An increasing number of Jewish students and alumni are putting pressure on Harvard University to take action against antisemitism on campus.
In light of the continuing Israel-Hamas conflict, more than 1,600 members of the Harvard College Jewish Alumni Association (HCJAA) have signed an open letter denouncing anti-Israel demonstrations at the university. Following the terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7, which resulted in the violent assault, rape, torture, and murder of over 1,200 Israelis, the group was established. The victims of the attacks were primarily civilians. Since the Holocaust, it was the biggest slaughter of Jews in a single day.
“These horrific events were met with acclaim by over thirty Harvard student groups, who called the intentional slaughter of civilians ‘justified’ and claimed that Israel was ‘solely responsible.’ This deluded romanticization of violence has been matched by calls for more violence and the obliteration of the state of Israel ‘by any means necessary,’” the group’s open letter states.
The alumni blasted Harvard for remaining silent during the protests. “We never thought that, at Harvard College, we would have to argue the point that terrorism against civilians demands immediate and unequivocal condemnation,” they wrote to President Claudine Gay and Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana. “We never thought we would have to argue for recognition of our own humanity.”
A request for comment from Harvard University representatives was not immediately answered.
Since 34 student organisations signed a statement released by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups in the hours following the historic attack, which started by accusing the “Israeli regime” of being responsible for “all unfolding violence,” Harvard has been under intense scrutiny.
Days after the incident, President Gay first issued a brief statement in which she declared her condemnation of Hamas’s attacks, but she did not specifically repudiate the student groups’ divisive viewpoint. Since then, she has declared that an advisory council will be established to fight antisemitism on the Harvard campus.
Gay, in a letter to the Harvard community on Thursday, reiterated the university’s commitment to “protecting all members of our community from harassment and marginalisation.”
“Let me reiterate what I and other Harvard leaders have said previously: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard. While confronting any form of hatred is daunting, the challenges we face tackling antisemitism are made all the more so by its pernicious nature and deep historical roots,” Gay wrote. “But we are committed to doing the hard work to address this scourge.”
Harvard, she said, has “started the process of examining how antisemitism manifests within our community and crafting a plan that addresses its complex history, including acknowledging this specific form of prejudice in Harvard’s past.” The school will “implement a robust program of education and training for students, faculty, and staff on antisemitism broadly and at Harvard specifically.”
The HCJAA’s organiser, Rebecca Claire Brooks, told Fox News Digital that her organisation is the first-ever Jewish alumni association at Harvard. They are pleading with Harvard University to act quickly to stop hate speech and antisemitism and to safeguard Jewish students on campus.
“Around the country we are seeing the intense cyberbullying of Jewish students calling for the death of all Jews, screaming at and targeting Jewish students, death threats on Jewish students, disruptive rallies that involve incitements to violence, projections of antisemitic messages onto campus property, and at times, open hostility toward Jewish students and Israeli students by professors and faculty in the course of class,” Brooks said.
The open letter offers a number of actions Harvard should take to combat antisemitism. The HCJAA demands that the institution apply its code of conduct to students and organisations that make anti-Semitic remarks such as “Jews should be gassed” and “all Jews are colonisers deserving of death.”
Additionally, HCJAA wants to see discrimination on the basis of religion and ethnic origin included in the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) framework. “We want the University to adopt a definition of antisemitism that treats speech calling for the obliteration of the Jewish state as antisemitic and speech that treats all Jews as collectively guilty for any policy taken by the Jewish state as antisemitic,” Brooks said.
Additionally, the group is requesting that educators and students receive training on the different forms of antisemitism.
“We think Harvard will be reasonable and will work with us to address this existential problem in higher education,” Brooks added.
Harvard alumni have also made a similar, intercollegiate commitment, pledging to donate just $1 to the university until significant improvements are implemented.
“Since delivering our open letter to the University, growing numbers of alumni have also spearheaded a one-dollar pledge campaign as a means of voicing their disappointment and heartbreak with the University, as well as their desire to see the reforms asked for in the open letter carried into fruition,” Brooks said.
148 former students have publicly vowed to honour the One Dollar Pledge so far.