Subscriber OnlyEducation

Family withdraws Trinity bursary in protest over college becoming ‘no-go zone for Jews’

University says all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, have ‘absolutely no place’ on campus

A prominent Jewish family has withdrawn a bursary for disadvantaged students at Trinity College Dublin in protest over the university becoming a “no-go zone for Jews” due to what it calls the university’s failure to protect student welfare.

Dr Edwin Abrahamson, a UK-based consultant paediatrician, helped create the Maurice Abrahamson Bursary last year in memory of his father, a Trinity law graduate who went on to become a successful stockbroker in Dublin.

He wrote to the provost of Trinity this week after the university released a statement on Wednesday in which it pledged to fully divest from three Israeli companies in which it held investments in response to a student protest encampment, and to review other ties to Israel.

“TCD appeared to have yielded to mob rule in their decisions regarding Israel and have allowed the college become a no-go zone for Jews, with terrorist flags flying openly, racist placards and a culture of fear to prevail,” he wrote. “There is complete shock in our community.”


He said in a follow-up interview the “terrorist flag” reference was to a flag for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – designated a terrorist organisation by the EU – which was waved by some masked students on campus this week.

Edwin Abrahamson

Dr Abrahamson, a cousin of Irish film director Lenny Abrahamson, said some of the rhetoric used in student protests over recent months was “pure anti-Semitism”, and appeared to have celebrated the October 7th killings in Israel that led to the current Israel-Hamas war.

“The college has not only taken no action but rewarded them, yielding to every demand. No duty of care to your Jewish students or donors has been shown. This shames the pluralist ethos of the college,” he said.

TCD: A famous victory for student politics

Listen | 48:13

Dr Abrahamson said his father’s name could not be associated with Trinity in the circumstances, and felt he had no option but to withdraw the bursary.

“My ailing 94-year-old mother, whose maternal family were slaughtered in the Holocaust, is devastated. She was so proud when I proposed funding a bursary in Dad’s name,” he said.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Trinity College Dublin said it was very grateful to Dr Abrahamson for the bursary, and regretted and respected his decision to withdraw it.

“Trinity has sought to support all of those affected by the war no matter where they come from or what their political stance,” the spokeswoman said.

Trinity said that immediately after the October 7th attacks it had contacted students from Israel to offer support and to provide details on support services in the university.

The spokeswoman said staff have engaged with the Trinity Jewish Society – which has more than 100 members – and offered students a safe space to meet, and will continue to provide any support needed.

“The university has already stated that all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, have absolutely no place here,” the spokeswoman added.

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union did not respond to an approach for comment.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent