This story is part of The Herald's coverage capturing community reactions to the University Hall sit-in on Nov. 8. To read more coverage, click here.
BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now, a group demanding that the University divest its endowment “from companies that enable war crimes in Gaza” and publicly support a ceasefire in Gaza, garnered national attention after 20 of its members were arrested following a staged sit-in at University Hall.
Group members told The Herald that their resolve has not wavered since the arrests.
According to two representatives from Jews for Ceasefire Now — Rita Feder ’24 and Mica Maltzman ’25 — the group was originally formed as a “processing space” following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. Israel’s retaliatory strikes and ground offensive, which aim to “destroy” Hamas, have killed more than 11,000 people, the vast majority civilians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Jews for Ceasefire Now, feeling a desire to “do something” in support of Palestine, staged a sit-in at University Hall on Nov. 8, just over one month after the attack on Israel. 20 members of the group positioned themselves underneath the building’s rotunda and declared that they would not leave until their demands were met.
Feder pointed to the “notable” composition of the group that organized the sit-in, who were all Jewish. “Anyone else who would take the same exact stand that we took would be called antisemitic,” she said. But “there is no world that someone is going to slap a label on me that has killed generations of my own family.”
“I obviously had hesitations,” said Edie Fine ’25, one of the sit-in participants. “This is a fear-inducing endeavor for anybody.”
The students are currently facing trespassing charges for the sit-in after being released from custody last Wednesday night. The group has retained a lawyer but declined to comment on any further legal proceedings.
Organizers said that Jews for Ceasefire Now felt “grateful” for the community support they received over the past week from faculty, alumni and fellow students.
In a letter to President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20, faculty members called on University administrators to insist the charges against the students be dropped, “exempt the students from any University disciplinary proceedings” and “open a campus-wide conversation that engages seriously with the students' demands.”
“There's something very unique about being supported by the people who I look up to the most,” Fine said.
During the sit-in itself, an additional 40 students were on alert outside of University Hall, prepared to support the protestors “for as long as it took,” Feder said.
A live stream from the sit-in showed participating students singing hymns, holding banners and reiterating their demands for the University. “It was one of the most beautiful things I think I've ever been privy to,” Fine said.
Before the arrests, the protestors were informed that “they could face disciplinary action up to and including separation from the University for violating policies,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.
According to Maltzman, the group was intentional about making “their presence known” without blocking exits or “putting anyone in harm’s way.”
“We’re following a very long tradition of peaceful activism that has made serious and consequential changes on this campus,” Feder said.
Feder, Maltzman and Fine all said that the group has yet to receive any communication from the University administration following the arrests.
“Last Wednesday, from start to finish, our priority was to make sure that the students felt supported, and they will continue to be supported throughout this process,” Senior Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt said in an interview with The Herald.
Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes told The Herald that the students had “already received outreach” from the University.
Administrators informed the students several times that after 5:00 p.m. University Hall would be closed and the students’ presence would be considered trespassing. Still, none of the student protestors abandoned their post. “We stood in a circle, holding hands,” Fine said, adding that they sang a Jewish song in the interim.
At approximately 5:25 p.m., the University issued another trespass warning, according to University Spokesperson Brian Clark. The student protesters still refused to leave. At approximately 5:45 p.m., the Department of Public Safety began arresting the student protestors, The Herald previously reported.
“After offering students every opportunity for a different outcome, Brown … ultimately moved forward in arresting approximately 20 (students) who refused to leave a campus building where their presence after operating hours posed security concerns,” Clark previously told The Herald.
“We were shocked at how early and eager (administrators) were to arrest the students,” Feder said.
“For a University who prides itself on care for its students, especially for its Jewish students in this particular moment, the void of care by the University having their students handcuffed (was) shocking,” Fine said, especially “without engagement of dialogue with us.”
As the students were removed from University Hall one by one, hundreds of spectating students gathered outside, singing a Hebrew song in solidarity with the students.
As Fine was escorted out of the building, they “saw every single person I've ever known and loved on this campus standing there, and I just started crying.”
With a recent increase in public attention devoted to student activism on college campuses, Feder hopes to use Jews for Ceasefire Now’s platform to “uplift Palestinian voices” while showing “the world that there are Jews who refuse to allow the state of Israel to use their names for the sake of increased state violence.”
“Palestinian liberation and Jewish liberation go hand in hand,” Maltzman said.
With groups on campus conflicting over their responses to the Israel-Hamas war, Feder implored Brown community members to not “devolve into a mess of doxxing and public shame that has been rampant across the country” and instead engage in open dialogue with one another.
While no future demonstrations are currently scheduled, Feder said that Jews for Ceasefire Now “doesn’t plan on going away. Our demands were not met. And we are a voice that will only get louder.”
Clarification: A quote in this story was updated for clarity.
Owen Dahlkamp is a Senior Staff Writer covering admissions, financial Aid and science & research. Hailing from San Diego, CA he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.