Cornell University, in collaboration with the FBI, is probing a spate of chilling threats aimed at its Jewish community. The threatening messages were found on a website unaffiliated with the educational institution, specifically targeting “104 West,” the address of the campus’ Center for Jewish Life.
A Direct Call to Violence
One of the posted threats chillingly instructed to “follow a Jew home and cut his throat,” adding for effect, “The rats need to be removed from Cornell.”
The Cornell University Police Department swiftly responded to these threats in a community alert, noting, “Evidence suggests that the target locations were intentionally selected due to the bias of the perpetrator.”
University Leadership Speaks Out
Martha E. Pollack, President of Cornell University, was unequivocal in her condemnation of these intimidating messages. “Threats of violence are absolutely intolerable, and we will work to ensure that the person or persons who posted them are punished to the fullest extent of the law,” she stated. Pollack also confirmed that the threats were reported to the FBI as potential hate crimes.
Safety Measures and Community Communication
Adding to the urgency, the Steven K. and Winifred A. Grinspoon Hillel Center at the university issued a social media advisory, recommending students and staff steer clear of the 104 West building “out of an abundance of caution.”
An email from the Cornell Center for Jewish Life assured its community, “Our immediate focus is to keep the community safe; we will continue to make that a priority. Our students are always our top priority, and we are doing and will do everything we can to ensure their safety. We will continue to notify you with updates as we receive them.”
The context in Wider National Tensions
The incidents occurred in the wake of controversial statements by associate professor of history Russell Rickford, who is currently on leave. Rickford expressed enthusiasm for the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel during a rally in Ithaca, N.Y., stating, “Hamas has changed the balance of power,” and adding, “It was exhilarating, energizing…I felt elated.”
These alarming threats and the ensuing investigation come at a time of escalating tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, not only globally but also within New York City, as evidenced by a spike in hate crimes and volatile protests.