‘Intolerable Abuse’: Columbia, Barnard Sued for Violating Civil Rights of Jewish Students

It’s the latest in several lawsuits against elite colleges alleging that they are fostering antisemitism in the wake of the October 7 Hamas massacre.

Daniella Kahane/The New York Sun
Anti-Israel students march at Columbia University. Daniella Kahane/The New York Sun

“Jews will not defeat us,” “death to Jews,” “f— the Jews,”: These are the threats Jewish students face daily — as well as physical assaults — at two elite private New York City colleges, a new lawsuit alleges. 

The case, brought by Students Against Antisemitism, StandWithUS Center for Legal Justice, and several Jewish students, says Columbia University and Barnard College are violating students’ civil rights by subjecting them to a “severe and pervasive antisemitic hostile educational environment, which has worsened since the October 7 Hamas murder, rape, and kidnapping of 1,200 Israelis.” 

The law firm representing the Jewish students, Kasowitz Benson Torres, has separately brought cases against New York University, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

Harvard is also facing a separate case brought by alumni who are alleging that the school’s antisemitism has “made a mockery” of the school’s graduates and their degrees.

The lawsuits are expected to create hefty legal fees for the Ivy League schools as they scramble to save their reputations.

Columbia has been under scrutiny in recent weeks as a congressional antisemitism probe was expanded; the university was added to the probe and was asked to provide documentation of antisemitic assaults against Jewish students, as the Sun reported. Surveys by the student newspaper indicate that a majority of Jewish students have felt unsafe on campus since the October 7 Hamas massacre, and some students try to “hide or veil their Jewish identity when walking around campus” because of feeling threatened. 

The school itself has acknowledged it has a problem — in December, Columbia announced a task force on antisemitism. 

“It’s urgent to address the reality that Jewish members of our community feel vulnerable to antisemitic bias and harassment,” the task force leaders said in a statement, promising to work toward helping students and the administration feel safe from violence and harassment on campus. 

In addition to students frequently using antisemitic slogans that include calls for genocide and intifada, the lawsuit notes instances of Columbia faculty that have “openly lauded Hamas’s October 7 atrocities,” including one professor who published a piece supporting the attacks as a “shocking success,” a “stunning victory,” and “awesome.” 

“What is most striking about all of this is Columbia’s abject failure and deliberate refusal to lift a finger to stop and deter this outrageous antisemitic conduct and discipline the students and faculty who perpetrate it,” the lawsuit notes. 

One of the plaintiffs, Miles Rubin, served in the IDF. During an anti-Israel rally, the lawsuit says he “had to walk through the crowd on his way to class as antisemites flashed signs describing the IDF as ‘savage.’” He had also been asked by a graduate student how many Palestinians he had killed. 

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages as well as relief requiring Columbia and Barnard to implement “institutional, far-reaching, and concrete remedial measures.”

Representatives of Columbia and Barnard declined to comment to the Sun, citing the pending legislation.


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