Student arrested in connection with antisemitic threats at Cornell

University authorities alerted the FBI after anonymous posts threatened violence against Jewish students


A student has been arrested in upstate New York in connection with a potential hate crime at Cornell University.

According to a press release from the US Justice Department, Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old third-year student at Cornell has been arrested by federal officers.

He has been charged with making threats to kill or injure after he allegedly posted on an anonymous university forum that he wanted to “slit the throat” of any Jewish men and "to rape and throw off a cliff any Jewish women", and to behead any Jewish babies.

According to the Justice Department, the charge filed against Dai could see him receive a maximum term of up to five years in prison or a fine of $250,000 (£200,000).

New York Governor Kathy Hochul confirmed that a suspect is currently in custody, affirming that she is "committed to combatting hate and bias wherever it rears its ugly head".

The FBI were notified of a potential hate crime at Cornell University over the weekend after a series of “horrendous” antisemitic threats had been made against the school’s Jewish community in online posts, according to the college’s president, Martha Pollack. 

Messages sent included threats to shoot Jewish students, and posts encouraging others to harm Jews. Authorities response to the Centre for Jewish Life on campus – which students were warned to avoid “out of an abundance of caution”.

Rabbi Silberstein, from Cornell Chabad, told the Jewish Chronicle: “These antisemitic posts were designed to sow panic and hysteria, which they, unfortunately, succeeded at generating. The fact is that by showing panic and fear we play into their schemes”. He said that although “the administration should respond to this with the fullest seriousness… the rest of us should take it for what it is - a cowardly threat and nothing more”. 

This was not the first instance of antisemitism at Cornell, whose campus was recently defaced with graffiti reading “Israel is Fascist”. One Jewish student told CNN that such incidents are “really, deeply troubling and upsetting”

Antisemitic incidents in the US increased by nearly 400% in the days after the attacks by Hamas, according to the Anti-Defamation League, with universities a hotspot. 

At UCLA, some students have been left feeling “scared” after pro-Palestine protesters on campus called for an intifada. Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, from UCLA Chabad, told the JC that students feel “betrayed”. He said: 

Students at Columbia have also condemned the failure of university administration to offer adequate support. “We know now that there are students in our class who hate us because we’re Jewish,” one student at Columbia told CBS news. Police confirmed that a swastika had been drawn on a bathroom wall at the university last week. 

The White House has previously expressed deep concern over “grotesque sentiments and actions” on college campuses. Spokesperson Andrew Bates said that such incidents “recall our commitment that can’t be forgotten: ‘never again’”.

The arrest comes as the Biden administration announced new action to combat the “alarming uptick” in instances of antisemitism on college campuses. 

The White House has pledged dozens of security experts to engage with schools and colleges, and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will be partnering with campus law enforcement to track hate-related threats. Yesterday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona met with leading Jewish organisations to discuss the issue of growing antisemitism on campus.

Today, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the rise in antisemitism, saying “There is no place for hate in America”. She assured students that “we’re doing everything we can” to counter antisemitism.

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