Meet the Jewish Community Leader At the Center of UPenn Anti-Semitism Scandal

Julie Platt, vice chair of UPenn’s board of trustees and chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, is a vocal supporter of UPenn president Liz Magill

Liz Magill (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images), Julie Platt (Randy Shropshire/Getty Images)
December 8, 2023

As University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill faces pressure to resign amid a growing anti-Semitism scandal, one of her strongest supporters on the university board is also a leader in the Jewish Federations of North America—a group that purports to be leading the fight against campus anti-Semitism.

Julie Platt, who serves as both vice chair of UPenn’s board of trustees and as the chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees, has been one of Magill’s most vocal defenders while other Jewish leaders have called on the UPenn president to step down.

Platt publicly defended Magill’s decision to look the other way as the university hosted noxious anti-Semites at a campus conference in September, including the Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who has dressed in Nazi regalia for his concerts. And she has been tight-lipped since Magill’s disastrous testimony earlier this week on Capitol Hill.

Now critics say Platt is leveraging her role as a Jewish community leader to protect Magill’s position at the university—as anti-Semitism has exploded on campus.

The Jewish Federations are "holding themselves out to be at the tip of the spear of combating anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitism on college campuses," one Jewish community leader told the Washington Free Beacon.

"But what most Federation leaders don't know, and certainly their activist grassroots donors and volunteers don't know, is that she's also the vice chair at the University of Pennsylvania and in that role, has been the public face of defending Magill for months."

Platt’s defense of Magill predates the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. She stood by the UPenn president when the school played host to the "Palestine Writes" conference in September, an event that featured anti-Semitic speakers. This included Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters, who has "dressed in a Nazi-like uniform" and "desecrated the memory of Holocaust victim Anne Frank," according to a letter sent to the school by the Jewish Federation’s Philadelphia chapter.

In October, when Apollo CEO Marc Rowan called on Magill to resign from the UPenn board after Magill declined to condemn Hamas terrorism, Platt publicly backed the UPenn president, saying she had "full confidence in the leadership of President Liz Magill and Chair Scott Bok."

"The university has publicly committed to unprecedented steps to further combat antisemitism on its campus, reaffirmed deep support for our Jewish community, and condemned the devastating and barbaric attacks on Israel by Hamas," said Platt in a statement to the New York Post.

But Platt has been noticeably silent after Magill’s shocking congressional testimony this week, during which she and other Ivy League presidents said calls for Jewish genocide were permitted on campuses. Platt, a former banker, is also co-chair of UPenn Hillel's National Board of Governors and sits on the board of overseers for the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, according to her biography on the Penn Alumni website.

Platt didn’t respond when the Free Beacon asked her on Wednesday to comment on Magill’s testimony. Eric Fingerhut, the CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, also didn’t respond to a request for comment about Platt’s defense of Magill.

Sources told the Free Beacon that Magill is expected to be ousted soon, and could be forced to resign as soon as today.

During a congressional hearing this week, Magill refused to say that calls for genocide of Jews violated the university’s anti-harassment policies. She said that only "if the speech becomes conduct," could it be considered harassment.

Her statements led the Wharton School’s board to call for her resignation. In a letter to Magill, the board said it "has been, and remains, deeply concerned about the dangerous and toxic culture on our campus that has been led by a select group of students and faculty and has been permitted by university leadership."

"As a result of the university leadership’s stated beliefs and collective failure to act, our board respectfully suggests to you and the Board of Trustees that the university requires new leadership with immediate effect."