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July 30, 2021 3:54 pm

Jewish Groups Slam ‘Outrageous’ Activist Statement ‘Delegitimizing’ Rutgers Hillel

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey. Photo: Tomwsulcer

On Thursday, Rutgers University Hillel denounced a statement from Rutgers’ Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter and other activist groups that described the administration’s funding of the campus Jewish organization as “investments in apartheid Israel.”

The statement — published Monday on Instagram by both SJP and Rutgers Mutual Aid, (RMA) a community organization unaffiliated with the university — followed Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)’s previous call for the university to condemn the “hate-filled misinformation” posed by an earlier faculty union statement on Israel.

“We, the undersigned, categorically reject Rep. Gottheimer’s slanderous mischaracterization of the statement,” said the letter, which was also signed by over a dozen other groups, including CUNY4Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace-Northern NJ.

“Considering Rutgers’ own endowment investments in apartheid Israel, and prominent campus Zionist organizations such as Hillel, with its history of falsely conflating Palestine advocacy with antisemitism, it is pro-Palestine union members, instructors, students, and organizers who are most at risk of harassment and least likely to receive support against it,” it said.

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The signatories called on the university to explain why it had not agreed to divest from “oppression and injustice,” and to reject “attempts to falsely conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.”

It also charged Gottheimer with ignoring the “the two real threats to Jewish safety today: white supremacy and Zionism itself, which purposely ties all Jews to the Israeli regime and, by extension, its crimes.”

The New Jersey Democrat had urged Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway to send a message of support to Jewish and pro-Israel students, following a statement from a school lecturers union that accused Israel of upholding “a regime of legalized racial
discrimination perpetrated against the Palestinian people.”

In response to the statement, Rutgers Hillel said Thursday that it “appreciates the support Member of Congress Josh Gottheimer and Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway have shown to Jewish students.”

“Campuses have become increasingly hostile to Jewish life amid the national surge in antisemitic hatred, and it is more critical than ever to ensure universities foster an inclusive environment where Jewish and pro-Israel students can live and learn without fear of harassment or abuse,” the group said.

The SJP and Rutgers Mutual Aid statement was publicized on social media by Jewish on Campus, a student-led advocacy group, which called it “filled with antisemitic libels targeting Jewish students and institutions on campus.”

Scott Richman, Anti-Defamation League Regional Director for New York and New Jersey, said that any effort to defund Hillel would be “tantamount to calling for Jews and Jewish life to be ostracized on the Rutgers campus.”

“ADL is shocked by this outrageous statement suggesting that Rutgers blacklist and halt funding for Hillel, which represents Jewish life at Rutgers,” he said on Thursday. “This is simply wrong. ADL stands by our partners at Hillel who provide an essential space for Jews and Jewish ideas, and we call on all people of good will to do so as well.”

On Friday, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called it an “effort to isolate and delegitimize a Jewish institution. It is nothing less than disturbing to try and take away Jewish students’ home away from home and their space to connect with the Jewish community.”

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