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Rutgers President Rejects Calls to Cut Israel Ties

Rutgers University President Dr. Jonathan Holloway

A message sent out by Rutgers University President Dr. Jonathan Holloway to the campus community rejecting BDS and reiterating plans by the university to move forward with a collaboration with Tel Aviv University has caused an uproar on campus.

The communication comes in the midst of an ongoing referendum vote by the Rutgers University Student Assembly on whether to endorse BDS, which is scheduled to wrap up Sunday, with results to be announced Monday or Tuesday.

A general meeting held last Thursday evening where Holloway spoke to a large student gathering to answer questions devolved into chaos when students shouted at him from the audience as he tried to explain his stance on those issues. A video posted showed them yelling that he and the university were complicit in genocide. The crowd became so raucous that Hollway had to be escorted out by Rutgers Police.

It also came as a pro-Palestinian group known as the Endowment Justice Collective submitted a 56-page request demanding Rutgers divest itself from all its partnerships with Israel, including the initiative with Tel Aviv, which has a memorandum of understanding with Rutgers to establish the Israeli educational institution as part of the Innovation and Technology Hub under construction in New Brunswick and slated to open later this year as a 10-story, 550,000-square-foot, $665 million complex on Albany Street, across from the NJ Transit/Amtrak station.

It is only one of the educational collaborations Rutgers has with Israel educational institutions, all of which are continuing.

The collective is reportedly a reincarnation of Students for Justice in Palestine, several sources told The Jewish Link, which had been suspended for a month by the university for disrupting classes and failing to follow rules of conduct. It has been reinstated with a one-year probation.

On its Instagram page the collective calls itself “a coalition of Rutgers organizations advocating for an endowment fund that isn’t invested in Israeli apartheid.”

In addition to requesting Rutgers sever partnerships with Israeli institutions, its demands include that the university end investment ties with “any firm or corporation materially participating in, benefiting from or otherwise supporting the State of Israel’s settler colonialism, apartheid and genocide of the Palestine and the Palestinian people.” It names such companies as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, RTX Co., Northrop Gruman and L3 Harris, which supply weapons used in Israel’s “murderous campaign.”

“Our demands are motivated by Rutgers University’s complicity in Israel’s genocide, apartheid and settler colonialism of Palestine and its people,” reads the collective. “Through its investments and institutional affiliations, Rutgers maintains ties to Israel’s oppressive regime which directly implicates the University in the campaign of mass murder and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land.”

Rutgers in recent months has been the scene of significant antisemitic and pro-Palestine protest. It is under Title VI investigation by the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for failure to protect Jewish and Israeli students and is under investigation by Congress.

Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, the administrator of Rutgers Chabad, said that Jewish students are afraid. “We have had students spat upon and the [Rutgers] police didn’t really seem to do anything about it,” he said. “Jewish students don’t feel safe on campus.”

Rabbi Carlebach said Chabad is in daily contact with law enforcement, including Rutgers Police, and are “pushing the administration as much as we can.” He praised the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which has been actively pursuing cases of bias against students and, in particular, Detective Sgt. Andrew Winter, its counter-terrorism coordinator, who visits Chabad House with such regularity that many students are on a first name basis with him.

“President Holloway has been trying to be pareve in his matter,” he said. “I understand what he’s trying to do but you can’t be on both sides. Now he is taking a stand and I really do applaud him for saying the university is not cutting ties with Tel Aviv University.”

Despite earlier fears the turbulence on campus might negatively affect Chabad House, which operates a kosher meal plan and has men’s and women’s dorms, Rabbi Carlebach said it has had the opposite effect, with dorm occupancy already at 75 % for September.

“Parents know Chabad House is safe and it is why they are sending their children to Rutgers,” he noted. “We hear time and time again from parents that they feel comfortable with their children living at Chabad House, which is an oasis on campus where they can be proudly and openly Jewish.”


Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly and daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University.

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