Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway tried to clean up a PR nightmare for the school this weekend after its chancellor and provost denounced a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, then apologized for failing to “communicate support for our Palestinian community members.”
In a statement issued Saturday titled “On Hatred and Bigotry,” Holloway said the university “deplores hatred and bigotry in all forms. We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against anti-Semitism.
“Neither hatred nor bigotry has a place at Rutgers, nor should they have a place anywhere in the world,” Holloway continued. “At Rutgers we believe that anti-Semitism, anti-Hinduism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia are unacceptable wherever and whenever they occur.”
The furor began on Wednesday when Chancellor Christopher Molloy and Provost Francine Conway jointly denounced “the sharp rise in hostile sentiments and anti-Semitic violence in the United States” in a statement that also referenced the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, attacks targeting Asian-Americans, and “targeted oppression and other assaults against Hindus and Muslims.”
“This recent resurgence of anti-Semitism demands that we again call out and denounce acts of hate and prejudice against members of the Jewish community and any other targeted and oppressed groups on our campus and in our community,” they said.
On Thursday, after the university’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine issued a lengthy denunciation of Molloy and Conway’s original statement, the officials issued a second statement, titled “An Apology.”
“As we grow in our personal and institutional understanding, we will take the lesson learned here to heart, and pledge our commitment to doing better,” Molloy and Conway wrote. “We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.”
The second statement was panned by the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter as well as Jewish and pro-Israel commentators — and even Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
Both statements from Molloy and Conway were deleted from the “Communications” section of the chancellor’s website and replaced with Holloway’s Saturday statement.
On Sunday, Rutgers Hillel issued a statement welcoming Holloway’s message as “an important first step in rebuilding the trust which is essential and desired by all.”
However, the group added that the university “has an established pattern of minimizing antisemitism.”
“The University seems unable to recognize that Jews are a vulnerable minority and that anti-Jewish prejudice is real,” the statement said.
“This repeated erasure of Jewish concerns and identity is painful and bewildering to every member of the Rutgers Jewish community … Rutgers Hillel calls upon the University administration to acknowledge the pain it has caused the Jewish community, and to sit down with us and together forge a new path towards true diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
In a phone interview with the Post Sunday night, Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, the executive director of Rutgers University Chabad House, characterized Rutgers as “a tremendous place for Jewish life” and home to a “thriving, happy Jewish population.”
Carlebach, who has been part of the Rutgers community since 1978, thought university officials had “made a big mistake” with the scope of their statements.
The rabbi said that rather than trying to address recent incidents of anti-Semitism on and around campus — including physical attacks on people who outwardly appear Jewish and the egging of a fraternity house during a Holocaust remembrance event last month — university officials “tried to enter the domain of woke politics.”
“In trying to be everything to everybody,” Carlebach explained, “they turned out to be nothing.”