'I Do Not Feel Safe': Jewish Students Call Out Anti-Semitism on Campus

December 5, 2023

House Republicans hosted Jewish students from four of America's elite colleges for a press conference Tuesday, where they described a climate of anti-Semitism on their campuses.

"As a student, despite what my university says, I do not feel safe," said University of Pennsylvania senior Eyal Yakoby. "Let me be clear: I do not feel safe."

Yakoby described several incidents on campus since Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks. They included "a bomb threat against Hillel, a swastika spray-painted, the Hillel and Chabad houses vandalized, a professor posting an armed wing of Hamas's logo on Facebook, a Jewish student accosted, 'Jews are Nazis' etched adjacent to Penn's Jewish fraternity house."

He also referenced a Dec. 3 protest that saw participants vandalize school property with graffiti calling for an "intifada" and chant in Arabic, "From water to water, Palestine will be Arab."

Three Jewish students from other top schools joined Yakoby at the press conference.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Talia Khan, the president of the school's Israel Alliance, complained that she was "immersed in an extremely toxic anti-Semitic atmosphere."

"For my part," she said, "I was forced to leave my study group for my doctoral exams halfway through the semester because my group members told me that the people at the Nova music festival deserved to die because they were partying on stolen land."

She also said that the school's interfaith chaplain publicly threatened Jewish students; that diversity, equity, and inclusion staff claimed Israel has no right to exist; and that faculty told students that if they are scared they should "just go back to Israel."

New York University student Bella Ingber spoke about "being a Jew at NYU" and compared conditions at the school to those in Nazi Germany.

"Since Oct. 7," Ingber said, "the unmistakable anti-Semitism that I have experienced on campus is reminiscent of the Jew-hatred I've heard about from my grandparents, Holocaust survivors who experienced first-hand the deafening silence of their neighbors in Poland and Germany when the Nazis first rose to power."

Ingber added that she has heard calls to "gas the Jews" and was told "Hitler was right." She also claimed that a person physically assaulted her in a library while she wore an American-Israeli flag.

Harvard Law School student Jonathan Frieden described the fear that many Jewish students feel.

"I talk to my Jewish friends on campus every day," he said. "They tell me how afraid they are to go to class. They share hate messages they are receiving from other students on social media, including comparing Jews to Nazis. And they ask us, and ask me, for safety advice because of the lack of effective communication from the university."

Frieden described an incident where pro-Palestinian protesters swarmed a law school building he was inside while they chanted slogans including "from the river to the sea" and "globalize the intifada." He witnessed Jewish students take off their yarmulkes and one student hide underneath a desk, he said.

All four students also lambasted their administrations, alleging that they have not properly addressed the anti-Semitic climate on campus.

College administrations across the country have come under fire for their responses in the wake of Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks. The presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn testified to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about the state of their campuses after the press conference, where Republicans showed them footage of anti-Israel protests at their schools.