JBuzz News August 22, 2014: Jewish school in Copenhagen vandalised

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Jewish school in Copenhagen vandalised

Source: AFP, 8-22-14

A Jewish school in Copenhagen had its windows smashed and anti-Jewish graffiti referring to the conflict in Gaza spray-painted on its walls, the school said on Friday….READ MORE

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JBuzz News August 21, 2014: Jewish Student Assaulted at Temple University

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Jewish Student Assaulted at Temple University

Source: Jewish Exponent, 8-21-14

The school did, however, receive significant negative attention in June after an adjunct professor made inflammatory statements in an online forum about the Holocaust and Jewish influence in academia. A Temple University spokesman initially told a….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 5, 2013: Nationalists Protest World Jewish Congress in Hungary

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Nationalists Protest Jewish Congress in Hungary

Source: New York Times, Reuters, 5-5-13

Leaders of a far-right Hungarian political party accused Israelis of plotting to buy up large parts of Hungary as several hundred nationalists protested on Saturday before a meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 5, 2013: Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban comes up short in anti-Semitism message, World Jewish Congress says

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Hungary’s Orban comes up short in anti-Semitism message, WJC says

Source: JTA, 5-5-13

The World Jewish Congress welcomed comments by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemning anti-Semitism but said he did not go far enough….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 9, 2013: Laurel Leff: How, and why, some Jewish scholars were left behind

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How, and why, some Jewish scholars were left behind

Source: News@Northeastern, 4-9-13

Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration

At the Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration, Bernard A. Stotsky Professor Laurel Leff (right) explained that American universities had one of the few lifelines to extend to refugees fleeing Europe to escape Nazi persecutions, but they didn’t do enough. Photos by Brooks Canaday.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, fac­ulty posi­tions offered by Amer­ican uni­ver­si­ties served as one of the few life­lines for hun­dreds of thou­sands of scholars trying to flee war-​​torn Europe to escape per­se­cu­tion. Yet far too often, the uni­ver­si­ties didn’t do enough to save these refugees and even offered chill­ingly dis­mis­sive rea­sons for not doing so, according to Laurel Leff, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the School of Jour­nalism and the Bernard A. Stotsky Pro­fessor of Jewish His­tor­ical and Cul­tural Studies at Northeastern….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 23, 2012: Julien Bauer: Office of Canadian Pro-Israel Université du Québec à Montréal professor vandalized

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Office of Canadian Pro-Israel professor vandalized

Source: JTA, 11-23-12

A pro-Israel lecturer from Montreal found the words “Heil Israel” scrawled on his office door.

The paraphrased Nazi slogan was scrawled Tuesday on the door of the office of Julien Bauer, a political-science professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, according to the Montreal Gazette….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 22, 2012: Julien Bauer: Canadian Montreal University Professor Target of anti-Semitic Vandalism

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Canadian Professor Target of anti-Semitic Vandalism

Source: Jewocity.com Blog (blog), 11-20-12

Canadian Professor Target of anti Semitic Vandalism Canadian Political Science Professor Julien Bauer was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism this week….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 18, 2012: Michael Brenner: Is Brit Ban The Gravest Threat to European Jews Since 1945?

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Is this the gravest threat to European Jews since 1945?

Source: Salon (blog), 7-18-12

For Michael Brenner, a professor of Jewish history and culture at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and himself the son of two Holocaust survivors, the decision is déja-vu all over again….READ MORE

JBuzz Reviews July 17, 2012: Bruce Kesler Reviews Edward Alexander: Historian Traces Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Present

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Historian traces anti-Semitism from antiquity to the present

Source: San Diego Jewish News, 7-17-12

Review of Edward Alexander’s The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal

