After stealing a pro-Palestinian banner from a student organization at a nearby university, an Orthodox rabbi in the Cleveland region was given a 10-day jail term and an 18-month probationary period.
The sentencing, which was given on Wednesday, puts an end to a contentious ordeal in which students complained about being bullied by Alexander Popivker, a rabbi and pro-Israel activist. Popivker, a handyman and resident of the Cleveland Heights area, was charged with theft in January for allegedly stealing the banner from Cleveland State University’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights group.
Popivker’s jail sentence will be suspended, which normally means he won’t have to serve it until after his probationary period is through. If he behaves well, though, he might be able to get it reduced or eliminated. He must also go to anger management counseling sessions.
Due to his actions, the institution has also banned him from the campus. In the history of university discussions on Israel, this case marks a rare occurrence in which legal action was taken against a pro-Israel activist for acting aggressively toward pro-Palestinian students.
Pro-Palestinian students have been charged for their activism on numerous campuses, according to pro-Israel groups, which claim that university organizations have created hostile environments for Jews across the nation.
Before his expulsion, Popivker held a series of pro-Israel protests at Cleveland State that occasionally descended into confrontations with students.
He routinely compares Palestinians to Nazis, and other students have accused him of harassing people who are obviously Muslim. He disputes these accusations.
In addition, he posted on social media about a law student’s pro-Palestinian beliefs and contacted her school and employers about them; this episode prompted the student to seek protection from Popivker with the backing of a renowned Jewish dean at the university.
Popivker was initially detained by Cleveland State University police, who chose not to comment further on the ruling. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency previously received a statement from a university spokesman stating that Popivker “was not banned for the content of his speech, but for how he chose to exercise it.”