Over 1,600 Jewish Alumni Pledge to Stop Donations Over Harvard’s Antisemitism

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
November 11, 2023US News
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Over 1,600 Jewish Alumni Pledge to Stop Donations Over Harvard’s Antisemitism
Supporters of Palestine gather in Harvard Yard to show their support for Palestinians in Gaza at a rally in Cambridge. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

More than 1,600 former Jewish students from Harvard criticized the university for not taking steps to tackle rising antisemitism on campus, with some pledging to donate only $1 until the issue is resolved.

The Oct. 7 massacre of 1,400 Israelis by Hamas terrorists was “met with acclaim by over thirty Harvard student groups, who called the intentional slaughter of civilians ‘justified’ and claimed that Israel was ‘solely responsible,’” said the alumni letter. “This deluded romanticization of violence has been matched by calls for more violence and the obliteration of the state of Israel ‘by any means necessary.’”

The Harvard administration was obliged to speak out against the terrorist act, especially as the institution had earlier spoken “clearly and forcefully” on several geopolitical and political events. However, “during this time, the University remained silent.”

“It is one thing to champion the rights of Palestinians and to vociferously express concern for the safety of civilians, particularly children, in Gaza … It is quite another to trade in the crude language of ‘resistance’ to justify the grotesque bullying and intimidation of Jewish students on campus and to exalt ideologies of violence and brutality that run counter to the idea of democracy itself,” the alumni argued.

The letter was written by the Harvard College Jewish Alumni Association (HCJAA) which was formed last month in the aftermath of the university’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks. Organizers claim that HCJAA is the first Jewish alumni association in Harvard’s history.

In a Nov. 2 press release, HCJAA co-founder Eric Fleiss said that the group wants Harvard to “curb verbal and physical assaults on Jewish students, and to investigate the roots of virulent antisemitism on the Harvard Campus.” The letter was delivered to the university administration on Oct. 30.

Several former Jewish students are also asking Harvard alumni to “register their disappointment directly with the University” by only committing to donate $1 annually to Harvard “until the requested reforms are made.” The letter asked for the following:

  • A meeting with the alumni leadership to discuss “concrete plans” to ensure Jewish students are protected on campus.
  • An “immediate plan and robust commitment” from Harvard to curb hate speech dissemination and to ensure that rallies do not interfere with students’ activities on campus, including attending classes.
  • Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism at Harvard.
  • Creating a commission to study the “roots of anti-Semitism” on campus, including diversity policies, faculty training, and narratives about Jews.
  • Recognition of the Harvard College Jewish Alumni as a College/University-sanctioned special interest group (SIG).
  • Boosting efforts to encourage “a pluralist culture of good faith debate, critical thinking, and moral reasoning.”

“We never thought that, at Harvard College, we would have to argue the point that terrorism against civilians demands immediate and unequivocal condemnation. We never thought we would have to argue for recognition of our own humanity,” the letter said.

“We are calling on the University to meet its commitment to protecting all its students, not just those that shout the loudest or blare the most polarizing rhetoric.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Harvard for comment.

Harvard’s Donations

Donations are critical to Harvard’s financial stability. According to the university’s financial report for fiscal year 2022, donations generated total revenues of $5.8 billion. Only 55 percent of the revenue was generated through education, research, and other means like publications and royalties. The remaining came from donations.

“As the University’s single largest contributor to revenue, 45 percent of this year’s income arose from philanthropy—9 percent from current use gifts, which have an immediate impact on operations, and 36 percent from the ongoing support of distributions from the endowment,” the report stated.

In an interview with CNN, Rebecca Claire Brooks, a co-founder of the HCJAA, pointed out that many of the signatories of the letter are key donors to the university.

“This is a broad and growing intergenerational movement of alumni from many different sectors and industries. Yes, some of them are very influential donors and some of them are sort of more normal-sized donors. But we’re speaking in one unified voice in response to this moment,” she said.

Alumni members also called out the hypocrisy shown by Harvard University when it came to Jews. “Harvard is promoting a blatant and unconscionable double standard in enforcing its own policies concerning campus speech,” said an alumnus Adrian Ashkenazy, according to the Nov. 2 release.

“Once the University decides to put its thumb on the scale, it cannot restrict hateful speech except for hate speech toward Jews. If students were promoting, condoning, or justifying violence against the women, children, or elderly of any other ethnic group, Harvard would have expelled them.”

“But when students champion or excuse violence against Jewish civilians, the University suddenly decides that the First Amendment is sacrosanct,” he said.

HCJAA’s letter comes as several major donors announced cutting off their ties with Harvard. Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife Batia quit an executive board at the university as a protest over its poor response to the Hamas attacks.

The Wexner Foundation, a nonprofit founded by billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail, also broke off ties with Harvard last month. In a letter, the foundation’s leadership said they were “stunned and sickened at the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists.”

From The Epoch Times

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