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Several Jews were among the leaders of the student movement that took over the campus of Columbia University in New York City on this date in 1968 in protest of university involvement in military research during the Vietnam War, as well as against expansion of the campus into Morningside Park. Bob Feldman, a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) activist, discovered documents in Columbia’s International Law Library detailing the university’s defense work, which sparked a demonstration inside the Low Library administration building on March 27th, resulting in six students being placed on probation. SDS leader Mark Rudd then led protesting students in an occupation of Hamilton Hall, which housed the administrative offices. They received support from black students and Harlem community residents, which helped delay police action for fear of civil unrest, given that these events took place only three weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s assassination. College administrators William Kahn and Dan Carlinsky were held hostage by the students, along with a dean, and a photo of David Shapiro wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigar in Columbia President Grayson L. Kirk’s office was published widely in the media. The police were called in on April 30th and broke up the occupation with tear gas and violence; 132 students, 4 faculty members and 12 police officers were injured, and over 700 protesters were arrested. To see footage and hear participants, see below. To read Mark Rudd’s comments about why so many Jews were active in SDS, click here.
“I was recruited by David Gilbert . . . one of the founders of the Columbia SDS chapter, along with John Fuerst, the chapter Chairman. Both were Jewish, of course, as were my mentors and friends, Michael Josefowicz, Harvey Blume, Michael Neumann, and John Jacobs. Ted Kaptchuk and Ted Gold were Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Columbia SDS the year before I was elected Chairman, along with my Vice-Chairman, Nick Freudenberg. All of us were Jewish. It’s hard to remember the names of non-Jewish Columbia SDS’ers . . .”--Mark Rudd, “Why Were There So Many Jews in SDS? Or, The Ordeal of Civility”
Watch a 2009 interview with Mark Rudd:
Watch the full 90-minute Academy-Award-nominated 2002 documentary The Weather Underground directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel: