Jewish Harvard student suing Ivy League school details antisemitism, unsafe environment on campus

Jewish Harvard student Shabbos Kestenbaum, who is suing the Ivy League school along with other unnamed students over antisemitism, described an unsafe environment at the university during an event hosted by former alum Lieba Nesis last week.

Kestenbaum, who has testified in front of Congress, is trying to raise awareness of what Jewish students are facing, saying that for whatever people have heard or read about what is happening on college campuses, “it’s significantly worse.”

“There is pervasive groupthink at Harvard, there is very little tolerance for dissent,” he told a small group at the private event.

Jewish Harvard student Shabbos Kestenbaum, who is suing Harvard University along with other unnamed students over antisemitism, described an unsafe environment at the school. David McGlynn

“There are Jewish students, those who I know personally, who have been spat on, an Israeli student was told to leave the class because her nationality made other people uncomfortable.”

He has also had to have private security due to threats including one person taunting him with a machete in online posts.

Gustavo Espada, a staff member in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, was known for posting conspiracy theories and was fired in May over the exchange.

“I had to have armed security and armed guards outside my house for a week,” Kestenabum, 24, said of the situation.

“When I went to Chabad on Friday night to pray I had to have a guy with a gun follow me to make sure I was OK.”

He said that many are afraid to speak out publicly. He is the only one using his name in the suit.

“The reason those other students, you haven’t heard of them, is because they are scared: of the professional blowback, scared of social isolation, they don’t want their professors to give them a bad grade,” he said.

Kestenbaum, who has testified in front of Congress, is trying to raise awareness of what Jewish students are facing, saying that for whatever people have heard or read about what is happening on college campuses. AFP via Getty Images

“This is the reality of being Jewish at Harvard. It’s not hyperbole, it’s not an exaggeration.”

Kestenbaum identifies as a progressive and said he feels “abandoned,” by fellow liberals.

Students from several other schools including Columbia, Cooper Union, Rutgers University and University of Pennsylvania have testified in front of Congress.

“Jewish students across the country are facing unimaginable bigotry, cruelty and hatred,” Kestenbaum says, raising the specter of the Holocaust.

“It began with a pernicious ideology that swept across society. It began with the normalization, the acceptance and the celebration of antisemitism.” 

Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned in January after botching her testimony in front of Congress and being accused of plagiarism. Getty Images

Concluding, “The time to stand up is now.”

Multiple schools are being sued for antisemitism including UC Berkeley, Ohio State, American, Wellesley, SUNY New Paltz, and University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned in January after botching her testimony in front of Congress and being accused of plagiarism. 

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