Christina Lee, Photography Editor

In conversations with the News, Jewish community members expressed a variety of perspectives on the past week’s pro-Palestine divestment protests, from fear to frustration, to support. 

Since early last week, campus has been rocked by intensified discourse around divestment, as hundreds of Yale students and community members have protested the University’s investments in military weapons manufacturers in light of Israel’s continued war against Hamas in Gaza. 

These protests included an encampment at Beinecke Plaza beginning on Friday, April 19. Early in the morning on Monday, April 22, Yale police arrested 48 student protesters for trespassing on Beinecke Plaza and cleared out the encampments. The protesters then moved to occupy the intersection of Grove and College Streets, which New Haven police closed to traffic. At around 5 p.m. on Monday, the protesters relocated to Cross Campus, where dozens of students remained to sleep on Tuesday night. 

Executive Director of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life Uri Cohen wrote in an email to the News that this past week “has been more difficult for Jewish students than any week at Yale in recent memory.”

Cohen added that the Slifka Center hosted a community gathering on Sunday night, which lasted around an hour. Cohen stated that the goal was to give students “a place to gather,” adding that students were united in “a shared sense of concern for the Yale Jewish community.”

On Sunday, April 21, while protesters were still occupying Beinecke Plaza, Chabad at Yale released a statement on “antisemitic violence during campus protests.” This statement described a “hostile and“dangerous confrontation for Jewish students” on Friday night. 

The statement called upon Yale to enforce University policy fairly, acknowledge the alleged injury of a Chabad leader and formally declare that Jewish students at Yale must not be threatened or attacked. 

Elijah Bacal ’27, a leader of Yale Jews for Ceasefire — a coalition of Jewish students demanding a ceasefire in Gaza — said that the perceived narrative of protests being anti-Jewish and contributing to anti-Jewish sentiments on campus was “harmful to everyone.” 

Danya Dubrow-Compaine ’25, a co-leader of Jews for Ceasefire, said that protests like those this past week — as opposed to what she called the “let’s sit down and talk about it” mindset — are a “critically important” part of movement-building.

She added, however, that she realizes that protests can be divisive and might not always leave room for engaging deeply with nuanced feelings. Still, she felt that this week’s demonstrations have been “very open.”

“We’ve had teach-ins, we’ve had guest speakers, we’ve had art, we’ve had letter-writing,” she said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of carrying the weight of a lot of people’s emotions and juggling it.”

Bacal said that he and other members of J4C led the singing of Jewish songs of support at the protest. These songs included their original Hebrew translation of “We Shall Not be Moved,” a song that has been sung several times per day at protests. 

On Monday afternoon, Dubrow-Compaine and members of J4C organized a “Seder in the Streets” on Cross Campus, calling on Yale and the United States government to “stop starving Gaza” and to “stop arming Israel.” 

Dubrow-Compaine, who called herself a Jewish person who cares “very deeply” about the Jewish community but has strong ideological disagreements with many mainstream Jewish spaces, said she has experienced struggles with what she sees as a “decentering of Palestine” in Jewish discourse.

“It feels really powerful that we were able to both celebrate an important Jewish ritual and holidays while also making it about Palestine and putting the focus there,” Dubrow-Compaine said of Monday’s Seder in the Streets. Dubrow-Compaine added that this allowed her to not have to choose “between celebrating [her] Judaism and supporting Palestinians.”

Bacal described Passover as a story of liberation, which he said is in alignment with his personal mission and what he sees as the mission of the protests. 

Approximately 125 students attended Monday evening’s Seder.

Yossi Moff ’27, another Jewish student, told the News that while he “will not judge the Judaism of [his] Jewish peers who are involved with Jews 4 Ceasefire,” their actions in the ongoing protests cause him “pain.” 

“Watching them take our tradition, our songs and our God and perform them in front of a predominantly non-Jewish crowd that is explicitly anti-Jewish hurts,” he said. 

Moff said that while he believes that many of the protesters do not harbor antisemitic views, he still feels the protests are anti-Jewish. He pointed to the protesters’ participation in the chant, “there is only one solution: intifada revolution” and display of posters featuring “convicted terrorist” Walid Daqqa as particularly distressing for Jewish students.

Daqqa was a Palestinian figure convicted of commanding a group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization, that kidnapped and murdered off-duty Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984. Daqqa, who recently died of cancer in captivity, is viewed by many Palestinians as a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israel.

The protesters first hung a poster commemorating Daqqa on April 17 and were still displaying it as of yesterday. 

In regards to “intifada revolution,” organizers have told the News that they have not approved of the use of this chant, or other chants that have been recited such as “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” at the protests, and provided a sheet of approved chants to corroborate this claim. Protesters have used both chants frequently throughout the protests.

In a statement to the News, an organizer and press liaison for the protests wrote that the organizers “condemn antisemitism in all forms” and “have prioritized building a peaceful and respectful protest environment.” 

“The demonstrations of the past week have been about building a world free from violence –– against Jews, Palestinians, and all other peoples,” she said. “That is why we will continue to sing about building a world from love, and why we will continue to demand divestment from military weapons.”

