October 23, 2023

GUEST ROOM | Holding Prof. Rickford Accountable

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Re “A Statement Regarding My Actions From Oct.15″ (Letter to the Editor, Oct. 18)

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the terrorist organization Hamas carried out the most horrific attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War. Terrorists stormed into Israel and murdered over 1,400 Israelis and kidnapped almost 200. But these terrorists, a designation placed on Hamas by the United States, the European Union and dozens of countries, did not just kill innocent men, women and children. Their actions recalled some of the worst atrocities in Jewish history. At Kfar Aza,  40 babies and toddlers were murdered, some of them beheaded.  At the a music festival near the Israeli side of the 1948 border, women were raped before they were butchered.

Just over a week later, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority condemned Hamas’ actions, stating that they do not represent the Palestinian people. The same day, on Sunday, Oct. 16, Cornell University Prof. Russel Rickford, history, called Hamas’ actions “exhilarating” and “energizing.” Instead of condemning acts of terrorism, Professor Rickford celebrated Hamas’s actions as they “changed the balance of power” in Israel. Professor Rickford’s words stand in stark contrast to the values of Cornell University’s ideal of “free and open inquiry and expression.” We cannot stand idly by as students are traumatized by hateful speech from a professor, as this creates a culture of fear of presenting alternative perspectives, lest their academic standing suffer.

We, as Jewish students at Cornell and their allies, are grieving this senseless massacre.   While we mourn and process, we are also concerned about our safety.  The very same Hamas that committed these acts of evil also called for a day of rage against Jewish people across the world last week. We are sad, angry and scared.

We are all students at Cornell. Some of us are students in Professor Rickford’s courses this semester.  We are outraged that our professor has endorsed terrorism and is “exhilarated” by a twenty-first century massacre of Jewish men, women, children and babies. As a result of his decision to publicly endorse violence against Jews, we feel silenced and unsafe in his classes. 

The theme of the academic year is free speech. Yet, when a professor to whom students turn to for guidance and support gives credence to terrorists, he alienates his students who now feel unsafe speaking up in his class, lest their grades suffer due to the incongruence of their beliefs with his. By saying those words, how can he expect Jewish and pro-Israel students to flourish and feel supported in his classes? 

By writing and signing (albeit some anonymously), we are fully aware that we might receive blowback from Professor Rickford and that our academic standing might suffer.  Yet, it is important that he is held accountable for creating an intolerant and unsafe culture for students at Cornell. 

Professor Rickford has a long history of ideologically marginalizing students that are Zionist, and while we aren’t looking for an apology, we are looking for the Cornell administration to publicly tell our community what they are doing to ensure that Professor Rickford is held accountable for his words, and ensure that our campus climate is safe for Jewish students. During a week of unprecedented trauma and violence, we need to know that we are seen and safe. This is a teachable moment and we are eager to learn.