Edward Alexander’s latest book, The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal, would better have been titled “The State of the Anti-Jews.” Edward Alexander is a professor emeritus of English as well as one of the better informed writers on matters Jewish, who brings this broad knowledge to a series of “critical appraisals” (using Matthew Arnold’s definition of “criticism”: “to see the object as in itself it really is”) that weave the continuity of anti-Jewish ignorance, indecency, inhumanity, cowardice, and illusion from the paragon of liberty, John Stuart Mill, to today’s Boycott, Divest, Sanction activists….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 9, 2012: Catherine Chatterley: Canadian anti-Semitism institute aims to fill worldwide void

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Canadian anti-Semitism institute aims to fill worldwide void

Source: The Canadian Press, 5-9-12

When Catherine Chatterley was growing up in Winnipeg, the first serious book she read was The Diary of Anne Frank, the harrowing story of a young Jewish girl forced to hide for nearly two years in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

“I was in shock,” Chatterley recalls. “I couldn’t understand how a girl like Anne Frank could be perceived as a threat to Germany.”

For Chatterley, who was raised in a devout Lutheran home, the famous book sparked a lifelong fascination with the Jewish people, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

That fascination has prompted Chatterley, an adjunct history professor at the University of Manitoba, to develop the first academic institute in Canada to focus on the study of anti-Semitism, which she says is a persistent — and in some parts of the world flourishing — problem facing Jews today.

“There is a void in academia, our universities and our human rights discourse” when it comes to the study of anti-Semitism, she said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg, where the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism (CISA) is based.

CISA, which is barely two years old, is one of only six such institutes in the world. Its mandate is to promote research, education and awareness of anti-Semitism.

Ultimately, her goal is to have the independent, non-profit institute fund and offer university-accredited courses leading to an undergraduate degree in the study of anti-Semitism. In addition, she plans to develop an online publication for young people and publish an academic journal on current and historical anti-Semitism.

Already, the young institute is attracting international attention, especially after Elie Wiesel, the renowned Nobel Peace Prize winner, agreed to serve as honourary chairman….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds May 1, 2012: Steven Windmueller: A Perfect Firestorm For Anti-Semitism

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A Perfect Firestorm For Anti-Semitism

Steven Windmueller

Steven Windmueller

The story of world Jewry covering the past six decades must be defined as one of achievement and recognition. American Jews have achieved extraordinary success and influence, and Israel, despite threats to its existence, has flourished as a democracy, and absorbed and resettled millions of Jews. Yet, as the world marks the 80th anniversary of the rise of Nazism, the status of Jews in the world seems to be seriously eroding.

During this period international politics was influenced by the powerful motif of memory. The images of past atrocities that tarnished the 20th century created a baseline for moral action. Over time, though, the power and integrity of this historical record has seemingly faded.

Earl Raab, a prominent social scientist and communal professional, once posited that two factors aligned together could create a serious threat to the Jewish people. An unstable economy and a growing set of tensions between Jerusalem and Washington would present, according to Raab, the “perfect firestorm” for potentially accelerating anti-Semitism and in creating a destabilizing environment for Jews in this nation and beyond. Both factors seem to be in play at this time….READ MORE

On This Day in Jewish History March 16, 1190: 822 years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower

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Centuries later, York comes to terms with the worst anti-Semitic attack in Britain

Now, 822 years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower, a commemoration hopes to dispel the myth of the Cherem of York – the prohibition of resettling the city since the mass-murder.

Source: Haaretz, 3-16-12

Eight hundred and twenty-two years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower, the most comprehensive commemoration of the worst anti-Semitic attack in the British Isles will take place today (Friday) in England’s ancient Capital of the North. The event will be the culmination of an academic project chronicling the York Massacre using advanced technology and dispel, the organizers hope, one of the most pervasive myths of Anglo Jewry, that of the Cherem of York – the prohibition of resettling the city following the mass-murder of its Jews.

Clifford’s Tower, also known as York Castle, is the most distinct landmark dominating the city’s skyline and has served for centuries as York’s symbol. First built as a Norman fort in 1068, it has been rebuilt many times and served as a military keep, prison, law court and today serves as a museum, but the only mention of the most bloody episode in its nine and a half centuries of history is a plaque at the foot of the tower unveiled by the Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Lord Mayor of York in 1978.

