Cornell student arrested over threats to kill Jews as NY unveils new measures to combat antisemitism


(New York Jewish Week) — A Cornell University junior has been arrested in connection with threats to kill Jewish students at the school, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Patrick Dai, 21, from Pittsford, New York, is being charged with posting threats to kill or injure another person using interstate communications, a federal charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He is due in court on Wednesday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced that a person had been taken into custody on Tuesday as her office unveiled a series of measures to combat antisemitism on campuses and elsewhere in New York.

Hochul had visited Jewish students at Cornell in a show of support on Monday, the day after police were called to the university’s kosher dining hall in response to antisemitic threats posted to a Greek life website over the weekend that threatened to “shoot up” the hall.

The posts included comments such as “jewish people need to be killed” and “eliminate jewish living from cornell campus.” One comment posted under the name “hamas” read, “If i see a pig male jew i will stab you and slit your throat.

The campus Hillel warned students to avoid the building after the threats, which came amid a spike in campus antisemitism across the country that has alarmed students, families and even the Biden administration.

“When I met with Cornell students yesterday, I promised them we would do everything possible to find the perpetrator,” Hochul said on Tuesday she announced that a suspect was in custody. “Public safety is my top priority and I’m committed to combating hate and bias wherever it rears its ugly head.”

Hochul also announced a series of measures to combat hate crimes and antisemitism in New York.

The governor ordered a third-party review of antisemitism and discrimination policies at New York City’s massive public university system, the City University of New York. The school system has been an antisemitism battleground in recent years, with some Jewish students and faculty alleging discrimination and harassment and demanding action from the administration. Much of strife across the system’s 25 colleges centers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Jewish students saying anti-Israel criticism often veers into antisemitism, and pro-Palestinian activists decrying alleged attacks on free speech.

Judge Jonathan Lippman, a former chief judge on the New York Court of Appeals, will lead the review of CUNY antisemitism. The probe will look into the campus environment; policies, procedures and handling of antisemitism complaints; and balancing free speech rights with antisemitism.

Last May, a student speaker at the CUNY School of Law graduation praised the school as a place where students could “speak out against Israeli settler colonialism,” said Israel was “indiscriminately raining bullets and bombs on worshipers,” and blamed “donors” and “investors” for stifling anti-Israel criticism. Two weeks later, CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez and the board of trustees denounced Fatima Mousa Mohammed’s remarks as “hate speech.”  The previous year, radical pro-Palestinian activist Nerdeen Kiswani delivered a similar speech at the law school graduation.

“We will take on the antisemitism we have seen on college campuses,” Hochul said during a press conference Tuesday. “The problem didn’t begin with the weeks following the Oct. 7 attacks. It’s been growing on a number of campuses and seen most acutely in the City University of New York.”

CUNY said in response to the announcement, “We will cooperate with Judge Lippman’s review as we work to build on the progress we’ve made combating antisemitism across our campuses.”

“As an institution of higher learning and one of the country’s most diverse universities, CUNY has taken many steps to combat hate, discrimination and intolerance in all forms, important work which we continue every day,” a CUNY spokesperson told the New York Jewish Week.

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating CUNY’s Brooklyn College over alleged antisemitism in a probe announced last year.

In addition to the CUNY review, the state’s division of criminal justice services will distribute $50 million for law enforcement agencies statewide to acquire new technology and equipment to better solve and prevent hate crimes, and $25 million in grants for securing communities against hate crimes, a program to boost protection as nonprofit organizations and other sites.

The state will also expand its social media analysis unit to better monitor violent threats against schools and campuses.

Antisemitic incidents have spiked in New York City and the United States since the start of the war in Israel, according to data collated by the New York Police Department and Jewish security groups. Jews are targeted in hate crimes in the city more than any other group.