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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

An open letter from Middlebury Jews for ceasefire now


We are a group of 30 Jewish Middlebury students following in the footsteps of Brown University Jews for Ceasefire Now and many other Jewish students at schools such as Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Vanderbilt across the country who have rallied around important demands for justice and peace in Palestine and Israel. Inspired by many of our Jewish teachings about aligning values and actions, we are calling for students, staff and faculty to boycott all Starbucks products sold on campus. 

Starbucks has continued its long-standing practices of anti-labor activism and is currently suing its own union. In October, the union Starbucks Workers United announced its strong support for Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Starbucks then sued the union and wrongly conflated the union’s support of Palestine with “support of violence in Israel.” Starbucks Workers United denied supporting violence, affirmed their solidarity with Palestine and condemned Starbucks for exploiting “the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East to bolster the company’s anti-union campaign,” said Lynne Fox, president of the union. Silencing the expression of workers undermines Middlebury’s values, and here we demand moral consistency from the college. In conversation with many of those involved in the college administration, we know that this decision ultimately falls on the Senior Leadership Group to end Middlebury College's ties with Starbucks at Wilson Café, Midd Xpress and vending machines. Everyone in the Middlebury community can help in this boycott to show the administration that consumer sentiments have changed.

Over the past several weeks, ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel has sparked intensified conflict around the world, including at home. This semester, a Palestinian student was doxxed on the Middlebury Parents Facebook page, continuing several instances where Palestinians have been targeted individually on our campus. In light of these instances on our campus, the devastating hate crime against three Palestinian students just an hour away in Burlington and the resuming of bombing in Gaza, we can wait no longer to act. As a campus, we must align ourselves with the bold values President Patton urged us to consider in her Oct. 12 statement: “to long for justice,” “to come together in solidarity” and “to work across borders.”

College campuses around the country have become centers for resistance and infighting, and at the extreme, administrations have responded by silencing their own students. We are concerned that former Middlebury President and current Brandeis University President Ron Liebowitz banned their Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter. Columbia University went as far to ban both SJP and Jewish Voices for Peace from its campus. We express gratitude that Middlebury, under the current administration, has remained open to dialogue. In the past weeks, students held a widely attended teach-in, movie screenings and a vigil to mourn the deaths of over 15,000 Palestinians. Additionally, academic lectures, diverse panels and conversations are occurring on campus, all of which make possible a circulation of ideas and the emergence of an open, receptive culture. 

As Jews, we are acutely aware that many of our ancestors have and continue to be killed in periods of targeted violence. We are devastated by the death of 1,200 Israeli Jews and hope to see the continued return of civilian hostages. We are grieving, but we refuse to let our grief be weaponized to justify civilian death. We stand against genocide, we believe saying “never again” after the Holocaust means never again for anyone and we understand that Jews are only safe when everyone is safe. We deeply understand that many Jews in our college community — parents, alumni and large, external organizations — are pressuring this administration to take a stronger stance defending Israel. However, these voices do not speak for all Jews.

We eagerly await a response to the heartfelt pleas of over 500 alumni, many of whom are Jews, who called for the president and administration to take several actions, including condemning war crimes, calling for a ceasefire and pledging to protect Palestinian students on this campus. We know that the world is in a different place than when the alumni letter was sent—the status of hostages/ceasefire agreements are different, the campus discourse and events have changed and, most importantly, student safety has been compromised. Our needs have evolved, and we need action now more than ever.

There is an established history of activists calling for more ethical financial practices at Middlebury. Over a decade ago, students helped shed light to the hypocritical claim that Middlebury supports diplomatic solutions by revealing that nearly $6 million dollars of the endowment at the time was invested in arms manufacturing. In 2016, students argued that Dining Services was failing to act upon its mission to provide healthy choices to students by selling Red Bull and other energy drinks. The removal of these drinks made national headlines due to both its effectiveness and its commitment to ethical and health concerns. By boycotting Starbucks until a new provider is selected, we are aligning ourselves with this legacy of activism and giving students, faculty and staff the opportunity to take a small but tangible economic action to align Middlebury’s mission with our practices. By maintaining a business relationship that “proudly serves” the coffee of an entity that does not stand for free expression and perpetuates harmful rhetoric about Palestine, Middlebury is failing to uphold its three pillars of academic freedom, integrity and respect.

Middlebury’s Retail Operations informed us that Starbucks is sold because past students requested it, and we believe a boycott would show the administration that this is no longer the case. There are local caffeine products at both cafés on campus, and buying these drinks instead will ensure that workers behind the counters are respected in our efforts. Crossroads Café at Davis Family Library does not sell any Starbucks products and we mainly encourage purchases there. Visit go/jewsforceasefirenow/ to see a list of our actions in the coming weeks as well as information on what to boycott and why.

In Solidarity,

  1. Adam Gips ’26.5

  2. Alexa Lane ’23.5

  3. Annabelle Doucet ’26

  4. Anne Kleinerman ’26

  5. Caroline Arena ’23.5

  6. Celeste Alden ’25.5

  7. Charlie Fisch ’26

  8. David Goldsmith ’23.5

  9. Faith Isham ’23.5

  10. Francis Shiner ’23.5

  11. Grace Sokolow ’24

  12. Hannah Hayes ’23.5

  13. Joshua Glucksman ’25

  14. Julia Breckenridge ’25.5

  15. Kat Elliot-Grunes ’24

  16. Kristen Morgenstern ’24

  17. Léa Schneider ’25.5

  18. Levi Hoffman ’24

  19. Lili Platt ’25

  20. Liv Cohen ’23.5

  21. Matthew Held ’26

  22. Quincy Massey-Bierman ’25

  23. Rach Peck ’25

  24. Sam Lipin ’23.5

  25. Sam Marquis ’25

  26. Sasha Wintersteller ’26.5

  27. Tasha Deen ’25

  28. Thalia Myers-Cohen ’24

  29. Zev York ’23.5

  30. Zoe Rosen ’26