York - IPUP York Image Galleries - March 16, 2012 Professor Helen Weinstein at the plaque commemorating the massacre.
Photo by: IPUP York Image Galleries

The York Massacre was just one of a wave of anti-Jewish riots that began eight months earlier at the coronation banquet of King Richard I, when a group of Jews who arrived to pay their respects were forbidden entry. Despite being under the King’s protection, the Jews who had prospered for over a century as money-lenders, became the target for attacks by local noblemen who were anxious to wipe out their large debts. Murderous attacks began in London and spread to other Jewish settlements throughout England.

Richard, who had initially humiliated the Jews at his coronation, was concerned that the attacks were a challenge to his own rule and had a number of the perpetrators executed, while issuing orders to protect the Jews. This, however, put him on a collision course with the church, which he was eager to appease, and in early 1190 the new king embarked on a crusade to the Holy Land while not taking measures to enforce his order. The riots reached the northern towns of Norwich, Lincoln and Stamford in March; homes of Jews in York were attacked, forcing the 150 Jews of the town to take refuge in the royal castle. But as there was no force defending the tower, and the local knights and clergy were leading the attack, the Jews preferred to kill themselves rather than accept forced baptism. Those who did not commit suicide were killed when the castle was set on fire.

The rioters next burned all the records of the Jews financial affairs, thereby absolving them of their debts which would have been payable to the King following the death of the Jews.

The King’s representatives held an inquest and fined the city, but none of the murderers were ever brought to trial, many of them later joining Richard on his crusade.
No memory was left in the city of the killings, but archaeological digs have revealed burnt remnants of the original structure beneath the tower.

“When I first arrived in York in 2006,” says Professor Helen Weinstein, “as a Jew I was shocked to find that there was almost no public reference to the massacre.” Weinstein, who had arrived at the University of York as the founding director of its Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) had of course heard of the massacre – her grandmother had even warned her that there was a Cherem, a rabbinical prohibition from living in York, and she took it upon herself to assemble a modern narrative….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds February 28, 2012: Jonathan D. Sarna: General Ulysses S. Grant’s Uncivil War Against The Jews

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Jonathan D. Sarna: Gen. Grant’s Uncivil War Against The Jews

Source: NY Jewish Week, 2-28-12

Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant.

The surprising tale of how he turned into ‘America’s Haman.’

Purim serves as an appropriate moment to recall a man known for a time as “America’s Haman.” That Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s story ended very differently than the story of Haman in the Book of Esther reminds us how America itself is different, and how often it has surprised Jews for the better.

On Dec. 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the most Haman-like order in American history: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” Known as General Orders No. 11, the document blamed “Jews, as a class” for the widespread smuggling and cotton speculation that affected the area under Grant’s command. It required them to leave a vast war zone stretching from northern Mississippi to Cairo, Ill., and from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River.

Less than 72 hours after the order was issued, Grant’s forces at Holly Springs, Miss., were raided, knocking out rail and telegraph lines and disrupting lines of communication for weeks. As a result, news of General Orders No. 11 spread slowly, and did not reach company commanders and army headquarters in Washington in a timely fashion. Many Jews who might otherwise have been banished were spared.

A copy of General Orders No. 11 finally reached Paducah, Ky. — a city occupied by Grant’s forces — 11 days after it was issued. Cesar Kaskel, a staunch union supporter, as well as all the other known Jews in the city, were handed papers ordering them “to leave the city of Paducah, Kentucky, within twenty-four hours.” As they prepared to abandon their homes, Kaskel and several other Jews dashed off a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln describing their plight.

Lincoln, in all likelihood, never saw that telegram. He was busy preparing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The irony of his freeing the slaves while Grant was expelling the Jews was not lost on contemporaries. Some Jewish leaders feared that Jews would replace blacks as the nation’s stigmatized minority.

