University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 released a statement today after a recent terrorist attack and subsequent rocket fire in Israel and Palestine that have led to at least 1200 Israeli deaths and at least 900 Palestinian deaths.
“Princeton is a community that embraces many Israelis and Palestinians among its cherished members, as students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Even more have friends or relatives directly experiencing this awful violence,” Eisgruber wrote. “The nightmare underway in Israel and in the Palestinian territories is being deeply felt on this campus. That pain will inevitably continue in the months ahead. My heart goes out to everyone personally affected.”
The statement comes amid significant tension on college campuses as pressure to condemn the recent terrorist attacks by Hamas, the militant group in control of the Gaza strip, comes into conflict with long-standing student movements criticizing Israeli policies and actions in Palestine. Princeton has not seen student statements comparable to other universities thus far.
Eisgruber condemned Hamas’ attack in the statement and referred students to psychological and academic resources.
Increased security at key locations
Safety and security have become issues of heightened concern for various community members on campus.
One member of the Princeton Arab Society told The Daily Princetonian that “physical safety” and “intellectual safety” are both concerns for some Arab students. This student was granted anonymity to discuss internal conversations regarding security. “I know that a lot of Arabs on this campus don’t really feel safe expressing solidarity with Palestinian civilians without being accused of anti-semitism,” they said.
“Personally, as someone who is visibly Arab,” they added, “it is a bit uncomfortable on campus right now … I think myself and a lot of Arabs are carrying [ourselves] around campus a little bit more carefully and are a little bit more fearful of what should be our safe spaces.”
The member said that the University has primarily reached out to them with resources for emotional support, but that the group is internally considering requesting Public Safety (PSAFE) presence for future events.
According to a Sunday letter to the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) community by Director Rabbi Gil Steinlauf ’91, the CJL “has already implemented additional security.”
In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ Steinlauf said that “all Jewish organizations and institutions around the country here step up security, because there are inevitably incidents of antisemitism.”
Andrew Bosworth ’26 told the ‘Prince’ that, when visiting the CJL this week, he observed that “there is not always a [PSAFE] presence, but there certainly is one later in the day, especially when [it’s] dark outside.”
Bosworth is an assistant Data editor for the ‘Prince.’
“There is no indication whatsoever that there is any immediate danger to our students on campus,” Steinlauf added. “It’s a precautionary measure just to make sure that we are doing everything we can to maintain the security and safety of our students during a time of conflict.”
He also noted that PSAFE officers have been on duty at other events related to the war, including at a geopolitical update delivered by School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) professor and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer on Monday, and at a student gathering in Murray-Dodge Hall held by the CJL and Chabad on Sunday night in support of Israel.
Mor Mamoya, the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow who represents Israel at the CJL, has been instructed not to work in person on campus and is currently sheltering in place as a safety precaution. According to Steinlauf, this measure was nationally instituted across the country for all Israeli representatives working in Jewish organizations. Jewish Agency Israel Fellows are young adults who graduated from college and served in the Israeli Defense Forces, who now work as fellows to Hillel on North American campuses.
Split reaction from student groups and administrations across the country
Eisgruber’s statement comes after some peer institutions released statements condemning Hamas’ terrorist attacks and calling for an end to the violence, while some student groups elsewhere have released sometimes controversial statements advocating for a focus on Palestinian liberation.
At Harvard University, 34 student organizations released a joint statement on Oct. 7 in solidarity with Palestine and held “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine released a similar statement Oct. 9, co-signed by Columbia Jewish Voice for Peace.
Following national criticism as a result of the student groups’ statement, Harvard University President Claudine Gay distanced the Harvard administration from its student groups. Harvard’s initial public statement addressing the war went out Oct. 9, and condemned the Hamas attack on Israel. Gay told The Harvard Crimson the following morning, “while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”
Gay’s statement has not quelled criticism entirely. “The delayed Harvard leadership statement fails to meet the needs of the moment,” former Harvard President Lawrence Summers wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday. Summers criticized Gay for not going far enough in condemning Hamas specifically.
Eisgruber’s statement, titled “Statement on Terrorist Attacks and War in the Middle East,” issued one day after Gay’s, also condemned Hamas’ “murder and kidnapping of hundreds of Israelis over the past weekend,” and wrote, “this cruel and inhumane attack has provoked a bloody war.”
Eisgruber has released statements on crises around the world, including a statement on Ukraine after student pressure. He has not released a statement on some other conflicts, including the ongoing conflict in the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus.
Student groups at Princeton react to the conflict
Princeton student organizations that typically organize in support of Palestine have remained relatively quiet compared to peer groups at Harvard and Columbia. The Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) has not yet released a statement.
Some student groups have voiced their opinions surrounding the war.
The Alliance for Jewish Progressives (AJP) wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince,’ “we are mourning, and our hearts are with everyone — including our own friends and family — who are living in danger in Israel-Palestine.”
“We condemn this horrific violence, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to a more just reality, which necessitates ending the occupation and lifting the siege on Gaza,” AJP added.
AJP will be “holding space to mourn publicly in the coming days,” and added, “all are welcome to join us.”
Tigers for Israel (TFI) sent an email to all students on Tuesday, Oct. 10, writing, “on campus, all Israeli students/faculty and the majority of Jewish community members are facing the reality that our family and friends have been murdered, kidnapped, or are still unaccounted for.”
TFI emphasized that Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) hosted a “listening circle for students affected by the attacks in Israel” on Tuesday afternoon.
Eisgruber’s letter also referred to University resources available to those affected by the conflict, including the Davis International Center, CPS, and the Office of Religious Life.
Dean Amaney Jamal of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) sent a statement to SPIA majors on Monday, Oct. 9. SPIA has released statements on current events on numerous occasions, sometimes provoking controversy within the University community.
“All of us in the School of Public and International Affairs are deeply saddened by the tragic situation unfolding in Israel and Gaza,” she wrote. “Already hundreds have died. We hope all your loved ones are safe.”
In his letter to the CJL community, Steinlauf wrote, “All of us at the CJL will continue to affirm Jewish life on campus,” he wrote, adding, “We will continue to pray for and act in support of peace for all peoples in the Land of Israel.”
Steinlauf expanded in his interview with the ‘Prince’ that the CJL “is really here for the whole community.”
“We are grieving with our Jewish brothers and sisters, with our Jewish cousins, with our Jewish families who are there, but I also want it to be said that our hearts are also going out to all of the innocent Palestinians as well,” he said.
He also emphasized efforts the CJL is implementing towards the goal of community support. Upperclass students can now come to the CJL for meals, free of charge, even if they are not on the dining plan, according to Steinlauf.
The CJL bussed students to a rally and vigil in New York City on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in support of Israel. There was also a gathering in Murray-Dodge on Sunday, Oct. 8 for the Jewish community to “hold space” together. The CJL and Chabad at Princeton are hosting a vigil and rally, advertised as “Princeton Stands with Israel,” on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. on Frist South Lawn.
Annie Rupertus is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Lia Opperman is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’
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