Watch CBS News

Amid college protests, University of Pennsylvania students discuss antisemitism, campus culture ahead of Passover

University of Pennsylvania students discuss campus culture, antisemitism ahead of Passover
University of Pennsylvania students discuss campus culture, antisemitism ahead of Passover 02:57

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages, tension over Pro-Palestinian protests and antisemitism on campuses has been rising.

On Monday at Columbia University, classes switched to remote learning, as pro-Palestinian protests entered their sixth day on the school's campus in New York City. Protesters have set up an encampment of tents on campus.

"As I look up to Columbia and other campuses around the country, I am glad that hasn't yet come to this campus, but I'm scared for friends on other campuses who are Jewish and being told to leave because they can't guarantee their own safety," said University of Pennsylvania senior Ezra Troy. "There's obviously freedom of speech to be considered, but at a certain point that can cross over into hate speech. We know that speech can cross over into action."

Many Jewish students say they have felt unsafe since the Oct. 7 attacks. 

"I have family that lives in Israel. I spent a year there, and when people chant that they want Jews to be literally run out of the state and pushed into the water, killed," Troy said, "that to me is very scary." 

University of Pennsylvania officials on Monday sent an email from Penn Hillel to students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and community members that said, in part: "It has been a very difficult year on campus, and we are so proud of the work we have done to support students through it all. Despite all of the issues, our students are thriving, walking proudly down Locust Walk wearing their Magen David necklaces publicly, and joyfully gathering with their friends to celebrate Jewish life in every corner of campus."

"It's been a semester, I think, of growth and dialogue," said Beni Romm, a University of Pennsylvania freshman. "I've had a lot of good conversations with people from the Muslim Students Association and I think the tone on campus has been much calmer and more productive." 

Romm said that while every Passover is a reminder of Jewish liberation, this year, the holiday reminds him not to take freedom for granted. 

"As with every Passover holiday, I'll be thinking of how thankful I am to be free and free as an American citizen to exercise my liberties and use them for the service of God but also be thinking of my brothers in Israel who are displaced by war," Romm said. "We're about to celebrate our freedom and to know that we are celebrating, to see people on American soil celebrating that captivity and cheering for more Oct. 7s and supporting Hamas, it's a horrible thing to see." 

Both Troy and Romm hope that peace and understanding will prevail. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.