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Jewish Foundation Withdraws Multi-Million Funding From Columbia Due To Anti-Semitism Concerns

 May 13, 2024

The Russell Berrie Foundation has ceased financial contributions to Columbia University, spotlighting concerns over escalating anti-Semitism on campus.

The cessation of these significant donations highlights ongoing issues with campus climate and safety for Jewish students, Washington Free Beacon reported.

In January, tensions arose between Columbia University and major donor, the Russell Berrie Foundation.

The Foundation warned Columbia via email, linking future financial support to the university's maintenance of a tolerant environment for Jewish campus members. This email set the stage for subsequent events.

Initial Responses and Promises of Action

In reply to the Russell Berrie Foundation’s concerns, Columbia’s then-new president, Minouche Shafik, pledged to cultivate a safe and respectful academic environment.

However, her reply did not directly tackle the foundation's ultimatum about potential financial withdrawal, later becoming a major point of dispute.

Under Angelica Berrie's leadership, the Russell Berrie Foundation opted to monitor the situation at Columbia in the subsequent months.

They aimed to witness firsthand whether the university would take tangible steps to foster a more inclusive atmosphere for its Jewish students.

Critical Decision to Withdraw Support

By late April, the foundation’s leadership realized their concerns weren't adequately addressed. They decided to cancel a pending financial transfer of over $600,000 and suspend future donations.

This was significant as the foundation had previously contributed about $86 million to the university.

The news, revealed in a New York Times article, highlighted the seriousness of the situation at Columbia.

Angelica Berrie publicly explained the difficult decision, noting a divergence in values between the foundation and the university, especially concerning the foundation's commitment to pluralism and bridge-building principles.

Broader Impact and Other Donors React

The Russell Berrie Foundation's decisive action wasn't isolated. On April 22, another notable Columbia alumnus and donor, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, also withdrew his financial support.

Kraft cited similar concerns about the university’s ability to safeguard its community, especially against anti-Semitism.

These withdrawals by Kraft and the foundation have heightened discussions on campus safety and the imperative for universities to combat hate and intolerance actively.

Their actions have reverberated through academic and philanthropic circles, prompting Columbia to reassess its strategies and approaches to these critical issues.

Columbia University’s Ongoing Commitment

In response to recent events, Columbia University swiftly addresses allegations and concerns raised by its benefactors.

Samantha Slater, a university spokeswoman, reaffirmed their dedication to combating anti-Semitism and fostering a secure environment for Jewish students to flourish.

The university emphasizes ongoing, tangible efforts to eradicate all forms of hatred from its campus, aiming to reassure the community and potential donors of its commitment to its values and student welfare.

Future Outlook and Community Reactions

The broader Columbia community and other educational institutions closely monitor these developments, highlighting the pivotal role of university administrations in safeguarding students and shaping campus culture.

Amid ongoing discussions, many advocate for transparent and efficient measures from Columbia to tackle these entrenched issues, positioning the university at a critical juncture in rebuilding trust and demonstrating its dedication to inclusivity and safety.


In summary, the withdrawal of substantial funding from the Russell Berrie Foundation and Robert Kraft signals a pivotal moment for Columbia University.

It emphasizes the necessity for universities to not just acknowledge but actively confront instances of intolerance and create a secure environment for all students.

The university's forthcoming actions will be under scrutiny from stakeholders and community members, seeking tangible enhancements and a renewed dedication to ensuring student well-being.