Jewish Students Speak Out as University Leaders Answer to Congress 

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Leaders of some of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. were in the hot seat today during a Congressional hearing to address the rise in antisemitism. Since the October 7 attacks on Israel, there has been a serious uptick in reports of antisemitism.

The highly anticipated House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing occurred just after a press conference where House Republicans hosted Jewish students from many of the universities that have seen an alarming rise in antisemitism. 

“In 2023 at NYU, I hear calls to ‘gas the Jews,’ and I am told that ‘Hitler was right,’” said Bella Ingber, a junior at New York University (NYU). 

“70 percent of MIT Jewish students polled, feel forced to hide their identities and perspectives,” said Talia Khan, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and President of the MIT Israel Alliance. “This is not just harassment. This is our lives on the line,” added Khan, who was one of several Jewish students who spoke up today about their recent experiences with antisemitism. 

Many of them say they feel threatened daily, not just by fellow students, but faculty and staff as well. 

“’You’re a dirty little Jew, you deserve to die,’ are words said not by Hamas, but by my classmates and professors,” said Eyal Yakoby, a senior at the University Pennsylvania (UPenn). 

“Being a Jew at NYU is being surrounded by students and faculty who support the murder and kidnaping of Jews. Because, after all- as they say- resistance is justified when people are occupied,” said Ingber. 

Presidents of prestigious universities like Harvard, Penn and MIT were in the hot seat Tuesday as they testified in front of members of Congress. 

“Unfortunately, many of our university leaders have not met this moment and have allowed antisemitism to continue to grow and to rear its ugly head,” said Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R- PA).

House Republicans raised concerns about a lack of discipline and action against students, faculty and campus organizations who they say are displaying antisemitism. 

The three presidents have all condemned the Oct. 7 attacks and antisemitism, and say they’re working tirelessly to hold those who’ve violated university rules, accountable. 

“Antisemitism, an old viral and pernicious evil, has been steadily rising in our society, and these world events have dramatically accelerated that surge,” said UPenn President Liz Magill.  

Magill and the other leaders believe more needs to be done, especially when it comes to education about Jewish history and antisemitism. 

“We must get this right. The stakes are too high,” Magill added. 

Some Democrats echoed similar concerns during the hearing as their Republican colleagues. Others said, despite being exacerbated by the Israel-Hamas war, antisemitism has been on the rise for years. 

“To be clear, this discrimination is nothing new on college campuses—indeed, nothing new in society generally.  Any student of history knows that it did not start with the October 7th attacks; or any one new event; and it didn’t start with diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.  My colleagues would do well to recall this country has a centuries-long history of racism and white supremacy,” said the committee’s Ranking Member, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D- VA).

“Of note, this is an opportunity that my Republican colleagues denied us in 2017 when Committee Democrats called for a hearing six years ago on campus discrimination when white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia grounds shouting, ‘Jews will not replace us!’,” Scott added. 

Scott and other Democrats on the committee called out Republicans for recent rhetoric suggesting to cut the Department of Education and its Office of Civil Rights, which is responsible for upholding students’ civil rights and investigating discrimination claims. 

“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t call for action and then hamstring the agency charged with taking that action to protect students’ civil rights,” said Rep. Scott. 

Democrats say the Biden administration is working to help institutions protect students as part of the White House’s National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism.