Minnesota Rabbinical Association Pens Letter To UMN Administration

Dear University of Minnesota Administration,

This week Jews all over the world are celebrating Passover, the holiday commemorating the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt during the biblical period. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “mitzrayim” which can also mean “the narrow place.” We write today as rabbis to express our concern that many Jewish students feel as if they are being squeezed into that narrow place of hatred on the University of Minnesota campus.

During our Passover celebration we read the following, “For not only one [enemy] has risen up against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise up to destroy us.” This year, these words hauntingly ring true. When students on campus hear calls such as “globalize the intifada,” “al-aqsa flood,” “al-qassam make us proud,” and “death to Zionism” written and shouted on campus, those calls of violence create a sense of fear that this ancient text from our tradition is turning into a reality at the University of Minnesota. Many students see what is happening at colleges around the country and fear that the climate on campus might escalate in dangerous ways. It is our responsibility to address these concerns before they become our reality.

As rabbis we have a deep appreciation for disagreement and free speech and recognize that the Jewish student body is diverse in their relationship and identity with Zionism. We urge the university to continue upholding the right of free speech for all students. Judaism celebrates and encourages peaceful protest, but unfortunately this week we have seen multiple incidents, including those mentioned above, where peaceful protest has turned into direct calls for violence targeting anyone who identifies as Zionist, as so many Jewish students do. These acts must be called out and condemned, and a sense of safety for all students on campus must be restored.

In our tradition, we read the following when the Egyptians drowned chasing after the Israelites: “At that time the ministering angels desired to recite a song before the Holy One, Blessed be God, God said to them: My handiwork, the Egyptians, are drowning in the sea, and you are reciting a song before Me?” We see everyone as though they are created in the image of God, and want nothing more than for the war to come to an end and the hostages held in Gaza returned to their homes. Hateful, intimidating, and targeted rhetoric will not bring us closer to the end of the war. It will not end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza or return the hostages to their families in Israel. The only thing it does is create a climate of fear and narrowness for an increasing number of Jewish students. We urge you to continue to differentiate between peaceful protest and the directed hatred we have seen this week and to help lower the temperature on campus through compassionate strategies of de-escalation.

We are grateful for the work of our partners at Minnesota Hillel, the Center for Jewish Studies, and the Jewish Community Relations Council who are actively supporting the Jewish student body at this time.

Please let us know how the Minnesota Rabbinical Association can support and partner with the University of Minnesota to create a safer campus for Jewish students, staff, and faculty, and the broader campus community.


Rabbi Esther Adler
Rabbi Morris Allen
Rabbi Jill Avrin
Rabbi Norman M. Cohen
Rabbi Alexander Davis
Rabbi Avram Ettedgui
Rabbi Matt Goldberg
Rabbi Jennifer Hartman
Rabbi Justin Held
Rabbi Rebecca Ratner Kamil
Rabbi Harold Kravitz
Rabbi Lynn Liberman
Rabbi David Locketz
Rabbi Tamar Magill-Grimm, co-chair
Rabbi Tobias Divack Moss, co-chair
Rabbi Cathy Nemiroff
Rabbi Avi Olitzky
Rabbi Debra Rappaport
Rabbi Jason Rodich
Rabbi Marcus Rubenstein
Rabbi Rachel Rubenstein
Rabbi Sharon Stiefel
Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker
Rabbi David B. Thomas
Rabbi Aaron Weininger
Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman