Cornell Jewish Center Under Guard After Online Threats to Jewish Students

Campus police at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., were guarding the university’s Center for Jewish Living on Sunday after online posts threatened violence against Jewish students, according to a statement by the Cornell president, Martha E. Pollack.

The posts, which appeared on an online discussion forum about fraternities, included threats to shoot Jewish students and encouragement to others to kill them. They also called for the Jewish center, where a number of students live and which offers a kosher dining room, to be torn down.

“We will not tolerate antisemitism at Cornell,” said Ms. Pollack. “Threats of violence are absolutely intolerable, and we will work to ensure that the person or people who posted them are punished to the full extent of the law.”

Campus police referred the threats to the F.B.I. as a potential hate crime, said Ms. Pollack, who visited the center on Sunday evening, according to a statement from the university. The threats were posted on Greekrank, a website for students to discuss fraternities and sororities at various colleges, according to The Cornell Daily Sun, the student newspaper at Cornell. The posts have been removed from the site, but the student newspaper published screenshots of several virulent threats.

“We hear that as a call for our genocide,” said Rabbi Ari Weiss, the executive director of Cornell Hillel, a Jewish group on campus. “Students are scared. They’re concerned for their safety.”

The postings came as the Israel Defense Forces pushed into Gaza in a war against the armed group Hamas, which is embedded within the civilian population in the Palestinian enclave and which launched terrorist attacks against Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages. In the weeks since, as Palestinian deaths in Gaza have risen into the thousands under Israel airstrikes, tensions have sharpened at college campuses across the United States.

The atmosphere at Cornell grew especially taut when Russell Rickford, an associate professor in the university’s history department who specializes in African-American political culture, gave a speech in downtown Ithaca on Oct. 15 in which he said he found the attack on Israel by Hamas to be “exhilarating.” He later apologized and requested a leave of absence from the university.

Campus groups have held at least a handful of events related to the conflict. Jewish students held two vigils, one in response to the attack, and a second to highlight the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas, according to Rabbi Weiss. Palestinian students and their supporters have held several demonstrations.

Last Wednesday, students woke to find graffiti on sidewalks across campus that insulted Israel and compared Zionism to genocide, The Cornell Daily Sun reported.

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