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December 14, 2021 5:03 pm
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US Rep. Gottheimer Condemns Antisemitism on ‘Far Right and Far Left’ at Rutgers Hillel

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) speaks with Rutgers University Students at Rutgers Hillel on December 13, 2021. Photo: Office of Congressman Josh Gottheimer

New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer spoke at Rutgers University Hillel on Monday evening, condemning antisemitism across the political spectrum and addressing two controversies on campus this year that frustrated Jewish students.

“As we all know, antisemitism is nothing new. We have certainly faced more virulent, painful, and punishing moments in out history. But in recent years, what had been simmering beneath the surface has now been uncorked and we are seeing it rear its ugly head from extremists both on the far right and far left,” Gottheimer said in his remarks, delivered at the newly constructed Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House.

The Democratic lawmaker pointed to an ADL survey in March revealing that 63% of American Jews had heard antisemitic comments or threats in the past year — and noted that he himself was among them, describing slurs issued online and in-person remarks made in New Jersey and in the “halls of Congress.”

“Not long ago, I held an event in my district to talk about the benefits of the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill, only to have members of the Working Families Party disrupt the event by screaming ‘Jew’ at me,” he continued. “What has our country come to?”

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Gottheimer, who grew up and attended Hebrew school in northern New Jersey, addressed a July statement by the Rutgers part-time faculty union that accused the Israel state of war crimes during its May conflict with Hamas, calling it “disgraceful.”

He also discussed a May episode in which Rutgers University Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy and Provost Francine Conway issued an “Apology” for a previous statement that denounced rising antisemitism because, they said, it “failed to communicate support for Palestinian community members.”

“It was even more sickening that the university felt that it had trouble defending the pro-Israel students on campus and stand up to such blatant antisemitism. They had to back down from the initial comments of support,” Gottheimer said Monday.

Days after the “apology” in May, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway issued a third statement saying that the school “deplores” hatred and bigotry and that it “would not, nor would [it] ever, apologize for standing against antisemitism.”

Holloway joined Gottheimer at the Hillel event on Monday, and told local outlet TAPinto New Brunswick that the administration had “stumbled” during the episode.

“Look, any opportunity where one stumbles is a learning opportunity,” Holloway said. “I’m not going to linger over issues of regrets because we should always be doing better, and I think we’ve cleared up our pathways to do that.”

In his speech introducing Gottheimer, Holloway added, “I speak a lot about the beloved community at Rutgers. I believe our commitment to that goal compels us to respect and protect the dignity of our Jewish community to ensure that students of all faiths and traditions are supported and appreciated.”

“That means, of course, speaking out against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry. It also means doing our best to create a climate of respect. Not always agreement, but respect for our fellow members of the Rutgers community,” he said.

Decrying activity directed at Jewish students by groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Gottheimer also called on Rutgers to reject the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which he described as “antisemitism dressed up as political purity.”

“Many students have also witnessed hostile antisemitic tropes and rhetoric associated with aggressive BDS tactics here,” he noted. “For example, the campus student group Students for Justice in Palestine has not only called for BDS, they have vocally and repeatedly spoken out against fellow students, the Jewish community, and Hillel for being Zionists.”

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