Over 1,400 alumni, faculty and parents sign letter calling on Yale to combat antisemitism
University alumni, faculty and parents urged administrators in a Nov. 20 letter to take action against what they called a “tidal wave of antisemitism” moving through campus.
Tim Tai, Senior Photographer
Over 1,400 Yale alumni, parents and faculty have signed a form in support of a Nov. 20 “Letter to Yale Administration to Combat Antisemitism,” addressed to University President Peter Salovey and Provost Scott Strobel.
Citing messaging about the University’s professed values of “Lux et Veritas” from its $7 billion “For Humanity” capital campaign, the letter states that Yale “has abdicated its responsibility” by failing to ensure that people of all backgrounds have the necessary support to “study and thrive” at Yale. Over 1,700 alumni have signed a similar letter at Princeton, while over 1,800 have done so at Harvard.
“We write to you as a community of Yale University alumni, faculty, and parents, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who have been deeply saddened to watch the tidal wave of antisemitism sweeping across campuses all over the United States,” the letter reads. “In sum, Yale has enabled a climate of hostility to Jews and pro-Israel voices.”
The letter comes amid a national rise in both antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents at peer institutions following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack — including at Columbia, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, which are facing federal inquiries over alleged antisemitism and Islamophobia on their campuses.
According to a report by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, there was a 388-percent increase in antisemitic incidents reported nationwide between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23 compared to the previous year. Concurrently, according to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR received 216 percent more reports of Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment between Oct. 7 and Nov. 4 than it did last year. This past Sunday, three Palestinian students — undergraduates at Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College — were shot and wounded in Vermont in a suspected hate crime.
The Nov. 20 letter contains descriptions of three incidents that Yale has allegedly tolerated on campus, which, the letter claims, do not live up to the University’s “lofty values.” It also outlines a three-part proposal to “tackle antisemitism.”
Among the steps outlined in the proposal is for Salovey to issue a directive “recognizing and condemning” antisemitism at Yale and for the University to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. The letter also requests that the University discipline faculty or students “who threaten Yale’s Jewish community” and that it create a task force to address the “welfare and safety of Jews at Yale.” The last leg of the proposal requests for the University to diversify its faculty to include Jewish and pro-Israel members under a subheading labeled, “Include the Jewish narrative.”
The letter details three instances of what it describes as “hate speech” that have enabled “a climate of hostility to Jews and pro-Israel voices.” The examples include professor Zareena Grewal’s tweets in support of Palestinian resistance, rally chants by students in Yalies4Palestine and the University’s decision to host an allegedly antisemitic activist — French-Algerian author Houria Bouteldja — on a Jewish holiday.
“I have made clear that antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hatred toward Palestinians and Israelis are emphatically against our values and principles at Yale,” Salovey wrote to the News when asked about the letter. “On campus, we are focused on the well-being of students, faculty, and staff and are actively providing support and resources. This is part of an ongoing effort.”
Some community members, however, feel that the University has not done enough to protect its Jewish students.
Lawrence Cohen, a professor emeritus at the School of Medicine, wrote that he signed the petition because “to remain silent was not an option.”
“The heinous October 7th Hamas attack paradoxically sparked a rise in anti-semitism on many college campuses,” he wrote. We should have learned our lesson from the 1930’s when Hitler was espousing similar anti- semitic invective.
In his response to the News, Salovey wrote that the University has been collaborating with national Jewish groups and communities for the past two years as part of an effort “to enhance a supportive campus climate” for Yale’s Jewish community and to combat antisemitism. He added that, through partnerships with the Academic Engagement Network and Hillel International, Yale has also developed workshops and training opportunities as part of its core programming for Belonging at Yale — the name that the University ascribes to its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts.
One of the requests the authors listed in their proposal was for Yale to add antisemitism training to its diversity, equity and inclusion plans. According to Salovey, among the efforts that the University has worked on are “specific skill-building activities,” such as “in-depth professional workshops and training, including on antisemitism” for faculty and staff who work on inclusion, belonging and the prevention of and response to discrimination and harassment.
But Shira Wolosky, a former associate professor of English at Yale and a parent of a Yale alum, wrote that she sees the University’s “increasing administrative surveillance through ‘Diversity, Equity and Social Justice’’” efforts as a “misdirection of funds” that “in fact suppress diversity.”
“I signed the letter in my extreme dismay and distress at the flood burst of anti-Jewish activism at Yale and other American universities,” wrote Wolosky, who is currently a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Yale has betrayed its own commitments, both to democratic education, independent thinking, and the basic government of its own campus to protect and defend its own students.”
Cited antisemitic incidents
Alleging a “failure of the duty to protect Jewish students,” the letter highlights incidents in which Yale has “enabled a climate of hostility to Jews and pro-Israel voices.” Specifically, it notes three categories of instances: hate speech from faculty, hate speech from peers and “hate speech from visiting academics / exclusion of pro-Israel voices.”
Among the events listed is a series of tweets that American studies professor Zareena Grewal posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, in the wake of Hamas’s attacks on Israel. The posts prompted a petition to oust Grewal from the University, which has since garnered over 56,000 signatures.
“We were shocked when the response of a Yale professor to the heinous Hamas terror attack was to celebrate it on our very own campus,” the letter reads. “A Professor of American Studies should know the difference between resistance and war crimes. Yale’s Jewish students cannot feel safe in her classroom while she celebrates the slaughter of their friends and family.”
The letter also cites recent chants from members and supporters of the student group Yalies4Palestine, referring to the group’s Oct. 25 walkout, during which participants chanted, “When people are occupied, resistance is justified” and to written statements of “from the river to the sea” made by supporters on the group’s Instagram page. The letter says that such a phrase “calls for the genocide of Jews” in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
“Chanting in support of genocide outside the dormitories of Jewish students constitutes harassment and creates an unsafe environment,” the letter states.
Members of Yalies4Palestine said that the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a “call for liberation, not expulsion.”
“It is a call for freedom and equality for everyone between the river and the sea. It is our vision of a future in which Palestinians may live and move freely within their homeland, unrestricted by apartheid and military occupation. Those who raise alarms at our slogan do so to deflect from the fact that the openly genocidal state they defend is on record about its intent to expel Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.”
The group also described a “deeply unsafe” environment for Palestinian students on campus, pointing to the shooting of three Palestinian college students over the weekend, the appearance of the conservative advocacy group Accuracy in Media’s “doxxing truck” around campus and messages declaring “Death to Palestine” written on a whiteboard in Grace Hopper College.
“Our universities are deeply unsafe for Palestinians and students in solidarity with Palestine—especially for our Black, brown, and Muslim classmates,” the group continued. “This has been obvious to us all along; it is time that our administration guarantees our safety before more students are targeted.”
Before Yale College’s November recess, more than 100 Yale faculty members signed an open letter pledging to defend doxxed students.