Jewish group at Cornell targeted by antisemitic threats; Gov. Hochul condemns, dispatches state police for protection

Cornell University’s campus Jewish life organization was under the watch of state and campus police Monday after hate-filled threats of violence were made against the student group, officials said.

The upstate university’s president, Martha Pollack, said in a Sunday message to her community that the “horrendous” antisemitic threats explicitly named the location of the university’s Center for Jewish Living. Pollack said that the university had notified the FBI, and that campus police were investigating.

Ominous threats were posted on Greekrank, a website for grading fraternities and sororities, reported The Cornell Daily Sun, the school’s newspaper. One post’s author said they intended to “shoot up” the Center for Jewish Living, according to a screenshot published by The Daily Sun.

Cops also decamped to Cornell Hillel, about a five-minute walk from the Center for Jewish Living. A guest lecture by a peace negotiator scheduled for Monday night was set to RSVP-only for security reasons, according to Cornell Hillel.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul visited campus Monday, saying that she wanted to show Cornell students that the state stands behind them. Federal and state law enforcement officials were working to determine who made the threats, Hochul said.

“There’s a great deal of anxiety here,” Hochul told reporters. “No one should be afraid to walk from their dorm or their dining hall to a classroom.”

The scare came with concerns rising over antisemitism at Cornell, one of the country’s most prestigious private universities. Earlier this month, a Cornell history professor drew national attention when he said he found Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack “exhilarating.” He later apologized and is now on leave.

And last Wednesday, anti-Israel messages — including “Zionism = Racism” and “F--- Israel” — were spray-painted and chalked across primary thoroughfares on campus, according to The Daily Sun.

Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, about 180 miles northwest of New York City. A quarter of the school’s undergraduate student body is Jewish, according to Hillel International.

A coalition of students supporting Palestine said in a statement that they “utterly condemn the vile antisemitic messages that have threatened Cornell’s Jewish Community.”

“We unequivocally denounce the racist confounding of Jewish identity with the actions of the state of Israel,” they said in the statement. “Any action to the contrary that endangers the well-being of Jewish students at Cornell does not align with our shared beliefs.”

The nine student groups in the coalition, which included Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, called for protections for Jewish students, a thorough investigation and answers from the perpetrator of the threats.

On social media, state Attorney General Letitia James described the threatening posts as “absolutely horrific.”

“There is no space for antisemitism or violence of any kind,” wrote James, a Brooklyn Democrat. “Campuses must remain safe spaces for our students.”

Hochul said she had been in contact with public New York City and New York state universities about campus safety.

Pollack said in her statement that Cornell “will not tolerate antisemitism.”

“The virulence and destructiveness of antisemitism is real and deeply impacting our Jewish students, faculty and staff, as well as the entire Cornell community,” she said in the message. “This incident highlights the need to combat the forces that are dividing us and driving us toward hate.”

The alarming threats came with New Yorkers on edge and universities roiled by the Israel-Hamas war. The bloody conflict erupted Oct. 7 with Hamas’ rampage through southern Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, and has since shifted to Gaza, where Israel has attacked by air and more than 8,000 people are said to have died.

“Regardless of your beliefs, backgrounds or perspectives, I urge all of you to come together with the empathy and support for each other that we so greatly need in this difficult time,” Pollack said in her message to her campus.