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Monday, October 18, 2021
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We are writing in response to the article by Eric Ruskin from August 12, 2021, titled “Defund Hillel? Defund Rutgers.” While the author states that “it is difficult to find a school that is free from the growing phenomenon of campus antisemitism,” he unfairly singles out Rutgers for ridicule without fully exploring the vibrant Jewish life that exists on the campus with the largest Jewish undergraduate population in the country.

At many universities, there have been ugly incidents of antisemitism, and Rutgers is no exception. However, precisely because there is such a strong and supportive infrastructure for Jewish life and learning at Rutgers, and because Jewish individuals, organizations—including NJ Federations—and allies can count on university leadership for constructive partnership and problem-solving, students can feel comfortable participating in Jewish activities while they also work to counter the anti-Israel statements of certain professors and extremist student groups. No place can insulate
students from ever encountering bigotry, but at Rutgers they can see a proper way to combat it; this is an immensely important lesson.

The article misrepresents Rutgers as so full of violent antisemites that our students are cowering in the shadows. In truth, Rutgers is one of the best places to be Jewish, even with the half-dozen incidents that have occurred in the last decade. Furthermore, members of the faculty, staff, administration and student body—as well as off-campus partners such as Rutgers Hillel and Chabad—are actively engaged in collaborative dialogue with the university leadership about expanding the infrastructure to support Jewish life and Jewish studies, and about building on the positive environment for all Jewish members of the Rutgers community.

As those who work both on behalf of Jewish life as well as support the study of Jewish culture, history, language and religion on campus day in and day out, we are best equipped to offer a realistic perspective on the atmosphere at Rutgers for students, faculty and staff. We are proud of the environment for Jewish students on campus, from the Shabbat dinners with hundreds of students attending each week, to myriad other events every day incorporating Jewish learning, community service and Israel activism, to the internationally recognized Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, and the university’s renowned Jewish studies department. Rutgers is a great place to be Jewish and to study Jewish culture, history, language and religion, and Jewish and non-Jewish students are fortunate to have such a great environment at the state university of NJ.

Signed:

Dr. Rebecca Cypess

Co-chair, Jewish Faculty, Administration and Staff Group (J-FAS) at Rutgers-New Brunswick

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Mason Gross School of the Arts

Rabbi Esther Reed

Interim Executive Director, Rutgers Hillel

Dr. Jenny Mandelbaum

Co-chair, Jewish Faculty, Administration and Staff Group (J-FAS) at Rutgers-New Brunswick

Professor, Department of Communication

Dr. Nancy Sinkoff

Academic Director, The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life

Professor of Jewish Studies and History

Karen Small

Managing Director, The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life

Dr. Paola Tartakoff

Chair, Department of Jewish Studies

Professor of Jewish Studies and History

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