Penn has committed extra funding to meet Penn Hillel’s extra security needs through the end of the 2024-25 school year, the organization said in an email addressing concerns about the safety of Jewish students.
In the email sent on Tuesday, Penn Hillel Executive Director and Rabbi Gabe Greenberg addressed the pro-Palestine rally held on campus on Monday and highlighted the Division of Public Safety’s commitment to protecting Penn’s Jewish community. He also praised DPS and the Philadelphia Police Department for having a strong presence during the event.
“I want to underscore how responsive and active Penn’s Division of Public Safety has been over the past several weeks,” Greenberg wrote. “I am grateful for our excellent working relationship in the service of our students.”
Still, Greenberg said that Penn Hillel has submitted formal complaints to the University regarding the conduct of the rally, specifically poster-tearing and some of the language used — which the email accused of violating the University’s Guidelines on Open Expression.
“As administrators of the Guidelines on Open Expression, University Life provides guidance for Penn community members’ questions or concerns about speech and actions that may infringe on speech,” University Life Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives Mike Elias wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Formal complaints, alleging a violation of the University’s Guidelines on Open Expression, are confidential matters.”
While some Jewish students on campus echoed the need for unity and safety during the ongoing conflict and campus demonstrations, others expressed concern for those organizing in support of Palestine.
College junior and Co-President of Penn Hillel Eitan Weinstein said that he has trust in the University' administration and Penn Hillel to ensure that students feel safe on campus and are able to process and mourn together.
“I am proud of my identity, and I feel safe to express that here despite everything that’s going on,” Weinstein said.
College junior and Penn Hillel Vice President of Israel Engagement Maya Harpaz echoed Weinstein’s sentiments, saying that the initiatives detailed in Greenberg’s email “are a really great opportunity for the Jewish community to come together and embrace each other and support each other during this really, really tough time.”
In regards to safety, Harpaz said that she feels "relatively safe," but she said that she has become more vigilant of her surroundings given recent events.
Other students that spoke with the DP said that their perception of safety as Jewish students on campus depended on Magill’s acknowledgment of the challenges faced by Palestinian students.
“There are many Jews on this campus that are deeply scared by the behavior of Hamas. I count myself as one of those students," a student in Penn Chavurah, who requested anonymity due to a fear for personal safety, said. “But I will not feel safe as a Jewish student on this campus until I hear President Magill stand up for my safety and the safety of my peers unequivocal and independent of politics.”
The student added that witnessing some leaders of Jewish campus institutions of Penn Hillel stand by what the student called a “genocidal offensive” led by Israel made them uncomfortable.
“I feel unsafe walking around right now … never felt that way before at the University of Pennsylvania,” the student said. “I am concerned right now that my safety may be jeopardized as a broader assault on the safety of Penn students that stand for the humanity of the people in Gaza.”
College senior and Penn Chavurah member Sam Cheever said he has not felt unsafe on campus. However, Cheever said that he has felt uncomfortable, alienated, and unwelcome at times — including by Penn Hillel.
“The safety I genuinely worry the most about and what I would like to see the administration be really vocal about standing up for is the people who are organizing for Palestinian rights,” Cheever said.
The Penn Hillel email offered several resources for students to celebrate their Jewish identity and process recent events, including free “Thursday Together” dinners at Hillel, weekly processing groups, and a “Solidarity Shabbat Dinner” on Friday.
Greenberg mentioned the importance of making sure students feel secure in the midst of the “destructive toll taken by social media on our students’ mental and emotional health.” He later suggested students limit the amount of time they spend on Instagram and other social media platforms.
On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Penn Hillel hosted a virtual Zoom meeting where Greenberg discussed happenings on campus and at which student leaders spoke.