Kaskel decided to appeal to Abraham Lincoln in person. Paul Revere-like, he sped down to Washington, spreading news of General Orders No. 11 wherever he went. With help from a friendly congressman, he obtained an immediate interview with the president, who turned out to have no knowledge whatsoever of the order, for it had not reached Washington. According to an oft-quoted report, he resorted to biblical imagery in his interview with Kaskel, a reminder of how many 19th-century Americans linked Jews to Ancient Israel, and America to the Promised Land:

“And so,” Lincoln is said to have drawled, “the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?”

“Yes,” Kaskel responded, “and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham’s bosom, asking protection.”

“And this protection,” Lincoln declared “they shall have at once.”

General-in-Chief of the Army Henry Halleck, ordered by Lincoln to countermand General Orders No. 11, chose his words carefully.  “If such an order has been issued,” his telegram read, “it will be immediately revoked.”

In a follow-up meeting with Jewish leaders, Lincoln reaffirmed that he knew “of no distinction between Jew and Gentile. To condemn a class,” he emphatically declared, “is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad. I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.”…READ MORE

JBuzz Reviews February 22, 2012: Historian Harold Holzer Reviews Jonathan Sarna’s When General Grant Expelled the Jews

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“When General Grant Expelled the Jews” by Jonathan Sarna

By Harold Holzer

Source: WaPo, 2-22-12

WHEN GENERAL GRANT EXPELLED THE JEWS

By Jonathan D. Sarna

Nextbook/Schocken. 201 pp. $24.95

 

Not all Civil War-era Jews were speculators, peddlers or smugglers, and not all Civil War-era speculators, peddlers and smugglers were Jews. But Americans living through the rebellion — and many crises before and since — often cast blame on the tiny minority that 19th-century Northerners and Southerners often referred to as “the Israelites.” Shocking as it seems, one of the most notorious offenders was the greatest Union hero of the war: Ulysses S. Grant.

That Grant harbored anti-Semitic inclinations should come as no surprise. He was educated at West Point and spent years in the Army, both bastions of period intolerance. In 1862, he assumed a particularly chaotic military command, including border states technically loyal to the Union but filled with slave-owners and Confederate sympathizers. Into this combustible mix swarmed speculators eager to turn chaos into cash — among them, certainly, Jewish ones. Grant and his chief lieutenant, William T. Sherman, groused about the Jews’ presence repeatedly but initially kept their concerns to themselves.

General Grant

(Knopf) – ’When General Grant Expelled the Jews’ by Jonathan D. Sarna

What apparently sent Grant over the edge was the arrival of another camp follower — his greedy father, accompanied by three Jewish business partners, all eager to use the general to secure profitable cotton-trading permits. Grant blamed the Jews.

Still, no historian has been able to fully understand — much less justify — why, on Dec. 17, 1862, Grant issued his notorious General Orders No. 11 deporting Jewish citizens. “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade,” went the chilling text, “. . . are hereby expelled from [his command in the West] within twenty-four hours.” Those returning would be “held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.” Just two weeks before Abraham Lincoln was scheduled to extend freedom to one minority group with the Emancipation Proclamation, his most promising general thus initiated a virtual pogrom against another.

In the end, as the gifted and resourceful historian Jonathan D. Sarna points out in this compelling page-turner, General Orders No. 11 uprooted fewer than 100 Jews. But for a few weeks, he suggests, it terrorized and infuriated the Union’s entire Jewish population. It also inspired one of the community’s first effective lobbying campaigns. Jewish newspapers compared Grant to Haman, the infamous vizier of Persia in the Book of Esther. A delegation of Jewish leaders traveled to the White House to protest directly to the president, who quickly but quietly had the order revoked, eager to right a wrong but reluctant to humiliate a valuable military commander. As Lincoln carefully put it, “I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.” He never mentioned the episode publicly.

