Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Like Debra Rubin, we are deeply concerned by the recent program “Know Your Rights: College Activism on Palestine,” presented by the Center for Security, Race and Rights, a center affiliated with the Rutgers Law School on the Rutgers-Newark campus (“Is Rutgers Advising BDS Allies?,” April 27, 2022). However, Rubin misleads her readers when she implies that this program or the center represent Rutgers University as a whole.

Rutgers is a massive and highly complex institution, with dozens of centers and institutes in addition to departments in virtually every field of study. The university administration rarely, if ever, curtails the research or programming of these centers. To do so would set a dangerous precedent—one that few university professors would be eager to establish.

Far more important than this center are the actions and words of the official Rutgers administration. In November 2021, President Jonathan Holloway signed a landmark memorandum of understanding with Tel Aviv University (TAU) to enhance research collaborations and establish TAU’s foothold in the NJ Innovation and Technology Hub in New Brunswick (https://www.rutgers.edu/news/rutgers-and-tel-aviv-university-enter-partnership-boost-research-collaboration). This MOU effectively shut the door on BDS advocates at Rutgers.

Moreover, numerous members of the administration have participated throughout the year in Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative, where they have received training designed to support the welfare of Jewish members of the campus community.

Disturbingly, antisemitism has been on the rise on many college campuses. Throughout academia one can find people whose antipathy to Israel crosses over into antisemitism. At Rutgers there have recently been antisemitic incidents at AEPi, the Jewish fraternity. But the university administration and the police responded swiftly, launching an investigation, reaching out to the affected students, and issuing a statement that made it clear that such incidents would be treated with the utmost seriousness (https://newbrunswick.rutgers.edu/chancellor-provost/communications/reported-incident-harassment). The investigation is ongoing.

As noted in a previous letter, co-authored with other Jewish campus leaders (https://jewishlink.news/letters/46173-rutgers-has-vibrant-jewish-life-on-campus), we are proud of the supportive environment for Jewish students, faculty and staff members at Rutgers--an environment that has been created intentionally by Jews and non-Jews alike. With our students, we pursue knowledge through open inquiry in a community characterized by a spirit of tolerance, curiosity and generosity. While the ugliness so often seen in the wider world sometimes manifests itself at Rutgers, Jewish life on campus is overwhelmingly positive.

Faculty and staff members who wish to be included in activities of JFAS (Jewish Faculty, Administration and Staff) are welcome to contact us.

Rebecca Cypess, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
Co-Chair, JFAS (Jewish Faculty, Administration, and Staff)
David Greenberg, Professor, Department of History and Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University
Co-Chair, JFAS
Jenny Mandelbaum, Professor Emerita, Department of Communication
Co-Chair, JFAS
Rabbi Esther Reed
Interim Director, Rutgers Hillel
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