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Students from Penn Chavurah held a rally and press conference outside of the Rayburn Senate Office Building on Dec. 5 while Penn President Liz Magill delivered testimony to Congress. Credit: Ethan Young

Students from progressive Jewish student groups, including Penn Chavurah, held a rally and press conference outside of the Rayburn Senate Office Building as Magill delivered testimony to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

As the hearing took place, a cohort of “anti-Zionist and non-Zionist” Jewish groups from Penn, Harvard, MIT, Brown University, University of Michigan, The George Washington University, and Princeton University rallied at the nearby Spirit of Justice Park.

Individuals in attendance at the rally held up several signs, including “Jews for ceasefire,” “Jews for Palestine,” and “anti-Zionism ≠ anti-semitism.” Several chants could be heard as well, including “long live Palestine” and “not another nickel for Israel’s crime.”

College senior and Penn Chavurah organizer Jack Starobin spoke at the rally, saying that while President Magill has “rightfully condemned the violent threats made to Jewish students that support Israel,” she has “been silent” when students and faculty are harassed for speaking out in support of Palestine.

The Daily Pennsylvanian previously reported that multiple faculty members received violent threats after participating in pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus. Faculty members previously said that they had not received any messaged from higher-level administrators after reporting these threats.

In an attempt to support all students at Penn moving forward, Starobin told the DP that Magill should focus on “keeping every single student safe, no matter their politics, their ethnicity, their religion, or their background.” Starobin emphasized the importance of free speech for all, especially regarding a topic “as fraught” as the conflict in the Middle East. 

A joint Instagram post between Penn Chavurah and Harvard Jews for Palestine — signed by over 30 organizations across the country — addressed the hearing and rejected “the assertion that criticism of the Israeli government is inherently antisemitic.” 

“When universities and political representatives wrongfully deploy the serious charge of antisemitism as a tool to silence criticism of the Israeli government and calls for Palestine liberation, they undermine the severity of those horrific incidents,” the statement read. “As Jewish students committed to peace and safety on our campuses and around the world, we stand in complete solidarity with the Palestinian advocacy groups on our campuses.”

Lily Brenner, a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Science who was part of the group rallying outside, expressed concern that the perspectives of non-Zionist Jews “aren’t being heard” by University administration.

“The leading rhetoric around the Jewish perspective on campus is that of a strongly pro-Israel support,” Brenner said. “We want to make sure that in this hearing, and just in the national dialogue, those alternate perspectives are being heard.”