Some Jewish students at Columbia University say they no longer feel safe on campus as protests in support of Palestine stretched into the fifth consecutive day on Sunday.

Jonathan Lederer, a Jewish sophomore at the university, said he and his twin brother, who also attends Columbia, were preparing to leave campus for a week in the hopes that the unrest would be addressed by the school in that time.

“Up until last night, when half the people there are from off campus, a bunch of lunatics who want to cause problems, issues and start a riot, that is when I felt totally vulnerable,” said Lederer.

What You Need To Know

  • Pro-Palestinian protests continued for the fifth consecutive day at Columbia University on Sunday

  • Some Jewish students are leaving campus for an extended period out of fear for their personal safety

  • The White House and Gov. Kathy Hochul condemned any antisemitism associated with the protests

Lederer shared cell video that he recorded Saturday night, showing a protester on campus ran off with his Israeli flag and then lit on fire. He said after the incident, other protesters attacked him.

“They were pushing and shoving me,” said Lederer. “They threw rocks at my face. At that moment, my life was totally threatened. And there was no safety authority on campus.”

Since the protests and encampment began Wednesday at the university, multiple arrests linked to demonstrations have taken place.

One human rights activist who attends SUNY Purchase, but who grew up in the West Village, said it felt meaningful to protest in solitary with fellow students who attend Columbia.

“Students all across America are currently facing extreme unjust and unconstitutional persecution from their respective administrations for showing their loud support for Palestinian and demanding divestment from Israel of their universities because yeah, it’s a human rights issue and we really care about the Palestinian people, and we do not want our government funding their genocide,” said SUNY Purchase student Sabrina Thompson.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates issued a statement Sunday, saying in part, “Calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly Antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous — they have absolutely no place on any college campus, or anywhere in the United States of America.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul also issued a statement on social media Sunday, slamming the protesters for allegedly targeting Jewish students on campus.

“The First Amendment protects the right to protest but students also have a right to learn in an environment free from harassment or violence,” she wrote. “At Columbia or on any campus, threatening Jewish students with violence or glorifying the terror of October 7 is antisemitism.”

Columbia University officials have acknowledged that they have heard complaints from Jewish students and are working on a solution.

“We are acting on concerns we are hearing from our Jewish students and are providing additional support and resources to ensure that our community remains safe,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

As tensions both on campus and just outside the Columbia campus continue to rise, university officials have announced that starting Monday, students will have the option to attend classes virtually.

Monday also marks the start of Passover, which begins at sundown.