May 20, 2019

Cornell Student Speaks Out Against Anti-Semitism on Campus

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Cornell student Josh Eibelman spoke out against the festering anti-Semitism on campus in an April 25 op-ed in the Algemeiner and a subsequent phone interview with the Journal.

Eibelman, a junior, wrote that “anti-Semitism at Cornell has been normalized,” highlighting various instances of anti-Semitism that occurred during his tenure at Cornell. One such instance was when he was called “Jewish scum” by a resident in his 2018 dormitory. Eibelman said he reported it to the director of the dorm, but no action was no taken outside of the director announcing what had happened “months later.” He also highlighted the university’s slow response to the three swastikas found in nine days on campus in November.

But Eibelman saved most of his criticism to Cornell’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter.

“The majority of the anti-Semitism comes from SJP and the BDS movement,” Eibelman told the Journal.

In the op-ed, Eibelman cited an incident during the recently failed BDS campaign in which Cornell SJP alleged in a March Facebook post that Cornell Chabad had engaged in “shady politics” by attempting to persuade members of the student government to oppose the BDS movement. However, Cornell Chabad director Rabbi Eli Silberstein said at the time that Chabad had nothing to do with it since the organization is apolitical – the president of the Chabad organization had met with members of the student government but it was not a meeting on Chabad’s behalf, Eibelman told the Journal.

“The idea of Chabad engaging into shady politics steeps into anti-Semitic tropes,” Eibelman said.

Additionally, Eibelman noted in his op-ed that after the BDS vote failed on April 11, a pro-BDS Cornell student vented about the defeat and frequently used the anti-Semitic slur “Zio” in her post. Eibelman told the Journal that the student was “pretty involved” in the BDS campaign and that she later edited her post to replace “Zios” with “Zionists.”

Despite the anti-Semitism on campus, Eibelman praised Cornell President Martha Pollack’s handling of anti-Semitism on campus.

“She took a strong stance against BDS early on, and recently, [when] there was a swastika on campus, she called that out as anti-Semitism,” Eibelman said.

He added that changing the campus climate must occur from “the bottom-up,” as “there are many students who are just not really aware, don’t really fully understand the history of anti-Semitism” and the importance of Israel’s existence to the Jewish community.

“I think the answer to that is education,” Eibelman said. “It won’t convince everyone but it would definitely help make progress.”

Rena Nasar, Tri-State Campus Director and Managing Director of Campus Affairs for StandWithUs, said in a statement to the Journal, “Josh’s account of the antisemitism he’s witnessing at Cornell is disturbing. We stand with him and urge the university to take immediate action by making it clear that such hate has no place on campus.”

The university and Cornell SJP did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.