June 19, 2024
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June 19, 2024
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Rutgers President Reaches Out to Jewish Groups

One of the core tenets of Judaism is that people can recognize when they, or the groups they lead, have made a serious misstep and take decisive steps to correct their error. We believe that people can change; we call that teshuva.

Judging from three recent efforts by Rutgers University President Dr. Jonathan Holloway, it appears that his administration is taking solid steps to do teshuva for its lackluster condemnation of antisemitism last month.

Rutgers Hillel reported in a Facebook post on June 9 that the Rutgers president met with Rutgers Hillel leaders and others at the Hillel building earlier that day.

As Rutgers Hillel Director Andrew Getraer stated to the Jewish Link: “Rutgers Hillel requested the meeting, following the recent controversy surrounding the university’s recent statements regarding antisemitism. The meeting was held at the Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House, which gave Hillel leadership the opportunity to provide President Holloway with a tour of the facility and a deeper background regarding the history, vibrancy and diversity of Jewish life on campus.

“Because he joined the university during COVID, President Holloway has been unable to visit in person previously. We discussed the history of Jews at Rutgers and how antisemitism manifests itself here, sharing various examples. We also discussed how antisemitism differs from many other forms of bigotry, and the blind spots that it creates among administrators and students alike. We explored various ideas for educating university administrators regarding antisemitism. He requested to be invited to a Hillel Shabbat dinner next fall.”

“ It is clear to us that President Holloway genuinely desires to learn and improve the campus climate,” Getraer continued. “Today was the beginning of building a productive and essential long-term relationship between the president, Hillel and the Jewish community at large.”

Rutgers Chabad sent out a press release on June 10, highlighting the Rutgers president’s visit to their building that morning. According to the press release: “Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Founding Rabbi and Executive Director of Chabad House, welcomed the new President of Rutgers University, Dr. Jonathan Holloway, and his Chief of Staff Andrea Conklin Bueschel. Today’s meeting was attended by Chabad House staff rabbis and administrators and addressed issues in regards to current events and the upcoming school year. Dr. Holloway expressed his pleasant surprise at the scope of Chabad House activities on campus and pledged full cooperation from Rutgers leadership to provide a safe, happy and successful environment for the new year.”

Rabbi Carlebach added, in a statement to The Jewish Link: “Chabad House’s rabbis, staff, students and supporters were honored by President Holloway’s visit to our building this week and his genuine interest in our work and our perspective. We were also impressed by his understanding of the deep concerns of our community as it faces outbreaks of antisemitism on campus and in nearby areas. We look forward to working with him and his very capable leadership team in the years ahead.”

Holloway offered to return to Chabad House in the upcoming year to speak with students and community members. On Rabbi Carlebach’s suggestion, he also said he would consider participating in a trip sponsored by Rutgers-Chabad to visit Israeli colleges and universities. In discussing the statements about antisemitism by members of the Rutgers administration last month, Rabbi Carlebach said that the Rutgers president “understood clearly (that) what happened was wrong and is taking steps so it will not happen again … he took full charge and responsibility and wants to move forward.”

In their weekly “Friday Light” email newsletter to community members in Middlesex and Monmouth counties on June 11, Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey Executive Director Susan Antman and President Cheryl Markbreiter reported that Federation leaders met that week with Holloway as well. “This week, Federation leaders met with Rutgers University’s President Holloway about the recent alarming comments by administration members. We appreciate the meaningful dialogue and look forward to working together to ensure Rutgers remains safe and welcoming for all, with opportunities for vibrant Jewish life.”

Antman elaborated for The Jewish Link: “We engaged in a meaningful conversation with Rutgers leadership about antisemitism and bias, as well as critical steps for moving toward a more informed, respectful and safe academic and campus life environment.”

By Harry Glazer and Debra Rubin

 

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