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May 31, 2021 4:47 pm
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Rutgers Jewish Group Condemns University’s ‘Pattern of Minimizing Antisemitism’ After Apology That Followed Message of Support

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

College Avenue campus at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Photo: TJ DeGroat.

The Rutgers University chapter of Hillel and a leading American Jewish organization have strongly criticized the school over an apology from administrators for failing to support Palestinians in a prior statement that condemned antisemitism.

The original message, issued Wednesday by Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy and Provost Francine Conway, expressed concern over a recent rise in anti-Jewish harassment and violence.

By the next day — after backlash that included a searing denunciation by the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — the two administrators issued what they called “An Apology,” saying that their earlier message had “failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members.”

On Sunday, the apology was slammed by Rutgers University Hillel, which said it gave the impression that “condemnation of antisemitism is some form of anti-Palestinian sentiment.”

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“What SJP and the Chancellor have said, in effect, is that NO condemnation of hatred against Jews, of attacks on Jews, of threats against Jews, is legitimate in and of itself. Such bizarre moral logic is twisted, wrong, and must be condemned,” Hillel said. “One only has to compare the University’s statement in March, condemning anti-Asian prejudice without qualification or reference to any other minority group, to realize just how grossly prejudiced the University’s attitude toward its Jewish community has been.”

As of Monday, web links to both the initial statement and the apology that followed had been redirected to a Saturday statement from university president Jonathan Holloway.

“Rutgers deplores hatred and bigotry in all forms. We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against antisemitism,” the statement said. “Neither hatred nor bigotry has a place at Rutgers, nor should they have a place anywhere in the world. At Rutgers we believe that antisemitism, anti-Hinduism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia are unacceptable wherever and whenever they occur.

Rutgers Hillel called the President’s words an “an important first step” in rebuilding trust, but maintained that the administration “needs to face the fact that the University has an established pattern of minimizing antisemitism.”

It argued that the Chancellor’s response to a deadly December 2019 attack on a kosher grocery store in Jersey City did not specifically mention antisemitism, nor did a March 2021 Rutgers symposium on “Unpacking Hate.”

“Rutgers Hillel calls upon the University administration to acknowledge the pain it has caused the Jewish community, and to sit down with us and together forge a new path towards true diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the group said.

Asked why Rutgers’ initial message Wednesday and the subsequent apology had been removed, a university spokesperson told The Algemeiner that President Holloway’s Saturday note was the university’s official statement, and that it “replaced the previous comments of the chancellor so that there would be no mistaking or misconstruing of the university’s position with respect to antisemitism, hatred and bigotry.”

The spokesperson also said that the president has “had discussions with members of the university’s Jewish community and, of course, will continue to do so to help foster a beloved community where every member of the community feels welcome, where all are respected, heard and appreciated.”

Chancellor Molloy’s office did not immediately respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

The American Jewish Committee shared Hillel’s statement on Monday, tweeting, “@RutgersU has one of the largest Jewish student populations. It’s unacceptable and disturbing that its administration apologized for condemning antisemitism. We stand by our friends at @RutgersHillel working to ensure Rutgers is safe for Jews.”

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