Students Join Protest at Columbia University Over Iranian President’s Speech

Sep 26, 2007 — When Columbia University announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to speak on its Morningside Heights campus, Yeshiva University students immediately began organizing their protest. Despite being on vacation, at least 30 Yeshiva University students made their voices heard among the hundreds of other activists gathered to protest Ahmadinejad’s visit on Monday.

Jeremy Stern ’07Y, a second-year semikhah student at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) who is also completing a master’s degree at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, felt that it was his duty as part of the academic community to go to Columbia and stand up for his beliefs. “We were not just protesting Ahmadinejad, but also that a university would take steps to give legitimacy on its campus to such a person. It is an issue for students across the board, not just at Columbia.”

The Yeshiva University contingent, organized by Stern with the help of fellow RIETS student and Columbia alumnus Eitan Ben David, assembled at the gates of Columbia bearing signs that read “Yeshiva University Won’t Talk With Terrorists,” “Don’t Talk With Terror,” and “Some Things Are Not Up For Discussion.”

Stern stressed that although “we are fully supportive of free speech, the issue is that this gives legitimacy to someone by letting him speak at Columbia. One can have the right to speak, but that doesn’t mean you have to give him a platform to spread his views.”

Other YU students, including many from Yeshiva University High School, and President Richard M. Joel gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the United Nations, where Ahmadinejad spoke on Tuesday. YU’s Office of Student Affairs distributed hundreds of thunder sticks to the protesters.

“Our students were there as proud Jews and Americans to send forth the message that we should not sanction giving bigotry and injustice a platform,” said President Joel. “I was honored to raise my voice alongside them.”

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