December 10, 2019

Columbia Updates Statement on Pittsburgh Shooting That Didn’t Mention Jews or Anti-Semitism

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Columbia University revised their initial Oct. 28 statement on the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh after facing criticism for not mentioning Jews or anti-Semitism.

The initial statement, which was sent out to the Columbia community from Columbia’s student life office, says that they are “deeply saddened by the senseless violence” and they “stand strongly against these efforts to create fear and terror.”

“For some in our community, this is a particularly frightening time as we have seen a growing number of highly visible attacks directed at faith and identity – on worshippers and people of faith as they go through their daily lives, on groups gathered to celebrate an LGBT Latin night at Pulse Nightclub, on civil rights and anti-racist protesters in the streets of Charlottesville, and in so many other places, as occurred in last Wednesday’s shooting of two African-American shoppers in Kentucky,” the statement read. “Please know that you are not alone, and that you are a part of this community founded on the fundamental dignity and worth of all.”

Zachary Neugut, a Columbia alumnus, tweeted on Oct. 28 that he was “embarrassed” by the university’s email.

“Classic @Columbia to send an email about the #TreeOfLifeSynagogue shooting and mention anti-LGBT and anti-black hatred but NOT ANTI-SEMITISM,” Neugut wrote. “The world has gone mad, I’m embarrassed today to call myself an alumnus & regret having donated to @CC_Columbia this year. #Columbia”

Neugut tweeted on Oct. 29 that Columbia apologized to him in a private Twitter message and revised their statement. The statement now reads, “We are deeply saddened by the horrific anti-Semitic attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday morning. Violence in our nation’s houses of worship is an affront to the freedoms our community holds dear. We stand strongly against yesterday’s violent attack on the Jewish community and against other efforts to create fear and terror.”

“They shouldn’t make this mistake in the first place and their new statement is barely better,” Neugut tweeted. “Conflating anti-Semitism with other hatreds is idiotic.”

Neugut elaborated further in a Facebook message to the Journal that anti-Semitism “has nothing to do with the other ‘forms of oppression’ (though those are obviously also bad).”

“Instead of taking an intersectional approach which dilutes the focus from Jewish oppression immediately after the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, the focus should be on anti-Semitism,” Neugut wrote.

Negut added that he was angered by Columbia’s initial statement because he “had only amazing experiences” at Columbia up till that point.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in an email, “11 Jews are mass murdered in a synagogue on Shabbat morning by a gunman who was screaming ‘kill all Jews’ and a university in New York City with massive Jewish alumni is caught disrespecting a grieving Jewish people? Updating? How about a wake-up call for all universities to stop coddling anti-Semites on their campuses?”

“These academics get an F,” Cooper added. “They simply refuse to say the A word. And too many university leaders refuse to deal with anti-Semitism on their own campuses leaving Jewish students targets for anti-Semitic intimidation and worse.”

“This refusal to recognize, let alone combat, anti-Semitism explains why the Simon Wiesenthal Center supports a Congressional bill to define the term, so the U.S. Dept. of Education can finally defend Jewish students when Universities won’t.”

Columbia had not responded to the Journal’s request for comment at publication time.