Jewish students suing their universities want colleges to be held accountable for anti-Semitism


A Jewish student who says he was threatened by a machete-wielding Harvard employee testified during a congressional hearing this week addressing allegations of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government held the hearing Wednesday to address reports of anti-Semitic incidents amid a series of anti-Israel protests on college campuses across the country, many of which have included protesters setting up camps on university property, prompting several college leaders to seek help from law enforcement.

Shabbos Kestenbaum, a graduate student at Harvard University in Massachusetts, and Eyal Yakoby, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, testified that their respective universities are not safe for Jewish students and are suing the universities for failing to address hatred of Jews.

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Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's requests for comment.

During his initial testimony, Kestenbaum said that his family has ties to Germany, and that the Nazis arrested his great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Breuer, while Kestenbaum's great-great-aunt hid under the bed. On the night of Kristallnacht, a wave of anti-Semitic violence that the Nazis carried out against the Jews, the historic Breuer family synagogue burned to the ground.

“My story about anti-Semitism, then, is deeply painful, and it's deeply personal,” Kestenbaum said, warning the subcommittee that Kristallnacht did not begin with things like “book burning and broken windows.”

“Kristallnacht began with a harmful ideology that swept through German society,” said the Harvard graduate student. “Kristallnacht began with the acceptance and normalization of Jew-hatred.”

The graduate student recalled hundreds of Harvard students and faculty members setting up an anti-Israel camp on the first day of Passover, demanding that the university “divest” from the Jewish state of Israel. Kestenbaum said the demonstrators “rejoiced” after replacing the American flag on campus with a Palestinian one, saying they chanted about “globalizing the Intifada.”

Kestenbaum claims that the protesters established their “own rule of law on campus” by appointing people to act as “security marshals” who would follow Jewish students like him. The “security marshals” would often register Jewish students like Kestenbaum and monitor their movements.

The student said he tried to contact Harvard administrators many times to discuss these issues, but nothing was done. Harvard agreed to meet with the students and establish initiatives such as a Palestinian studies department as part of the university's negotiations with the protesters behind the camp.

“I am a Jewish student and until now have not been able to meet with President Alan Garber or my dean, Marla Frederick, to discuss the pervasive anti-Semitism on campus,” Kestenbaum said. “Only those who call for the ethnic genocide of Jews, violate school policy and send masked thugs to go after Jews are given the honor of sitting at the table.”

At one point during the hearing, Kestenbaum spoke about the Harvard employee who demanded the graduate student debate him on whether the Jews were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. In a video created by the same person, the employee held a machete, threatening Kestenbaum.

“To this day, Harvard still has not acknowledged to me what they will do to protect me and what they have done to discipline the staff,” the student testified.

Yakoby filed a lawsuit against his university, stating during his deposition that “bigotry, violence, and harassment have become part of Penn's daily curriculum.”

The Jewish student recalled an anti-Israel camp that was allowed to remain on campus for weeks and how the demonstrators would chant things like “Al-Qassam makes us proud.”

Al-Qassam is the armed wing of Hamas, the terrorist group that killed at least 1,200 people in a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. In response to the invasion, Israel launched an offensive to eradicate the terrorist group and secure the release of the more than 240 individuals it had taken hostage. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 35,000 people have been killed since the war began, but those figures do not differentiate between fighters and survivors. The United Nations says that about 52% of those killed were women and children.

“As students walk to class, they are met with masked individuals yelling at them, 'Go die,' 'You are Hitler's children' and 'Nazis,'” Yakoby said. “One member of the camp wore a sweatshirt with two rats surrounding a Jewish star.”

“This is not just an issue for Jews — it's an issue for all Americans,” the undergraduate student said. “On October 7, Israel was physically attacked, but ideologically, every free country was infiltrated. Because the same people who wave the flags of Hamas are burning the flag of the United States.”

As Yakoby recalled, the president of the University of Pennsylvania declared that the anti-Israel camp violated the school's policies within 24 hours of its assembly, but the camp remained. Four days before the anti-Israel camp was disbanded, the university released a statement saying it had heard reports of protesters planning to escalate the situation, which included occupying buildings.

“To be clear, the university knew about documents circulating within the camp containing instructions for violence, there were terrorist threats, and they waited at least four days to do something,” Yakoby said. “In addition, after the camp was cleared, the university found weapons inside the camp.”

Near the end of the hearing, Kestenbaum asserted that Jewish institutions should not allow Harvard recruits “within 50 feet of their school” until the university implements policies to hold people accountable for anti-Semitism.

“It's not that Jewish students don't feel safe at Harvard,” he said. “Jewish students are not safe at Harvard.”

Likewise, when asked the same question about whether he would advise a Jewish high school to attend the University of Pennsylvania, Yakoby urged it to enforce its rules.

“Unless the university enforces its own rules between now and graduation, then no Jewish student, no one who does not support the pro-terrorist camps that are going on, should set foot on Penn's campus,” he said.

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