Rapper Matisyahu performs at Columbia University amid campus antisemitism

Matisyahu said before the free, live-streamed concert that he has felt more connected to the Jewish community since the deadly Hamas massacre in Israel on Oct. 7, when more than 1,200 people were killed and 240 others were taken as hostages.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

Grammy-nominated Jewish singer-songwriter Matisyahu performed a live concert at Columbia University on Monday night that was broadcast live to help bring Jewish students together amid a rise in antisemitism on college campuses across the US.

The reggae singer and rapper performed the song Am Israel Chai, as well as some of his most popular songs including Live Like a Warrior, One Day, Temple, Jerusalem, Vow of Silence, and his new single Fireproof. He also invited his son on stage to perform a new song he released called Serenity.

Matisyahu said before the free, live-streamed concert that he has felt more connected to the Jewish community since the deadly Hamas massacre in Israel on Oct. 7, when more than 1,200 people were killed and 240 others were taken as hostages.

“The most challenging thing that I guess I’m dealing with right now, which I think a lot of people are dealing with, is the feeling of being alone. Being singled out or this feeling of being misunderstood. But not just in some kind of smaller way. Like in a way where our lives are at stake,” he told Israel’s former special envoy for combating antisemitism, Noa Tishby, in a pre-recorded video interview that played before the concert started.

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“It’s sort of like a bit of a contradiction … But the thing that feels the most inspiring is the feeling of being connected to our people, which is unbelievable and miraculous,” he added. “It’s sort of a feeling both at the same time. It’s a confusing time, I think, for a lot of Jews.”

Matisyahu volunteered to perform for Columbia students and explained to Tishby that he wanted to help “be of service” to Jewish students on campus by uniting people through music.

“Always, when there’s opposition to my being, to who I am — which at the kernel of it is being Jewish — whenever I’ve felt that, somehow some instinctive reaction inside of me goes on the offensive and I put everything that I have in my all my soul, my energy and my heart into what I’m doing into my music,” the King Without a Crown singer said.

“Really, what is it that I can really be of service to people? And I think that’s in creating music and playing shows for people right now,” he added. “Especially for my Jews, for my fellow people, brothers and sisters. So immediately when I saw what’s happening on campuses, I felt like somehow connected to that and that I needed to be a part of it.”

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College campuses, including Columbia, have been a major hub of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas activism following the Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7. Campuses have also seen a surge in antisemitic incidents over the past five weeks.

The concert was sponsored by Columbia University’s Israel on Campus Coalition and took place shortly after the Ivy League school announced the formation of an antisemitism task force to help address the “ancient, but terribly resilient, form of hatred” and the rise of antisemitic incidents on campus since the Oct. 7 attack.

Tishby addressed students tuning in to the concert and spoke about the history of antisemitism and the need to persevere.

“What we need to remember is at the end of the day, we always prevail. There is no other option. This makes us stronger and more united,” she said, adding that in the face of adversity, the Jewish community needs to be “more loud, more proud, more united, smarter, more rooted in our tradition and culture and proud to be who we are. Because if everybody else is proud of their identity, why have we not been proud of our identity?”

Columbia, located in New York City, has become a center of anti-Israel protests, leading the school to suspend two anti-Israel campus groups — Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace — through the end of the fall term for violating school policies.

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“This decision was made after the two groups repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation,” the chair of Columbia’s Special Committee on Campus Safety said in a statement on Friday. “Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with university policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with university officials.”

Watch Matisyahu perform for Columbia students in the video below.