Ensuring Jewish Student Safety: An Open Letter to Northern California University Leaders

We write to you today on behalf of JCRC Bay Area and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, respectively the Bay Area Jewish community’s central advocacy and philanthropy institutions, to follow up on our constructive meeting with you in April to continue working with you and your administration to ensure full Jewish safety and inclusion at UC Berkeley given recent developments, most notably the “encampment” in front of Sproul Hall.

We want to begin by expressing our deep appreciation for your ongoing partnership with Jewish faculty, student leaders, campus institutions and organizations, the Jewish Life and Campus Climate Advisory Committee, and the broader Jewish community.

In the spirit of our ongoing partnership, below you will find our reflections on the impact of these encampments on Jewish students and our community more broadly, and a set of specific recommendations for your consideration.

Understanding the Impact of Encampments on Jewish Students and Community

We are deeply concerned about the escalating tensions and antisemitic incidents stemming from the establishment of “encampments” across the country. 73 percent of American Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. We hope the safety and well-being of Jewish students, and indeed all students, will continue to be paramount in your administration's priorities.

Chants such as “Kill all the Jews” and “Go Back to Poland” are all too familiar from the “encampment” in Columbia, and similar rhetoric at Cal has been cause for concern. So have been the damage, vandalism, and appropriation of school buildings, leading to school closures and detrimental impacts on student learning and access at Cal Poly Humboldt, UCLA, and beyond.

We respect and celebrate the right to free speech and peaceful protest as the underpinnings of our democracy. Indeed the humanitarian toll on Gazan civilians has been deeply challenging to bear, and as a Jewish community we mourn the loss of innocent Palestinian life as we do the murdered Israeli families taken by Hamas on October 7th. It is crucial to distinguish legitimate political expression from hate speech or speech that incites violence and discrimination against students and faculty. The messages supporting terrorist organizations and actions that call for violence against Jews cannot become normalized.

Our community is not looking for special treatment, but equal treatment. Questions often arise in our conversations with students, parents and community members, such as: How would a white supremacist encampment endangering African Americans be addressed? Or a homophobic encampment jeopardizing the safety of LGBTQ+ students? We see little distinction between these scenarios and the one playing out today.

A recent poll commissioned by JCRC Bay Area found that 89 percent of Bay Area Jews believe in a Jewish and democratic state of Israel – a belief known as Zionism. We recognize that a small percentage of our community disagrees, and that some Jewish students have been found at campus encampments. These students have every right to express their views, but their participation should not be used as a reason to dismiss antisemitic hostility and lack of personal security experienced by most Jewish students and the broader campus Jewish community.


Below are recommended actions for your consideration to ensure the welfare and safety of Jewish and all students to thrive at UC Berkeley:

1. Set, communicate, and follow clear red lines. We ask that any encampment be prohibited from:

a. Allowing the presence of non-student and non-faculty participants at encampments. Unfortunately, outsider provocateurs are raising the temperature of tensions between students on many campuses.

b. Engaging in chants, signage, or rhetoric inciting violence against Jewish students and faculty because of their identities or beliefs (See attached rhetoric guide)

c. Taking any actions that are intended to intimidate, block, or provoke. Banning any student from passing through a public space because they are Jewish, or for any other reason, should never be tolerated.

2. Enforce Time, Place, and Manner and other relevant policies: Please rigorously enforce existing university policies that prohibit violence, destruction of property, harassment, and disruptions, and limits as outlined in time, place, and manner regulations. Signs and chants contain hate speech, glorify violence or target ethnic and religious groups, should be condemned by leadership to make it clear it does not represent the views of the university.

3. Ensure the safety of Jewish students: Take proactive steps to ensure the physical and emotional safety of Jewish students and other vulnerable groups on campus. This includes increasing security measures and expediting response times to incident reporting as necessary and offering support services to those targeted or feeling threatened.

4. Public condemnation of antisemitism: We appreciate your past statements condemning antisemitism on campus. We hope you will continue to reaffirm this message, along with the university's commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment where all students can learn without harassment and discrimination.

5. Dialogue and education: Promote trainings, dialogue forums and educational programs that differentiate legitimate criticism of government policies from hate speech and antisemitism. Encourage open discussions about the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a constructive alternative.

6. Oppose divestment and sustain academic partnerships within Israel: We ask that UC Berkeley continue to publicly affirm the policy of the University of California, restated in a recent release, that “a boycott of this sort impinges on the academic freedom of our students and faculty and the unfettered exchange of ideas on our campuses.”

The Jewish community, both locally and nationally, is deeply invested in pursuing the values of civil discourse and diversity that underpin our institutions of higher education. We believe universities are places where these values should be practiced with the utmost sincerity and commitment.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this pressing matter, and for prioritizing the safety and welfare of Jewish life. We look forward to better understanding the actions your administration will undertake to maintain the integrity of our educational institutions and ensure they remain safe spaces for all students.



Tyler Gregory, Chief Executive Officer

Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area

Joy Sisisky, Chief Executive Officer

Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Jan Reicher, President

Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area

Eileen Ruby, President

Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund


May 02, 2024