Three Jewish students sue NYU, claiming college failed to protect them from antisemitism

Written by on November 15, 2023

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(NEW YORK) — Three Jewish students at New York University have filed a lawsuit alleging the school has failed to protect them from escalating antisemitism, which they say has worsened since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court by NYU juniors Bella Ingber, Sabrina Maslavi and Saul Tawil, invokes Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

“The age-old virus of antisemitism is alive and well at New York University,” their lawsuit states. “This case arises from NYU’s egregious civil rights violations that have created a hostile educational environment in which plaintiffs and other Jewish NYU students have been subjected to pervasive acts of hatred, discrimination, harassment and intimidation.”

The students claim the “antisemitic behavior” at the university has been “ongoing,” and they allege NYU has shown “at best, deliberate indifference.” The students claim in the lawsuit that the school has fostered “an environment in which students and faculty members are permitted to repeatedly abuse, malign, vilify and threaten Jewish students with impunity.”

“Even though every instance of antisemitic behavior alleged herein is prohibited by one or more of NYU’s policies, the university has done nothing to enforce these policies to remedy or prevent that behavior, and certainly nothing approaching the manner in which NYU has enforced them with respect to misconduct not involving antisemitism,” the lawsuit states. “NYU selectively enforces its own rules, deeming Jewish students unworthy of the protections it readily affords to non-Jewish students victimized by discrimination, harassment, and intimidation.”

In a statement to ABC News, NYU spokesperson John Beckman said the allegations “do not accurately describe conditions on our campus or the many steps NYU has been taking to fight antisemitism and keep the campus safe.”

“Antisemitism violates our rules; we take the issues of antisemitism and any other forms of hate extremely seriously, and we are committed to safeguarding our community and providing an environment in which all students can live and learn in peace,” Beckman said.

The three plaintiffs in the case said they have each “been the target of repeated verbal and physical threats, and made to feel unsafe on campus, as they are forced to confront angry mobs of students and faculty members extolling the Hamas massacre, and calling for the deaths of Jews and the annihilation of Israel.” They claim the situation has “traumatized” them, impacting their coursework, and limiting their ability to go out for fear of harassment in places that include the university library.

ABC News reached out to NYU regarding the alleged verbal and physical threats.

Additionally, as a result of being confronted by what the students call “genocidal chants,” they argue they “have been deprived of the ability and opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in NYU’s educational and other programs” and are at risk for “extreme emotional and physical injury.”

Beckman said NYU was one of the first universities in the United States to publicly condemn Hamas’ terror attack on Israel.

“NYU maintains what is arguably the largest academic presence in Israel of any major U.S. university, our NYU Tel Aviv program, and has flatly rejected all calls to close it,” Beckman continued. “NYU has communicated repeatedly to our community about our efforts to ensure safety (including increased Campus Safety Officer and NYPD presence), about our expectations for proper conduct, and about the fact antisemitism violates our rules and transgressors will face discipline; and NYU has promptly reviewed and opened investigations into reported complaints of antisemitism and related misconduct.”

According to the suit, the students say they and others have asked for help and protection at NYU, but the university “has continued to do nothing.” They included numerous reports of antisemitism from over the last several years — including through social media posts — that they claim were not addressed.

“NYU looks forward to setting the record straight, to challenging this lawsuit’s one-sided narrative, to making clear the many efforts NYU has made to combat antisemitism and provide a safe environment for Jewish students and non-Jewish students, and to prevailing in court,” Beckman added.

The lawsuit demands NYU take measures to prevent antisemitism, terminate responsible administrators and faculty, and suspend or expel students engaged in such conduct. They are also asking for damages and attorneys’ fees.

Law enforcement officials and advocates have noted a dramatic rise in hate speech and threats in the U.S. against the Jewish community, as well as against the Muslim and Arab communities, since Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7 killed at least 1,200, according to Israeli officials. Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza have killed more than 11,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

 

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