News and Commentary

Columbia University Office’s Statement On Pittsburgh Massacre Doesn’t Mention Jews Or Anti-Semitism

In the wake of the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue that was the worst attack on American Jews in the country’s history, with 11 Jews murdered and six others wounded, the Columbia student life office, which describes itself as “your hub for University-wide student life information and initiatives,” issued an email with its statement that left out two words: “Jews” and “anti-Semitism.”

The email stated:

We are deeply saddened by the senseless violence at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday morning. Violence in our nation’s houses of worship is an affront to the freedoms our community holds dear. We stand strongly against these efforts to create fear and terror.

For some in our community, this is a particularly frightening time as we have seen a growing number of highly visible attacks directed at faith and identity — on worshippers and people of faith as they go through their daily lives, on groups gathered to celebrate an LGBT Latin night at Pulse Nightclub; on civil rights and anti-racist protesters in the streets of Charlottesville, and in so many other places, as occurred in last Wednesday’s shooting of two African-American shoppers in Kentucky. Please know that you are not alone, and that you are part of this community founded on the fundamental dignity and worth of all.

Criticism abounded after the release of the statement, including this from a Columbia alumnus:

On Sunday, the office of university life amended the first sentence in its original statement to read: “We are deeply saddened by the horrific antisemitic attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday morning.”

Neugut responded to the new statement by tweeting, “To be fair Columbia College privately DM’d me an apology and revised their statement here: To also be fair they shouldn’t make this mistake in the first place and their new statement is barely better Conflating anti-semitism with other hatreds is idiotic.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Jewish Journal in an email:

11 Jews are mass murdered in a synagogue on Shabbat morning by a gunman who was screaming “kill all Jews” and a university in New York City with massive Jewish alumni is caught disrespecting a grieving Jewish people? Updating? How about a wake-up call for all universities to stop coddling anti-Semites on their campuses? These academics get an F. They simply refuse to say the A word. And too many university leaders refuse to deal with anti-Semitism on their own campuses leaving Jewish students targets for anti-Semitic intimidation and worse. This refusal to recognize, let alone combat, anti-Semitism explains why the Simon Wiesenthal Center supports a Congressional bill to define the term, so the U.S. Dept. of Education can finally defend Jewish students when Universities won’t.