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Jewish students sue Harvard alleging inaction against ‘rampant’ antisemitism

‘It became so unbearable that this was our only option,’ student says

Six Jewish students accused Harvard University of “selectively” enforcing its anti-discrimination policies by allowing “rampant” antisemitism to continue on campus in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Their complaint alleging “severe and pervasive” antisemitism at Harvard is the latest in a growing list of similar lawsuits.

Students at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California-Berkeley, New York University, Rutgers University, and McMaster University also have filed lawsuits accusing their institutions of failing to crack down on antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.

The Harvard students said their university “has become a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment” in recent months, according to the lawsuit.

Their complaint alleges the Ivy League university violated Title VI and the Civil Rights Act by “selectively” enforcing its anti-discrimination policies. The students said Harvard treats Jews as “unworthy of the respect and protection it affords other groups.”

“Based on its track record, it is inconceivable that Harvard would allow any group other than Jews to be targeted for similar abuse or that it would permit, without response, students and professors to call for the annihilation of any country other than Israel,” the complaint states.

According to one example mentioned in the lawsuit, Harvard allows students and faculty to “advocate, without consequence, the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel, the only Jewish country in the world.” At the same time, the university warns students that they could face disciplinary measures if they “engage in sizeism, fatphobia, racism, transphobia, or other disfavored behavior,” according to the complaint.

In another example, the complaint states that Harvard gave burritos and candy to a mob of students who “took over a campus building to further their antisemitic agenda” – when it should have disciplined them instead.

The Jewish students, in their complaint, said antisemitism has been a problem at Harvard for many years.

But it “skyrocketed” after Oct. 7, Alexander Kestenbaum, a student at Harvard Divinity School and one of the six in the lawsuit, told The Harvard Crimson student newspaper.

“It became so unbearable that this was our only option,” Kestenbaum said.

The other five students are unnamed; the nonprofit Students Against Antisemitism also is involved in the lawsuit.

Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, the law firm representing the students, said Thursday in a statement that they want Harvard to implement “concrete” disciplinary measures against faculty, staff, and students who engage in “antisemitic abuse.”

The lawsuit also seeks to have the university decline and/or return donations “conditioned on the hiring or promotion of professors who espouse antisemitism or the inclusion of antisemitic coursework of curricula,” the law firm stated.

The lawsuit comes less than two weeks after Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned amid allegations of plagiarism and criticism about her response to antisemitism on campus.

Harvard also has faced backlash from major donors upset by its response to antisemitism and the Hamas terrorist attack, The College Fix reported.

MORE: Lawmaker questions Harvard president about flying Ukraine flag, not Israel’s

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.