July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Targeted Orthodox Student to Transfer From Rutgers Law School

An Orthodox Rutgers University law student who faced possible expulsion for doxxing a pro-Palestinian student who he claimed was circulating threatening antisemitic misinformation has transferred out of the school.

Yoel Ackerman will instead enroll in Florida International College of Law in Miami in the fall. He had said the Palestinian student shared an Instagram video with misinformation about Israel with the Student Bar Association (SBA).

The incident resulted in the SBA being suspended and then reinstated after it tried to toss Ackerman out and triggered an investigation by the university involving claims and counterclaims from students, including an investigation of Ackerman.

In response to the investigation, a suit was filed on Ackerman’s behalf by the Roseland law firm of Mazie Slater Katz Freeman, naming the law school, university and administrators, including law school Dean Johanna Bond, as defendants. The suit, filed in Essex County Superior Court, alleges the school subjected Ackerman to discrimination, retaliation and permitted a hostile school environment.

“The suit is ongoing and moving very slowly,” said co-counsel David Mazie in a phone interview, with “no real discovery” or exchange between parties about the witnesses or evidence they will present at trial having taken place with various motions remaining pending.

Mazie said on June 27 that a hearing in the investigation was held in the past week and he expected the results soon, but there are still issues remaining surrounding Ackerman’s record at Rutgers.

“As yet another victim of antisemitism at Rutgers, Mr. Ackerman will no longer continue his academic pursuits at this ‘cesspool of antisemitism,’” the law firm stated in a press release. “Surely, Mr. Ackerman will not be the last student to leave Rutgers because of its tolerance for and rewarding of students and faculty who target Jews, particularly through shameless, open support for Hamas and the October 7th atrocities.”

The video Ackerman shared appeared from the SBA group chat contended that Hamas did not commit the atrocities or murder the 1,200 civilians on October 7 and that Israel “staged” the massacre.

In a previous interview with The Jewish Link, Ackerman had said about Rutgers, “I’m not even sure what they are investigating and they’re not giving me many details.” At the time he said he had two meetings with the school authorities, which Ackerman described as “more like interrogations.”

The Rutgers-Newark campus has been the scene of a number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), that have been vehemently anti-Israel and antisemitic. The pro-Palestinian encampment on campus was finally taken down by students early in June as police and facilities staff looked on.

A statement from Rutgers-Newark said it “engaged with the protestors about their concerns in good faith through a series of meetings” over the span of a couple of weeks and “met every one of their requests regarding the conditions and terms of negotiations, provided them every reasonable opportunity to be heard, and provided earnest, substantive, and productive responses to a large majority of their concerns.”

However, it said over the previous two weeks the demonstrators had “established a pattern of disengagement” that included repeated violations of university fire safety policies such as unsafe use of extension cords from university buildings, unpermitted use of open flames for cooking, ongoing defacement of property, attempting to erect a large structure on the site, violations of ID use and building access policies, intensifying and expanding the degradation of the campus environment and repeatedly delaying in-person negotiations because members of their designated negotiating team were elsewhere.

The last straw came when protestors made public statements indicating that they didn’t plan to honor the path forward for evaluating divestment requests, as codified for all Rutgers campuses in commitments made on May 2.

The university said it “did not see as appropriate” addressing three of the demonstrators’ demands: that Rutgers-Newark lobby the Newark Municipal Council on behalf of the Newark Solidarity Coalition for a Gaza cease-fire resolution; that Rutgers-Newark seek free health care services for Newark residents from Rutgers Health, which is not a part of Rutgers-Newark and already provides such services through free clinics; and that the university seek divestment from companies with ties to Israel by three other local higher education institutions: the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Essex County College and Seton Hall University.

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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