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Warnock declines to criticize alma mater’s decision to divest from Israel

The Georgia senator is also a member of the board at Union Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with Columbia University

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

US Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA)

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is declining to criticize his alma mater’s decision to divest from Israel and from other companies involved in  Israel’s war in Gaza, despite serving on the school’s board of trustees. 

The school, which has a partnership with  Columbia University, announced earlier this month that its trustees had voted to implement a divestment plan through the board’s investment committee. 

“Our screens already prevent investments in armaments, weapons, and defense manufacturers, as well as companies that participate in human rights violations. Managing our endowment in a manner that actively seeks the good and leverages our resources to reduce harm is an ongoing process, and we will remain committed to these principles into the future,” the trustees said at the time. 

The trustees said that they had been “working on this decision since November of 2023,” one month after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks against Israel. 

Warnock earned both his master’s degree and his doctorate at the Union Theological Seminary, graduating with honors in 2006. He joined the board of trustees in the late 2010s, though he hasn’t actively attended meetings or participated in votes in recent years. 

Reached at the Capitol last week by Jewish Insider, Warnock denied being a trustee despite him still being listed on the school’s website as a member. An addendum to Warnock’s listing on the site was added after JI’s request for comment, with the senator now being described as on an “indefinite leave of absence.”

Warnock’s office did not respond to JI’s numerous requests for comment about whether he supported the school’s decision, which came after anti-Israel encampments took over Columbia’s campus for weeks, resulting in a number of violent and antisemitic demonstrations, some of which were directly aimed at Jewish students. 

For his part, Warnock has been critical of Israel’s war in Gaza while condemning Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack. He has signed on to or led multiple statements calling for a cease-fire paired with the release of the hostages. 

The Georgia senator, who also serves as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, was confronted by a group of anti-Israel protesters while delivering a sermon in March. The group was seen wearing matching shirts that read “Stop Arming Israel” as they quietly stood up and exited the church during Warnock’s sermon.

“I want to thank God for the students and the young folk. I wish they’d hang out, so we could talk after church. Let them know that they’re welcome to stay. Let’s talk after church,” Warnock said as the protesters left. 

Reached by JI for this story, a representative for the school pointed to its initial statement on the divestment, which said, “To be clear, as we take these actions, we remain unequivocal in our denouncement of the horrific killing by Hamas of Israeli citizens on October 7, 2023, and call for the immediate release of all hostages. With respect to both Palestine and Israel, we affirm their right to secure existence and self-determination.”

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