A group of “out of control” pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted a town hall at Rutgers University on Thursday, shouting anti-Israel slogans like “one solution, intifada revolution” and forcing officials to end the meeting early as they and Jewish students were ushered out by police, a student told Fox News Digital this weekend. 

The student, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway and administrators “ran away,” “leaving behind the Jewish/pro-Israel students to deal with an unruly and obviously antisemitic crowd, whose attention turned to the Jews after the administration left.” 

They said police then ushered students out the back door because it was too dangerous to exit the front door. 

Cory Rothbort, an attorney with Mazie Slater & Freeman, who is representing student Rivka Schafer along with another student, called it a “horrifying experience” for the Jews in attendance. 


Rothbort said the Jewish students had gone to the town hall to “get some answers from President Holloway, they wanted to know what he was going to do to help protect them on campus, and instead they were met with the very same conduct that they were looking for protection from.”

Video Schafer took of the town hall shows pro-Palestinian protesters begin chanting after Holloway said the school will not be severing ties with Tel Aviv University, a school with which it has a relationship. 

2 referendums

Rothbort said the town hall was hosted by the Rutgers University Student Assembly, which had also put two BDS referendums up for a vote on severing ties with Tel Aviv University and divesting from anything connected to Israel. 

BDS is a Pro-Palestinian movement that stands for “boycott, divest and sanction” and “it is targeted solely at the one and only Jewish state of Israel,” Rothbort told Fox News Digital. “It is meant to economically isolate and basically discriminate against the Jewish state.”

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway speaks at Thursday’s town hall before he was interrupted by anti-Israel protesters. (House Committee on Education & the Workforce)

He said numerous states, including New Jersey, have adopted anti-BDS legislation that state the “government will not finance or provide pension money or do business with any company that promotes or supports BDS.” 


Rothbort said that Rutgers’ administration was told that a BDS referendum could “inflame antisemitic conduct,” but “Rutgers said they weren’t going to do anything.”

Joe Gindi, another Jewish student who attended the town hall, told Fox News Digital, “It’s been a tough couple of months since Oct. 7 at Rutgers. I was not prepared for a protest. No Jewish students brought banners or flags, no Jewish students shouted or anything or disrupted the event. We were just there to hear a town hall.” 

He said he has experienced previous incidences of antisemitism and even testified in front of the House Committee on Education. 

He said RUSA’s referendums “stirred the pot in a way that we just haven’t seen at Rutgers. The number of incidents, the scale of some of these incidents is just unfathomable.”

‘Civic practice’

Holloway emailed students defending the decision not to shut down the referendum, Rothbort said. “In it, he cites one of the reasons: he says I basically trust student government, and two, I expect students to engage in responsible civic practice.” 

In addition to the meeting, Rothbort said Schafer was also targeted by pro-Palestinian students at her dorm the same week the BDS referendum went up for a vote. When she woke up one morning to find flyers, “put up outside her room and throughout her entire dormitory on every floor of her face and pro-Palestinian language connected to the BDS referendum.”

pro-Palestinian protesters chanting

Pro-Palestinian protesters chant during a town hall event at Rutgers University. (House Committee on Education & the Workforce)

She filed a report with the Rutgers University Police Department, but told the New York Post she felt “completely unsafe” and “targeted” for her religious beliefs. 


“It was very clear they were targeting her right where she sleeps, and it was an intimidation tactic, a message to both Jewish students, as well as Rivka, that ‘Don’t support Israel, we know where you sleep,’” Rothbort said. “That is the definition of a biased conduct, and so I’ve been helping Rivka navigate those waters.” 

Gindi called Schafer’s flayer incident a “level of intimidation that it’s sickening We haven’t had anything like that at least at Rutgers before.” 

Despite the incident, Schafer went to the town hall. 

