Hundreds of Jewish Columbia students express pride for Israel and their Jewish faith in open letter

Columbia student Eliana Goldin: ‘It’s important that the entire world sees there is a strong contingent of Jewish students on campus who are Zionists and willing to stand up and speak for that’

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People attend a Holocaust memorial ceremony held a block away from Columbia University

Hundreds of Jewish Columbia University students signed on to an open letter to the university community on Wednesday, declaring that they are “proud to be Zionists” while speaking out against the anti-Israel protesters that have engulfed the Ivy League campus since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. 

The letter, titled “In Our Name,” was authored by four students — Eliana Goldin ‘25; Elisha Baker ‘26; Eden Yadegar ‘25 and Rivka Yellin, Barnard College ‘26. By Wednesday night, it garnered more than 400 signatures. 

“Over the past six months, many have spoken in our name,” the letter opens. “We are here, writing to you as Jewish students at Columbia University, who are connected to our community and deeply engaged with our culture and history. We would like to speak in our name.”

“Most of us did not choose to be political activists,” the students wrote. “We do not bang on drums and chant catchy slogans. We are average students, just trying to make it through finals much like the rest of you.”

“If the last six months on campus have taught us anything, it is that a large and vocal population of the Columbia community does not understand the meaning of Zionism, and subsequently does not understand the essence of the Jewish People,” the letter continued. “Yet despite the fact that we have been calling out the antisemitism we’ve been experiencing for months, our concerns have been brushed off and invalidated.”

The letter goes on to reference several incidents that have occurred on campus.: “We sounded the alarm on October 12 when many protested against Israel while our friends’ and families’ dead bodies were still warm. We recoiled when people screamed ‘resist by any means necessary,’ telling us we are “all inbred” and that we ‘have no culture.’ We shuddered when an ‘activist’ held up a sign telling Jewish students they were Hamas’s next targets… We ultimately were not surprised when a leader of the CUAD [Columbia University Against Apartheid] encampment said publicly and proudly that ‘Zionists don’t deserve to live’ and that we’re lucky they are ‘not just going out and murdering Zionists.’ We felt helpless when we watched students and faculty physically block Jewish students from entering parts of the campus we share, or even when they turned their faces away in silence. This silence is familiar. We will never forget.”

“One thing is for sure,” the students wrote. “We will not stop standing up for ourselves. We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists.” 

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Goldin, a third-year political science major pursuing a dual degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary, said that the letter’s conclusion was most significant to her because it emphasizes that “we want to sit down and have a dialogue. The point of a university is to be able to have complex conversations. We even want to sit down with people who are saying ‘globalize the intifada.’” 

The concluding paragraph reads, “We came to Columbia because we wanted to expand our minds and engage in complex conversations. While campus may be riddled with hateful rhetoric and simplistic binaries now, it is never too late to start repairing the fractures and begin developing meaningful relationships across political and religious divides. Our tradition tells us, “Love peace and pursue peace.” We hope you will join us in earnestly pursuing peace, truth, and empathy. Together we can repair our campus.” 

Goldin told JI that “the media is not accurately covering what the Jewish community on campus looks like and this was our way of saying what the Jewish community stands for.” She noted that the letter took two days of “nonstop writing and editing.”  

“It’s important that the entire world sees there is a strong contingent of Jewish students on campus who are Zionists and willing to stand up and speak for that,” Goldin said. “The anti-Zionist Jews are speaking for all Jewish students at Columbia right now and they’re getting a lot of attention, so it’s important for people to see this strong majority of Jewish students who feel otherwise.”

Goldin said that the letter has caught the attention of Jewish students who hadn’t been vocal about support for Israel in the past. “I just got an email from someone Jewish who is not involved with the Jewish community,” she said. “He said the letter really spoke to him and signed on. So I think this has a certain impact within the pro-Israel community.”

“In terms of the anti-Israel community, I’m not sure how much of an impact it can make,” Goldin continued. “But the main purpose of the letter really was to show that amid all the biased media coverage, we will actually speak for ourselves.”

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