Rabbi London’s Address on the State of College Campuses

Lately, we have been seeing countless images and reports of the campus protests, both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, that have erupted around the country. We have witnessed excessive use of force by police, violence by outside agitators, the takeover of a building at Columbia University, and skirmishes between protestors. We have also seen antisemitic images and signs. However, it is important to recognize that there are Jewish students in the pro-Palestinian encampments as well as those protesting in support of Israel; there is not one monolithic Jewish point of view or experience on US campuses. Personally, it pains me to see the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protests as being separate. As I said last Friday night, I believe that Jewish and Palestinian liberation are bound up together and that our demand should be for freedom, dignity, and justice for everyone who lives in the region, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Tragically, given the ongoing fighting and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, coupled with the trauma that so many have experienced since October 7, the capacity to seek common ground has been in desperately short supply.

Yesterday, I was on a call with Jewish students from UCLA, the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and Tufts University who were speaking about what is happening at their schools. They expressed the importance of protecting diverse views on campus and the right of students to peacefully protest. They agreed that some students are experiencing antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus, but they are also concerned that the media is exploiting these incidents. Some feel that the pro-Palestinian protestors could do a better job spotlighting the plight of Gazans if they called for a bilateral ceasefire and the release of hostages. All of the students emphasized how important it is to recognize the diversity of views within the Jewish student body and to understand that what’s happening on campus is more nuanced and often less volatile than what is being portrayed in the media.

Last week, I sent an email to our Beth Emet college students, letting them know I was thinking about them and eager to support them. Please reach out to me if I can be of service to you or your college-aged children if you or they are experiencing antisemitism or harassment of any kind, upset about developments on campus, or struggling with moral dilemmas and the ongoing suffering in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. These are not easy times for any of us, and we could all use more support and care.

With prayers for peace, the safe return of the hostages, and a speedy end to the suffering,

Rabbi London