Lawsuit: Rutgers Law Student Faces Discipline for Reporting Antisemitism

Yoel Ackerman objected to pro-Palestinian video being posted to a group chat.
January 4, 2024
Tomwsulcer/Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

A lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges that an Orthodox Jewish student at Rutgers Law School is facing punishment as severe as expulsion for reporting another student’s antisemitism.

The lawsuit alleges that the Jewish student, 36-year-old Yoel Ackerman, was in a Rutgers Student Bar Association (SBA) group chat in which a student named “J.A.” posted a video titled “3 lies about Palestine.” The video, according to the lawsuit, denies that Hamas committed acts of rape on Oct. 7 and denies that Hamas slaughtered concertgoers at a music festival, despite publicly available video evidence to the contrary. Additionally, the “3 lies about Palestine” video claims that “‘Palestinian resistance fighters’… were ‘kind’ and ‘merciful’ on Oct. 7,” per the lawsuit.

The video concludes: “So why are they lying? It’s called ATROCITY PROPOGANDA. They lie about atrocities in order to incite emotions, hatred and violence. WHY? Because they are the ones planning to commit atrocities themselves. To do this, they need to convince you that Palestinians are barbaric animals, that rape, torture and behead babies. This is a war of information.” The lawsuit alleges that “they,” is “a dog whistle for Jews.” Another student, “M.A.,” replied to the video with a heart emoji.

According to the lawsuit, “Mr. Ackerman was deeply offended and shocked” that the video was shared in the SBA chat, and that Ackerman replied to J.A. by stating: “The SBA has not taken a position on this. Now is not the time for your inciting post.” J.A. doubled down on sharing the video, claiming that he did so in multiple chats as a way of “clearing up propaganda.” The lawsuit further alleges that J.A. later harassed Ackerman by asking him why he was “triggered” by the video and challenged him to debunk the video’s claims.

Ackerman remembered that the Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA) at Rutgers encouraged Jewish students to send them screenshots of harassment, so Ackerman sent them screenshots of J.A. and M.A. In his email to the JLSA, Ackerman wrote that his email contained “receipts” of law students who supported Hamas and the terror group’s atrocities on Oct. 7. The lawsuit argues that Ackerman did this in “good faith” and with the intent of protecting his fellow Jewish students from “harassment, intimidation, bullying and discriminatory conduct.”

Shortly after the email was sent, an unidentified individual who had access to the JLSA’s email account forwarded Ackerman’s message to Sarah Regina, associate dean of student affairs at Rutgers Law School in Newark, and another law school dean. The unidentified individual claimed that Ackerman was “doxing” law school students; the lawsuit denies that Ackerman doxed anyone, claiming that Ackerman “merely shared information that J.A. and M.A. chose to publicly share to members of the Rutgers community, including speech and their names and photographs attached to such speech.”

Instead, Rutgers launched disciplinary proceedings against Ackerman on charges that he defamed and doxed J.A. and M.A. The lawsuit further alleges that the school has denied Ackerman from being “represented by counsel (who cannot speak or otherwise advocate on Mr. Ackerman’s behalf), and have failed to advise him of the witnesses who will testify against him.” Ackerman faces discipline as severe as expulsion or suspension from the law school.

Additionally, the Rutgers SBA has allegedly subjected Ackerman to impeachment proceedings, including a hearing on Oct. 26 in which, according to the lawsuit, no evidence was presented to substantiate the claim that Ackerman knowingly shared private information about other students with malice. “The content and tone of the SBA hearing were designed or allowed to air antisemitic bias with the intent of discriminating, threatening, harassing and bullying the Jewish law students, including Mr. Ackerman,” the lawsuit states. Rutgers suspended the SBA for a week.

Ackerman no longer feels safe on campus, which is why he requested that he attend his classes virtually; his requests were denied by his professors, who allegedly claimed that doing so would violate school policy. However, the lawsuit claims that no such policy exists on the school. Additionally, Ackerman has asked for get a chaperone from the university police to escort him to his car at night due to how unsafe he currently feels on campus, per the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that what Ackerman has allegedly dealt with is tantamount to discrimination and retaliation. He is seeking compensative, punitive and exemplary damages.

I will not be silent in the face of hatred towards Jews.”- Yoel Ackerman

Reporting on Tuesday’s press conference, The Algemeiner quoted Ackerman saying: “Just five days after the largest attack and attempt at genocide against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, one of my peers shared a video that was highly offensive and in my opinion antisemitic … What has resulted since is nothing more than an attempt by Rutgers and other students to silence my right to speak out against antisemitism. I will not be silent in the face of hatred towards Jews.”

David Mazie, one of Ackerman’s lawyers, told National Review, “Yoel Ackerman is being targeted by Rutgers for standing up to antisemitism.  This lawsuit is just one step in our quest to change the culture at Rutgers which has allowed antisemitism to fester.”

A spokesperson for Rutgers Law told TV station WPIX they don’t comment on pending litigation; however, they do take “seriously claims of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of bias and intolerance.  Any such claims are investigated and reviewed, and where appropriate, remedial or disciplinary actions are taken.”

The Rutgers SBA did not immediately respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

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