Four Jewish students interviewed by the News in addition to Moff said that the protests felt “anti-Jewish.” 

“Jewish students feel unsafe in a way that I’m not sure they ever have on campus, certainly a way that they haven’t since the immediate days following October 7,” said Abe Baker-Butler ’25. 

In his Sunday email, Rabbi Jason Rubenstein —  Yale’s Jewish Chaplain — cited two instances of Jewish pedestrians being subjected to verbal abuse. According to the email, Rubenstein and his family were called “fucking Jews” by passersby on Orange Street in November, and one visiting professor was told “die Zionist” in the past week.

Baker-Butler further added that he feels the University has not enforced policies equally, noting that the encampment on Beinecke Plaza was in “clear violation of many University rules.”

According to Baker-Butler, Yale administration did not allow Jewish students to build a ritual structure known as Sukkah on Cross Campus during Sukkot, a religious holiday that takes place in October; the News obtained earlier this month a September email exchange between Assistant Vice President for University Life Pilar Montalvo and the student requesting to build a Sukkah. Baker-Butler said that the University has created a “double standard” by waiting three days before clearing the encampment in Beinecke Plaza, adding that the University must “enforce rules even-handedly” if it wishes to create a “safe environment for all students.”

“I think that these protests have really crossed a line from being anti-zionist to being anti-semitic,” said Kira Berman ’25, President of Yale Friends of Israel, who also attended the pro-Israel protest on Saturday night.

Berman specifically noted that while she has felt physically safe, she also feels emotionally “unsafe, unwelcome and fearful.” Berman emphasized that the protests have “absolutely felt anti-Jewish.”

Berman added that many of her Jewish friends who weren’t planning to go home for Passover decided to leave “because they don’t feel comfortable on our campus right now.”

Israeli student Aaron Schorr ’24 told the News that while he views the protesters’ fight for “peace in the Middle East [as] a noble cause,” he feels it’s “not the only thing” the protests are advocating for.

“It is clear to me that some of the rhetoric at the protests has been blatantly antisemitic, illiberal and unbecoming of a movement that claims to speak for the universalist values of freedom and liberation,” Schorr said. 

Like Moff, both Berman and Schorr cited protesters’ use of chants calling for “intifada revolution” and display of the poster honoring Daqqa as particularly distressing. 

Eytan Israel ’26 told the News that he hopes the University will continue to de-escalate protests and protect the campus community. 

“It is imperative that Yale follow through on their policies both in order to protect the safety of those on campus and to show the Jewish students that there will be no possible way that escalation can go beyond the line,” he said.

Israel himself claimed that without intervention the protests could escalate to the level of protests at Columbia University, where Jewish students have been advised to leave campus by a community Rabbi who wrote to students that “Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy.” 

The Columbia Spectator reported that a group of 10 pro-Israel students counter-protesting Columbia’s pro-Palestine “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” experienced antisemitic incidents Saturday night, such as “death threats, antisemitic rhetoric, and stalking,” according to interviews with students and videos reviewed by the Spectator.

In an email to the Slifka community on Sunday evening signed on to by the Hillel Student Board, Cohen and Rubenstein wrote that the message to Columbia students “reverberates here,” but so far, they see Yale’s campus as safe for Jewish students.

“I think there has been cause for Jews on campuses across the country to feel unsafe … but as a Jewish student on [Yale’s] campus, that idea is not reflective at all of my experience,” said Bacal.

Bacal added that he has had conversations with Jewish community members who he disagrees with. However, Bacal emphasized that he continues to feel welcomed by Yale’s Jewish community even while disagreeing with some stances promoted by Slifka leadership and some other students.

Dubrow-Compaine said that she does not feel unsafe as a Jewish person on campus right now. 

However, she said that the feelings of Jewish students who do feel afraid right now are “valid.”

“What I mean by that is not that I share those feelings or that I think there is good reason to be afraid of these protesters who are my friends and who are constantly preaching messages of love and compassion and community,” Dubrow-Compaine said. “But I know that people have different emotions and different reactions to things based on different lived experiences.”

Bacal noted that he feels he is “straddling” different worlds, where he is both an activist and organizer for the pro-Palestine protests as well as an active member in Yale’s Jewish community.  

In their email, Cohen and Rubenstein described “existential conflict” within Yale’s Jewish community over the war that is “strain[ing] the possibility of mutual trust” such that students “feel betrayed by one another.”

“As you can see, I am struggling in the ways you all are – to neither exaggerate nor understate the significance of what is happening in our Yale community, to see it both on its own terms, and to discern patterns of antisemitism,” Rubenstein wrote.

The Jewish holiday of Passover will end after nightfall on Tuesday, April 30. 

Correction, April 24: This article has been updated to better describe Yale Jews for Ceasefire as “a coalition of Jewish students demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.”

Josie Reich covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Washington, DC, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in American Studies.
Molly Reinmann covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Westchester, New York, she is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.
Chris is an associate beat reporter for Student Life. He is a freshman in Morse studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics.