For Immediate Release: April 22, 2024
Press Contact: Sophie Ellman-Golan |

Jews For Racial & Economic Justice comments on response to Columbia University student protests

NEW YORK -- Following the arrest of Columbia and Barnard students protesting on campus, and the subsequent response from the New York political establishment, Sophie Ellman-Golan, Communications Director at Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), released the following statement on behalf of the organization:

“First and foremost, we at JFREJ want to express our solidarity with courageous student activists at Columbia and Barnard. Many of us are about to be offline — but we cannot break for Passover without breaking down exactly what we’ve seen occur over the last few days.
To recap: CU/BC students set up an encampment on Columbia’s campus to nonviolently protest in solidarity with Palestinians being killed by the tens of thousands. Columbia’s president called the NYPD on her own students. Over 100 student activists were arrested and suspended, and half of them evicted with no notice. It was a striking repeat of the university’s notorious 1968 decision to have anti-war student protestors arrested, and it rightfully disturbed many people – including those who didn’t support the encampment.

Then something else happened: video clips of a handful of genuinely distressing antisemitic incidents and instigators went viral. The tide of public opinion turned. Suddenly, the pressing matter at hand was not that 14,000 Palestinian children have been killed, or nonviolent student activists arrested – many of them Jewish – but the fear felt by other Jewish students on campus.
All Jews should feel safe and respected in our Jewish identity. There will always be people who try to inject their own hateful message into a public action — and they get disproportionately amplified as representative by those who oppose and want to smear the movement.

The political right has been trying to advance a narrative for years that tells us Jews are not part of – and are, in fact, actively endangered by – multiracial movements for justice. We reject the right-wing characterization of our movements as inevitably and permanently hostile to us as Jews. Our movements are not perfect, but they need us.
In a matter of hours, we have seen the full weight of the New York political establishment, including many who have been silent about the mass murder of Palestinians, line up to condemn student activists. They have framed this as an issue of Jewish safety, saying nothing about the safety of Jewish students arrested by the NYPD. Some have even made photo op visits to Columbia’s campus as if it is a war zone.

We urge our fellow Jews, as we enter Passover, to remember where the actual war zone is: Gaza, where millions of Palestinians live in fear, forced starvation, surrounded by the bodies of their families, friends, and neighbors, and where Israeli hostages remain in captivity.
We implore everyone reading this to remember what these protests are actually about: the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. And we invite our fellow Jews to join us in asking ourselves: what can we do this chag season to remember, recommit, and continue building the movements we need to get out of Mitzrayim, the narrow place, and towards a future where all people are free and safe?"


Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) is a 6,000-member grassroots organization and the home of New York’s Jewish Left. For over 30 years, JFREJ members have organized alongside our neighbors to transform New York from a playground for the wealthy few into a real democracy, free from all forms of racist violence.