Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff — alongside United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain — met with Jewish leaders on Cornell’s campus on Thursday, Nov. 9. Eight students from the Center for Jewish Living, the Roitman Chabad Center at Cornell, Cornellians for Israel, Cornell Hillel and Shevach were invited to attend.
A significant day in Jewish history, Nov. 9, 2023, marks the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht — or “the night of the broken glass” — in which Germans unleashed waves of violent attacks on Jewish communities.
“[Kristallnacht] was a sign that the government did not support the Jewish community and was actually actively against the Jewish community,” Cornell CJL co-president Jeremy Zarges ’25 said. “Having this event today showed us and seeing that our government is behind Jewish people and they’re here to support us and actually having [Emhoff] come here was really nice.”
Molly Goldstein ’24, Cornell CJL co-president, noted Emhoff has been traveling to speak with students across the world to demonstrate his support. Before traveling to Ithaca, Emhoff visited London to meet with Jewish students.
“He is a Jew himself and he’s made it part of his mission to combat anti-semitism and use his platform to [address] these issues,” Goldstein said.
Students such as Goldstein said they have felt immense support from local and state governments and are honored to have shook hands with the second gentleman. His visit comes a little over a week after antisemitic threats were posted on an online Cornell forum which threatened direct harm onto Jewish students and a mass shooting at the CJL. The day after the threats were posted, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) visited the CJL.
“Although there’s anti-semitism and Jew hatred that is coming up across the country, we are supported and we have the right to exist and the government is just showing us that we are allowed to be here and be educated, just like any other person can,” Goldstein said.
In addition to support, Emhoff and Hussain also asked for specific ways to support Jewish students at Cornell and across the country. The students emphasized two points: incorporating anti-semitism training and increasing safety for students.
“In freshman year we had to do a lot of DEI training, so maybe we could incorporate more anti-semitism training and education on anti-semitism into that,” Zarges said.
But above all else, Zarges emphasized the importance of security during these times.
“Jewish students, just like any other group, should never feel that they’re not safe to walk around campus, or that they don’t feel like they can be as much of a student or as much of a person on campus,” Zarges said. “We need to get back to a place where all students feel totally safe — that’s the main goal here.”
CJL is hosting a cookie bake drive to show its support for Jewish communities at other universities. Goldstein said CJL faculty will make personal deliveries to other campuses.
“I wish I could say that this was a one-off instance,” Goldstein said. “Unfortunately, that’s not our reality. I feel for the other students on other campuses. … I hope they’re getting as much support and we can support them as much as we can.”