Chancellor Schwartz Responds to Protests on Columbia University’s Campus 

On the eve of Passover, a festival commemorating liberation and freedom, we are both shocked and horrified by the unfolding events just blocks away on the Columbia University campus. Columbia and Barnard, which serve as an academic home for our List College students, are key allies in JTS’s educational endeavors and are cherished members of our local community. Despite this deep partnership, the events of the past week have caused many to feel vulnerable and anxious. 

Ensuring the safety and well-being of the JTS community is always our top priority. We maintain close communication with Columbia’s Public Safety team, the New York Police Department, Columbia/Barnard Hillel, and the university administration. Our students are encouraged to seek out support services offered by their academic deans, faculty mentors, the JTS Counseling Center, and our security team, allowing them to fully engage in the learning that brought them to JTS.

What is happening on the Columbia campus serves as a microcosm of a broader societal problem—the breakdown of constructive discourse and the inability to understand and respect differing viewpoints. The morphing of what might be legitimate debate into the worst and most aggressive forms of antisemitic expression is horrifying for us as Jews and as Americans. It must be unequivocally condemned, and it is particularly antithetical to everything that our universities teach and foster. 

JTS, as both a Jewish and an academic institution, will continue to play an essential role in educating and addressing this intellectual and social ill. This is what led us to recently host an important convening entitled “Antisemitism and Allyship” where scholars, religious leaders, public servants, campus chaplains, and List College students discussed topics related to antisemitism in all its forms, learned about the allyship that has been essential throughout the ages, and engaged in the type of dialogue that is so desperately needed during this divisive time.

Over the past months, President Shafik and I have been meeting and building a relationship of trust, honesty, and open dialogue. The quote she shared in her recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks echoes our conversations: “Antisemitism is always an early warning sign of a dangerous dysfunction within a culture because the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.” 

Even as we remain focused on the welfare and education of the students in our care, we will continue to diligently seek out and tend to all the ways in which we, together with our allies, can further this vital work of addressing the broader problem of antisemitism in our universities and in society at large.

All of us at JTS wish you a serene and contemplative Passover, in which we may find some welcome, if muted, joy.