William Barkoff ’24, Cornell Hillel President

Simone Shteingart, ’24, Cornell Hillel Executive Vice President

Zoe Bernstein ’24, Cornellians for Israel President

Melanie Schwartz ‘25, Cornellians for Israel Vice President

Talia Dror ’25, Cornellians for Israel Student Leader

Jeremy Zarge ‘25 Center for Jewish Living Co-President

Molly Goldstein ‘25, Center for Jewish Living Co-President

Adam Abergel ’24, Chabad at Cornell President

Michi Grinberg ‘25, Chabad at Cornell Vice President

Netanel Shapira ‘25

Alex Silver ‘25

Amanda Silberstein ’26

Liana Maza ‘24

Anonymous ’26

Juliette Haas ‘24

Anonymous ‘24

Sasha Dunst ‘27

Benjamin Malekan ’25

Sara Raimondi ’24

May Cayzer ‘25

Davian Gekman ’23

Elliott Ottensoser ’24

Jordan Paraboschi ‘23

Marty Levine ‘24

Ezra Galperin ‘27

Matan Auerbach ‘24

Samantha Albert ’25

MA ‘24

Brett Levinton ‘24

Anonymous ‘24

Jan Temel ’24

Zoe Farber ‘24

SA ‘24

Garrett Spillerman ‘25

Casey Galishoff ’23

Jake Silver ’26

Steven Sabbagh ‘26

Louis Blair ’24

Anonymous ‘24

Paige Schultz ‘24

Bianca Kaplan ‘24

Rebeka Nissan ‘25

Chloe Cornell ’24

Samuel Meisner MEng ‘24, BS ‘23

Adam Nerenberg ‘25

LK ’24

Ariella Hakimi ’24

DK ‘24

JNS ‘25

Yael Spector ‘23

OR ’25

Anonymous ‘23

Andrew Lowitt ‘26

EF ‘23

Mari Maloul ’24

Liat Cohen ‘27

Nabi Nabavian ‘27

Jordan Zeiger ‘27

BL ‘25

SA ‘24

Anonymous ‘24

Alex Zoneraich ‘25

Skylar Sim ‘25

Brielle Ohana ’25

Alexa Cooper ‘24

Ariel Kalimian ‘25

Aaron Baruch ’26

Spencer Katz ’24

VR ‘24

EG ‘25

Nava Lippman ’26

OB ‘26

Shaina Zargari ILR ‘23, JD ‘26

Joshua Waitman ‘27

Ella Bear ‘24

Jonathan Grossman ’24

Halle Jakubowicz  ’27

Anonymous ‘25

Rob Grossman, Visiting Professor at Johnson Graduate School of Management

Amanda Schwartz ’24

Ella Sperling ‘23

Isabella Masciangelo

Alyssa Serebrenik ‘23

Abigail Landers ’24

NS ‘25

Tanya Abergel ’25

Noah Lavine ’24

Jake Berko ’26

Maggie Meister ‘24

Alexandra Patrick ‘24

Anonymous ‘24

Kiki Levin ‘27

Matthew Furman ‘24

Julia Horn ’25

Tyler Unrath ‘24

Riley Bresner ’24

Mayanka Dhingra ’23

SE ‘25

Remi Haas ‘25

Anonymous ‘23

Eran Shmueli ’27

Julianna Crespi ‘25

Harlie Dultz ‘25

Ben Marks ‘24

Michael Schaff DVM ‘24

DP ’24

Joshua Debel MBA ’24

NB ’24

Lizzie Manowitz ’25

Sam Tainsky ‘27

GB ‘23

Kailey Tobin ‘25

Samantha Feinberg ‘25

Daniel Kaminski ‘27

Danielle Mimeles ’23, Law ’25

Alex Lebowitz ‘26

Anonymous ‘24

Joseph Teitelbaum ’26

BR ’27

Anonymous ‘25

Jonathan Renert ’25

Julia Naishuler ‘25

Elizabeth Sherstinsky JD ‘26

Anonymous ’25

SG ’24

II ‘24

NH ‘25

Abraham Kassin ‘26

Sam K ‘27

Blake Sanford JD ’26

MV ’24

Anonymous ’23

Maddy Kivel ’25

Emily Lebovitz ‘25

Drew Wilenzick ‘26

Max Charlamb ‘22, ‘23

Anonymous ‘26

Emma Grunhaus ‘24

LS ‘26

Sonell Novak ‘24

Nadav Soudry ’24

Matthew Kiviat ’27

Isaac Broudy, PhD Candidate, Department of Mathematics

JO ’25

Karina Ulrich ‘25

Pascale Zissu ‘25

Adam Dickstein ‘26

Felix Roz ’24

CS ‘24

Anonymous ‘27

SL ‘24

HR ‘26

Zachary Fiedler ‘24

Craig Zager ‘24

Lindsay Gellert ‘27

Mitra Farzami ‘24

Yakov Perlov ‘25

ZR ‘24

Saila Holsman ‘25

JD ‘24

Henry Geller ‘25

Lily Spertus Newman ‘26

Natasha Fertig ’26

Samuel Itkin ‘23, JD ‘25

Phoebe Naughton ’26

MN ‘26

Margot Baker ‘25

SL ’25

Ethan Markowitz ‘24

Eli Feldman ‘26

Danielle Showstack ‘25

HL ‘25

Jessi Schlewitt ‘24

Anonymous ‘24

Pained Student NB ‘23

Sally Hooey ‘23

Allison Schwartz ‘26

Anonymous ‘26

SB ‘23

Sofia Loayza ‘24

Mielle Emouna ‘24

Maya Allen ‘23

Samantha Weintraub MILR/MBA ’23

Berta Faktorovich ‘25

Layla Abroon

MT ‘24

Saskia Gonzalez ‘26

William Rosenthal ‘27

RT ’25

Matthew Sherman ‘23

Jonathan Gotian ’24

Danny Iskols ‘24

Isabella Feinberg ‘23

Anonymous JD ‘24

Daniel Sorokin ‘27


Anonymous ‘27

Jessie Greenstein

Noam Zilberstein

MK ‘25

DP ‘25

JD ‘25

Maya Weisberg ‘26

Leah V ‘25

NB ’26

DKJ ‘24

Mordechai Neuman JD ’24

Jesse Koppel ‘26

Kayla Singer ‘25

TD ‘24

AA ’24

Caroline Geller ‘24

Gabriel Santoriello

Sasha Addi ’25

Anonymous ‘26

Emily Aaron ‘25

Shira Mingelgrin ‘26

David Nachman ‘25

Ari Salsberg

Anonymous ’25

Calvin Oliner ‘26

MS ’25

Jenna Saevitzon ‘25

Sean Dreifuss ‘23

Sydney Levinton ‘27

Jordyn Cagner ’25

Talia Dinstein ‘25

AG ‘24

HB ‘25

JK ’25

Jake Altman ‘26

Rachel Habib-Wells ‘24

Anonymous ’25

Harris Cohen ‘27

Andrew Danziger ‘24

JM ’24

PK ‘25

Brendan Klein ‘24, JD ‘26

Ellie Altman-Sagan ‘25

DE ‘27

OR ’24

David Benvent ‘25

Gabby Schwartz ‘23

Sam Friedman ‘26

Hadley Bernardi ‘23

KO ‘24

LB ‘26

EU ‘23

KM ’24

This letter was co-signed by the individuals listed above on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.

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