Campus Watch December 21, 2023

A roundup of incidents, good and bad, happening on college campuses.
December 21, 2023

Harvard Chabad Rabbi Says University Forces Them to “Hide” Menorah Overnight “Because There’s Fear That It’ll Be Vandalized”

Harvard University Chabad Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi said in a speech on Dec. 13 that the university forces the Chabad to “hide” their menorah overnight out of fear that it would be “vandalized.”

Jewish Insider reported that Zarchi, who was speaking in front of the menorah at Harvard Yard with Harvard President Claudine Gay in attendance, said: “You know what happens to the menorah? After everyone leaves the Yard, we’re gonna pack it up. We have to hide it somewhere.” This is because the university “would not allow us to leave the menorah here overnight, because there’s fear that it’ll be vandalized.” He added that there will be change “when we don’t have to pack up the menorah.”

Oakland City Councilmember’s Speaking Invitation Revoked from Berkeley Class for “Spreading Pro-Israel Propaganda”

Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb was scheduled to speak at a class in UC Berkeley about environmentalism in November, only to find himself disinvited after students complained that he was “spreading pro-Israeli propaganda” on social media.

The Jewish News of Northern California (The J) reported on Dec. 15 that more than 30 students in the Environmental Problem Solving class co-signed a letter that stating that Kalb is supporting “the apartheid state of Israel and the current and ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”

“If someone wants to go speak about climate change — they are an expert on climate change — what the hell does Israel or Zionism have to do with that?” Kalb, who is Jewish, told The J. “Why not put a yellow star on our sleeve? How about we do that too?”

Kalb also told The J that the adjunct professor teaching the class, Kurt Spreyer, is a “good guy” and that he “pushed back” on the students, but ultimately canceled Kalb’s speaking appearance out of concern that “students would force a conversation about the Middle East” and that there would be protests.

UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof told The J that “instructors are not supposed to rescind invitations for classroom speakers based on student disagreement with the speaker’s views” and that the university is investigating the matter.

Rutgers Suspends SJP

Rutgers University-New Brunswick suspended their Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter on Dec. 11.

In a letter from the university to the SJP chapter obtained by the New Jersey Globe, the university wrote that the “interim suspension” is due to “multiple complaints” that the chapter disrupted several classes and that vandalism at the Rutgers Business School allegedly occurred “while your program was taking place.” Consequently, “the organization is prohibited from participating in any University activity and promoting University programs without express permission from the Senior Student Affairs Officer or their designee.”

The SJP chapter issued a statement claiming that the allegations against them “are attempts to silence Palestinian voices and solidarity” and that the university hasn’t demonstrated that the chapter poses “a substantial and immediate threat to the safety and well-being of others,” per The National Desk.

Yale Condemns Placement of Palestinian Flag Placed on Menorah

Yale University issued a statement on Dec. 10 condemning the “desecration of a menorah” after an unknown individual placed a Palestinian flag on a menorah in the New Haven Green.

“The placement of a Palestinian flag on the menorah conveys a deeply antisemitic message to Jewish residents of New Haven, including members of the Yale community,” the statement read. The university added that the incident occurred “off the Yale campus during a demonstration sponsored by several groups in Connecticut. At this time, Yale has no information as to whether the perpetrator was a member of the Yale community.”

Jewish Federation Chair Named Interim Chair of UPenn Board

Julie Platt, who chairs the Jewish Federations of North America, was named the interim chair of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Board of Trustees on Dec. 9.

Platt takes over for Scott Bok, who resigned on Dec. 8. “As current vice chair, Julie was the clear choice, and we are grateful to her for agreeing to serve in this capacity during this time of transition,” the Board of Trustees said in a statement. “Due to her current commitment as board chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, Julie will only serve until a successor is appointed.”

Platt said in a statement, “As Vice Chair of the university’s board these past several months, I have worked hard from the inside to address the rising issues of antisemitism on campus. Unfortunately, we have not made all the progress that we should have and intend to accomplish. In my view, given the opportunity to choose between right and wrong, the three university presidents testifying in the United States House of Representatives failed. The leadership change at the university was therefore necessary and appropriate. I will continue as a board member of the university to use my knowledge and experience of Jewish life in North America and at Penn to accelerate this critical work.”

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