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CUNY doubles down on antisemitism

The City University of New York must be held accountable for advancing antisemitism and its failure to fight discrimination against Jews.

“The CUNY Law Review” is published by the editors and staff at the CUNY School of Law in Long Island City, Queens, N.Y. Credit: Evulaj90 via Wikimedia Commons.
“The CUNY Law Review” is published by the editors and staff at the CUNY School of Law in Long Island City, Queens, N.Y. Credit: Evulaj90 via Wikimedia Commons.
Gary S. Branfman. Credit: Courtesy.
Gary S. Branfman
Gary S. Branfman, MD is the co-founder/producer of IsraelNow.ca, and a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in Victoria, Texas.

A recent City University of New York Law School commencement address, approved and applauded by the administration, exposed CUNY’s antisemitism.

But despite the widespread outrage and condemnation, CUNY doubled down by hiring antisemite Marc Lamont Hill, even though Hill was fired by CNN for calling for Israel’s destruction at the same time as he was under investigation by Temple University’s board.

Hill unequivocally proclaimed that a key mission of the Black Lives Matter movement is “the dismantling of a Zionist project, dismantling of a settler-colonial project and very explicitly embracing BDS.”

He has labelled Israel “a land that has been stolen by greed and destroyed by hate” and stated that Israel was “poisoning” Palestinian water. He endorsed “what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” meaning Israel’s total replacement by an Arab-dominated state.

Temple University President Richard M. Englert stated, “Let me be clear: Professor Hill does not represent Temple University.” Patrick O’Connor, the chairman of Temple’s board, directed legal counsel to explore options and “remedies,” and stated that members of the administration and board of trustees wanted to “fire him right away.” He added that Hill’s comments were “lamentable” and “disgusting.” He added, “Free speech is one thing. Hate speech is entirely different.”

Despite Hill’s racist history and prior dismissal, CUNY welcomed him with open arms and an enviable salary. Hill is now presidential professor of urban education at CUNY’s graduate school.

CUNY is also home to a virulent chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) with branches at Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, Hunter College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. SJP supports terrorism, commits violent acts against those they label “Zionists,” harasses and physically assaults Jewish and pro-Israel students, and aggressively disrupts pro-Israel events.

The saddest aspect of CUNY’s antisemitism is that it denies and dishonors the memories of countless Jews who contributed to the founding, funding and remarkable reputation that CUNY once enjoyed.

These Jews included Bernard Baruch of Baruch College, Larry and Carole Zicklin of the Zicklin School of Business, Mildred and George Weissman of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, Herbert H. Lehman of Lehman College, Paul Klapper of Queens College, Samuel and Ethel LeFrak of Lefrak Concert Hall, Benjamin Rosenthal of the Rosenthal Library, Max and Selma Kupferberg of the Kupferberg Center for the Arts and many others.

CUNY prides itself on the 14 alumni and faculty who have won Nobel Prizes. They include 13 Jews:

  • Robert J. Aumann (1950), Nobel laureate in economics, 2005
  • Julius Axelrod (1933), Nobel laureate in medicine, 1970
  • Kenneth Arrow (1940), Nobel laureate in economics, 1972
  • Stanley Cohen (1943), Nobel laureate in medicine, 1986
  • Gertrude Elion (1937), Nobel laureate in medicine, 1988
  • Herbert Hauptman (1937), Nobel laureate in chemistry, 1985
  • Robert Hofstadter (1935), Nobel laureate in physics, 1961
  • Jerome Karle (1937), Nobel laureate in chemistry, 1985
  • Arthur Kornberg (1937), Nobel laureate in medicine, 1959
  • Paul Krugman (distinguished faculty), Nobel laureate in economics, 2008
  • Leon M. Lederman (1943), Nobel laureate in physics, 1988
  • Arno Penzias (1954), Nobel laureate in physics, 1978
  • Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1941), Nobel laureate in medicine, 1977

In 1964, Jewish CUNY students Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were abducted and shot dead while fighting for the civil rights of black Americans. The ultimate sacrifice they made is defamed by the presence of Marc Lamont Hill on CUNY’s faculty.

Other distinguished Jewish CUNY attendees include Zero Mostel, Jackie Mason, Alfred Stieglitz, Ernest Paul Lehman, Ben Shahn, Red Holzman, Eli Wallach, Edward G. Robinson, Adrien Brody, Carole King, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Jerry Seinfeld.

When I attended CUNY’s Queens College back in the 1970s, a common off-campus sighting was the “Mitzvah Mobile.” Approved by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and manned by his menschkeits, they allowed one to don tefillin or recite a last-minute bracha before an exam. Now, such a sighting would be a target for attack, not a refuge for our people.

Today, CUNY’s Jews, both students and faculty, should be able to wear kippot, display Stars of David and eat kosher food without fear. They should not be castigated for praising the IDF, respecting Shabbat or observing our High Holy Days.

The CUNY Graduate Center where Hill is employed claims to be “committed to advancing anti-racism in its policies” and “committed to addressing discrimination and retaliation reports promptly.”

These are blatant lies. CUNY is advancing antisemitism and refuses to address discrimination against Jews on its campus. It should be held accountable for this.

We must fight back. We owe it to the memory of the countless Jews who sacrificed so much and contributed so generously to make CUNY a haven of learning, not a hellhole of hate.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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