In a chilling revelation, the President of Cornell University, Martha E. Pollack, announced that the institution’s police are currently investigating a string of antisemitic threats aimed at the Jewish community within the university that surfaced online over the past weekend.
Unaffiliated with Cornell, the online posts contained disturbing, antisemitic vitriol, openly calling for violence against the Jewish community at Cornell. These posts terrifyingly singled out 104 West, a building within the university serving as home to the Center for Jewish Living.
Over the course of Sunday, the threats escalated to an unthinkable level, with promises of violence against Jewish students, particularly at the 104 West building, home to their kosher dining hall. The messages were disturbing, even encouraging others to inflict harm on Jews.
Such burgeoning tension reverberates across US colleges as conflicts between Israel and Hamas rage in the Middle East. In various universities, especially prestigious institutions like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, students actively protest as administrators grapple with addressing diverse student concerns amidst backlash from influential donors insisting on definitive stances regarding the conflict.
Antisemitic incidents have surged dramatically across the US, witnessing an increase of nearly 400% following the October 7 Hamas-led attacks, as per data from the Anti-Defamation League.
Responding promptly to the escalating situation, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, in a show of solidarity, announced the bolstering of security measures on Cornell’s campus. Condemning the instigators of such threats as “terrorists,” Hochul sternly warning anyone who intends to unleash harm, asserting that they would not be provided any sanctuary.
Michigan-born Governor Hochul, standing alongside Pollack in front of Cornell’s Center for Jewish Living, assured students that security measures would increase as she echoed a powerful message assuring zero tolerance against hate, antisemitism, or any form of hatred targeting vulnerable groups.
Policing officials hailing from the university’s department have also ramped up their patrols to ensure student safety, arranging additional protection for Jewish students and organizations. This was made possible through continued communication with these groups.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced a new set of measures, specifically designed to combat rising antisemitic incidents on various college campuses nationwide, following a spate of terror attacks by Hamas on Israel.
The usernames of those participating in this online onslaught against the Jewish community at Cornell included the phrase ‘Hamas’. The university’s police department and the FBI are exploring these incidents as potential hate crimes.
Cornell’s Jewish populace comprises 22% of the student body, standing tall with approximately 3,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate Jewish students. In response to the threats, authorities have already positioned themselves at 104 West, aiming to create a safe environment for students and community members, concluded the President in her Sunday address.
In the face of these heart-wrenching episodes, Cornell senior and Jewish student, Zoe Bernstein expressed her pain and fright. She shared the deep distress, fear, and unrest these threats have nurtured within the university’s Jewish community.
Bernstein, who is also the President of Cornellians for Israel, an organization intended to connect students with Israel and offer community and educational events, expressed that the circumstances are acutely distressing to her and others like her who have familial histories marked by the Holocaust and pogroms.
Sharing her dire concerns, Bernstein wishes for a swift resolution to the escalating discord. Hoping for peace and security to prevail, she expressed how the threatening scenario has deeply affected academic life and overall functionality. She voiced her earnest wish for violence to never be a part of the Cornell University campus.