microscope for allowing their campuses to become hotbeds for antisemitism and bigotry.
Daniella, a 21-year-old freshman at Columbia University, met with CBN News outside the gates of the university to talk about her case against the school's administration.
"There's been protests and demonstrations weekly on campus – chants of "intifada," which means uprising and refers to attacks in the '80s and 2000s," said Daniella. "They're calling for the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people."
Students chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” at @Columbia. We saw what Hamas meant by this.
They want every inch of land – every city, town, kibbutz, settlement, and village - between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and they want it cleansed of… pic.twitter.com/Ss16f4K9aG
— Aviva Klompas (@AvivaKlompas) October 12, 2023
NYC has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel. One in 10 New Yorkers are Jewish according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The New York metro area, including the five boroughs of NYC, and Nassau, Westchester, and Suffolk counties, accounts for 25% of all Jews in the United States, per the Brandeis Steinhardt Social Research Institute.
Columbia University is in the top 15 private universities by Jewish population. Still, Daniella says sometimes she doesn't feel safe, claiming they've failed to protect her against antisemitism.
"Yes and no," Daniella said. "I choose to think that nobody will physically attack me. But do I feel emotionally safe? Do I feel welcomed? Not in the slightest."
Before her studies, she served in the Israeli Defense Forces as part of the search and rescue brigade. After Oct. 7th and the subsequent war, anti-Israel protests flooded the university. Daniella even received a death threat on the anonymous social platform, Sidechat. She's now suing the university for allowing antisemitism to thrive.
"I'm asking for the administration to step in and ensure that antisemitism cannot run free on my campus and I think that's the minimum," said Daniella.
Mark Ressler, a partner at Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres, is representing her case and leading an investigation into several elite universities for similar instances.
"We're talking not just about verbal harassment, anti-Jewish epithets being hurled at students walking to class, but we're also talking about acts of physical violence," said Ressler. "The schools we're looking at are viewed as among the most elite universities in the nation: Columbia, Harvard, MIT – the fact these institutions of higher learning have permitted their campuses to become hotbeds of bigotry is a very sad fact. Shockingly, some of the worst offenders of our investigation has included faculty members – professors who are encouraging their students to engage in genocidal chants."
Ressler believes his case is 'very strong' and is eager to get his hands on the files of administrators and school presidents to show how antisemitism has been able to flourish on campus for 'more than a decade.' Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres is also suing NYU on behalf of three other Jewish students, alleging civil rights violations for its antisemitic education environment.
Plaintiffs are asking universities to follow their federal law obligations, specifically under Title 6 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which protects Jewish students from hatred and bigotry. When asked for an interview by CBN News, Columbia acknowledged the lawsuit and the Department of Education's separate investigation of antisemitism – but refused to comment on pending litigation.
Meanwhile, posters of Israeli hostages have been put up throughout New York City streets in recent weeks. However, many have been defaced and even torn down. Now, Jewish community leaders near NYU's campus are calling it for what it is.
Posters of kidnapped Israelis and Americans torn down at 47th and 6th in New York City, where the Diamond District begins. At least one survived, for now. pic.twitter.com/sPiJnWFdWv
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) October 23, 2023
"This is terrorism!" decried Rabbi Dov Yonah Korn with Chabbad House Bowery. "You have to realize that it is so dangerous to ever say that murder of innocent civilians as a strategy – not as an unfortunate byproduct of war, but to seek out women and children and kill them horrifically; if that is your strategy, your 'response to oppression,' that is a moral response that's a caliber of immorality that can never be sanctioned."
Rabbi Korn leads a Jewish community of more than 1,300 students and young professionals at Chabbad House Bowery near NYU. He says the spike of assaults, vandalism, and harassment against Jews have led to a 30% increase of young Jewish students leaning into their faith.
"This is horrific, but thank G-d the Jewish people react well under fire," said Rabbi Korn. "This has caused such an explosion of Jewish life and Jewish community, Jewish optimism, Jewish faith, and Jewish practice."
The Rabbi says recent events, however, have parents reconsidering sending their kids to NYU and similar universities. Something educational consultant, Jennifer Brozost has seen amid surging antisemitism.
"These are the first questions my clients ask and it's what's on everyone's mind," Brozost said. "Unfortunately, it's a little too late and a lot of these schools are off their list and they're going to other schools."
Breaking News: NYU Students Tear Down Posters
Reports indicate that students at New York University have torn down posters featuring missing Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/xrxjeR3ZL3
— Quantumdeeds (@B_Quantumm) October 17, 2023
Brozost, an alumnus of both NYU and Columbia founded PEAS, Private Education Advisory Service, to help students work with admission departments for more than 15 years. She says the failure of certain universities to stand against antisemitism is having a negative impact on early school choice.
"This could have been a learning opportunity," said Brozost. "But these problems are coming from the top down. These are educational institutions that come with a bias and agenda."
Whether these investigations and lawsuits tarnish the Ivy League reputation is yet to be seen. Now, Jewish leaders encourage allies and partners with the Jewish community to stand against antisemitism as the fight makes its way to our nation's capital. Presidents of MIT, Harvard, and University of Pennsylvania testified before Congress this past week – all of which condemned antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and all forms of hate but agreed further work needs to be done on college campuses. But some of their answers only led to more backlash.