Yoel Ackerman, a first-year student at Rutgers Law School and an Orthodox Jew, has taken legal action against his university and various law school administrators.
The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 2, claims that he faced discrimination after reporting an incident of anti-Semitism on Rutgers’ Newark, New Jersey campus.
Ackerman’s complaint alleges that he alerted school administrators of anti-Semitic messages in a public group chat with the aim of protecting his fellow Jewish students. According to Ackerman, the messages were promoting a video containing several false statements about Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, including the claim that Hamas militants did not commit rape against Israeli women.
Ackerman asserts, however, that instead of aiding his fight against anti-Semitism, the university tried to punish him for coming forward.
In his complaint against Rutgers, which was submitted to a New Jersey state court, Ackerman contends that he is facing “serious punishment” in an upcoming disciplinary hearing with the school. The complaint refers to the disciplinary hearing as a “kangaroo court” in which Ackerman cannot be represented by counsel and will not be advised of the witnesses who will testify against him.
Rutgers, which has the second-largest population of Jewish students among public universities in the United States, reportedly has stated that Ackerman engaged in defamation by reporting the anti-Semitic messages.
In December, Campus Reform reported that Ackerman was impeached by Rutgers’ Student Bar Association for “‘doxing, defamation, and harassment.’”
In response to these claims, Ackerman’s lawsuit states that he “forwarded the public statements … with the intent to protect his fellow Jewish students and community from what he had a [sic] reasonably and in good faith believed to be harassment, intimidation, bullying and discriminatory conduct aimed at Jewish law students at the Law School.”
Ackerman’s lawsuit also makes claims about the overall campus climate at Rutgers, contending that, “[f]or years,” Jewish students at Rutgers have “reported incidents and concerns” to the university administration, yet have remained unheard. The complaint states that the university “continues to tolerate” professors and speakers who “legitimize or enforce antisemitic expression and actions, whether overt or implicit.”
As an example of this general concern, the lawsuit mentions that shortly before Ackerman reported the anti-Semitic posts to the university administration, a Rutgers student posted to the university’s online platform with a request to “go kill” an “Israeli” at a house owned by a Jewish fraternity.
The complaint also references the testimony of Rabbi Esther Reed before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security in October 2022. Reed stated that “antisemitism [at Rutgers] has risen to unprecedented levels,” with “more than triple the number of incidents [since] four years ago.”
Campus Reform has contacted Rutgers University, Yoel Ackerman, and the attorneys representing Ackerman for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.