June 2, 2024
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Columbia Student Daniella Coen Raises Funds for ‘Bring Them Home’ Stoles

Judah Wahba

The entire country had its eyes on Columbia University as anti-Israel protests on its campus ratcheted up in intensity. The Upper West Side Jewish community, the majority of which live mere subway stops away from the university, was actively looking to help Columbia’s Jewish students.

Enter Columbia student Daniella Coen, graduating from the dual-degree program between Columbia and Tel Aviv University, who provided the community with a perfect way to assist.

Speaking to The Jewish Link, Coen explained that the idea of graduates wearing stoles emblazoned with the words “BRING THEM HOME” as well as yellow ribbons in tribute to the hostages being held in Gaza began circulating among her peers.

In speaking with other students, Coen realized that they were hesitant to purchase the stoles due to the cost. Each stole was approximately $35-$45 and the graduation cap and gown itself was $65.

“With everything unsure about whether graduation was going to even happen or not, or whether all of our money was going to be wasted on top of all those weeks that we didn’t go to school. People were very hesitant to buy it or couldn’t afford it. I didn’t want money to be a reason why people couldn’t wear it. Everyone was ready to wear it. It wasn’t an ideological issue.”

Coen decided to reach out to the Upper West Side Shtetl Facebook group to raise funds. “I know that there are a lot of Columbia alumni in the Shtetl group, I know that there’s a lot of just proud Jewish New Yorkers [and] Israelis, who having us wear [the stoles was] not just for us, not just for the hostages, but all of the Jewish community and the Israeli community.”

Daniella Coen and Lee Tzanani

Once she reached her fundraising goal from the Shtetl, Coen stopped taking donations. What truly amazed Coen was the number of people who responded to her request.

Describing the responses, Coen stated she received a “crazy amount of messages, DMs, people wanting to Venmo money, wanting to sponsor. I would just offer people to choose how many stoles and how many students they wanted to sponsor, and they did.”

The stoles went to Columbia graduates from different schools, such as the School of General Studies, Barnard College, and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Asked by The Link about her actual graduation ceremony, Coen stated that it was a genuine one, although it was program-wide as opposed to school-wide and was not on the Columbia campus.

Painting a meaningful image of the ceremony, Coen stated that the stoles were noticeable, outnumbered the kaffiyehs, and were uplifting to see. “A lot of people commented as I was walking by, saying ‘good for you,’ and ‘that’s beautiful.’ Ultimately, I think it was really impactful.”


Judith Falk is the creator of the Upper West Side Shtetl Facebook group. You can follow her on instagram @upperwestsideshtetl. She is a lawyer by day and a former legal reporter. She and the Shtetl wish all of the graduates of 2024 a hearty Mazel Tov!

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