“Rivka is a very brave individual and Rivka was not going to allow these individuals keep her quiet and suppress her ability to support Israel,” he added. 

pro-Palestinian protesters chanting

Pro-Palestinian protesters chanting at Thursday’s town hall.  (House Committee on Education & the Workforce)

Rothbort said he had learned from students that much of the antisemitic behavior isn’t out in the open, but rather through “typical school bullying behavior” such as group chats through text, WhatsApp, or other online messaging applications. 

Antisemitic incidents

He said Schafer was in a chess group chat one time “and all of a sudden, the president of the chess group shared some messages out of the blue basically saying boycott Israel, don’t let your tuition money go to murderers or genocide.” He said Schafer told him, Now I can’t participate in chess club, I’m not welcome here.”

He said there have been other antisemitic incidents on campus. 


A pro-Palestinian flyer with Rivka Schafer's face on it

Rivka Schafer recently found her face plastered on a pro-Palestinian flyer and placed around her dorm.  (Courtesy of Cory Rothbort)

“How can you have a culture where chanting for a one-state solution is acceptable? How can you have a culture where chanting to globalize the intifada or long live the intifada or there is only one solution, intifada revolution? I mean that is antisemitic that is targeting Jewish people,” Rothbort said. 

He said Rutgers has defended its “inaction” on “First Amendment grounds and saying you have a right to say what you want to say. Well, that’s not true. The First Amendment doesn’t protect all sorts of speech, and it doesn’t protect all sorts of conduct. It doesn’t protect speech that incites violence, and it doesn’t protect hateful conduct.” 

“It was very clear they were targeting her right where she sleeps, and it was an intimidation tactic, a message to both Jewish students, as well as Rivka, that ‘Don’t support Israel, we know where you sleep.'”

— Cory Rothbort, attorney for Rutgers student Rivka Schafer

Schafer hasn’t made the decision to sue the school yet. “We’re evaluating our options and there’s an ongoing criminal investigation,” Rothbort explained. 

Rutgers and other colleges “can’t keep putting their head in the sand and say, ‘Well, we can’t do anything about it,’ citing First Amendment rights,” Rothbort said. “You have an obligation and a legal obligation to prevent your students from being bullied, intimidated, harassed and discriminated against because of their religion or other characteristics.”

Gindi said that while most people left the town hall through the emergency exits, “I actually refused to go with the majority of the group. I refused to let these bullies intimidate me to the point where I had to leave through the emergency exit, so I refused, I went through the main exits at my own leisure.”

He added that he is “grateful” to Holloway for “really sticking up and defending the university’s relationship with Tel Aviv University and calling out the horribleness of BDS. I have so much respect for him for that and I really, really thank him for standing with the Jewish community at least in this regard.” 

Rutgers told Fox News Digital in a statement about the town hall incident: “Students who objected to President Holloway’s belief that the BDS movement is both wrong and counter-productive and who disagree with his support for continuing Rutgers’ partnership with Tel Aviv University disrupted a meeting of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) where the president was discussing topics of interest to RUSA.” 

A picture of the Rutgers University welcome sign

Rutgers University (Rutgers University)

“The RUSA leaders ended the meeting and President Holloway, with his driver who is a Rutgers University police officer, and other attendees left the meeting without incident.” 

‘Engagement, not isolation’

On April 1, Holloway said in a statement: “On the question of divestment, I think the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is wrong. I believe in engagement, not isolation. I believe that enlightenment comes from involvement and that lasting progress and peace are the outcomes of diplomacy and discussion. Please also know that the University’s Joint Committee on Investments has authority over investment policy. A request for divestment from companies doing business in Israel was presented to that committee in 2020, and it did not move forward. 


“Our partnership with TAU adds to our fundamental academic and research mission. This relationship was first established in 2016 and will continue at the HELIX, our new research facility in downtown New Brunswick. I traveled to Tel Aviv in 2021 with a delegation from New Jersey to renew the memorandum establishing the partnership and to show my commitment to global academic exchanges and to international engagement. Rutgers has relationships like this with universities all over the world, and they help move our mission forward.”

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