Grant tried not to as well, understandably omitting it from his otherwise exhaustive memoirs. In 1868, however, he did issue a letter confessing: “I do not pretend to sustain the Order. . . . [It] was issued and sent without any reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a sect or race. . . . I have no prejudice against sect or race.” But Sarna notes that this weak and “self-serving” statement — neither an admission nor an apology — “did not actually bear close scrutiny.” Besides, it was motivated as much by politics as regret. At the time, Grant was running for president, and Jews were threatening to block-vote against the Republican. Although no statistical evidence survives, most Jews probably did vote Democratic in 1868. The general won anyway. And to his credit, he continued to evolve.

The Jewish tradition encourages atonement and makes forgiveness mandatory. Grant made amends; the Jews forgave. As president, Grant appointed Jews to official posts, welcomed Jewish delegations, supported Jewish relief efforts in Europe and once attended a worship service at a Washington synagogue, the first president to do so. When he died, Jews mourned him as a hero.

Sarna’s account shines brightest around the edges of the story, offering valuable new insights into ethnic politics, press power and the onetime ability of leaders to flip-flop with grace. In a particularly stunning, if disturbing, argument, he suggests that many Northern Jews brought suspicion on themselves by questioning emancipation, fearful that freed blacks, abetted by anti-Semitic abolitionists, would compete with immigrant Jews for economic opportunity. Sarna shows how ineffective communications within Grant’s command further ignited unfounded calumnies against Jews. And he posits that the general’s military subordinates might have urged their overworked chief to ban Jewish speculators in order to leave the field open for their own graft.

Some quibbles: The illustration of “Grant, about 1860” is a photo of a beef contractor mistaken for the general; and Sarna’s occasional embrace of au courant phrases (“He was a one-man Anti-Defamation League,” “speak truth to power”) proves jarring.

What is still the best analysis ever offered about Grant’s greatest mistake came from his widow. In her own unsparing memoirs, Julia Dent Grant called General Orders No. 11 “obnoxious,” admitting that her husband “had no right to make an order against any special sect.” Sarna’s excellent study offers no excuses either and comes closer than ever to an explanation.

Harold Holzer is chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. His latest book is “Emancipating Lincoln.”

 

JBuzz News February 8, 2012: “Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story”: York University Student who accused Professor Cameron Johnston of Anti-Semitism releases video

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“Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story” video emerges

Source: Macleans, 2-8-12

Student who accused professor of antisemitism is back

From The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld story

Remember Sarah Grunfeld? She’s the York University student who stormed out of a lecture in September of last year because her professor said that “all Jews should be sterilized.”

It later emerged that Professor Cameron Johnston, who is Jewish, was using the statement as an example of an invalid and dangerous opinion that must be reasonably qualified.

It appears that Grunfeld left the 450-seat lecture before Cameron qualified the opinion. Grunfeld was widely rebuked, including by Maclean’s own 22-year-old Jewish columnist, Emma Teitel.

But she didn’t go away quietly. She’s now back in a YouTube video called The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld story. At least, we assume it’s her; the face in the video appears in silhouette.

“I was ridiculed, I was demonized,” says the shadowy figure. “I was called an moron, a dimwit, an idiot…” The figure then explains that she was paying full attention (FULL ATTENTION!) and sitting in the front row of class. “I know exactly what I heard,” she says. The shadowy figure admits that the comment happened in the “first five minutes of [Cameron’s] talk about how opinions can be dangerous.” She says she waited for the professor to provide some kind of qualifier, but he did not.

This all comes before the shadowy figure accuses against the media, York University, Hillel of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs of mistreating her. The voice concludes by asking: “what’s the future for Jewish students?”

A better question might be: “what’s the future of Sarah Grunfeld?”

JBuzz News January 16, 2012: Joseph Massad: Barnard College cleared in bias case

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Barnard College cleared in bias case

Source: JTA, 1-16-12

Barnard College was cleared of charges that a professor discriminated against an Orthodox Jewish student by steering her away from a class.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on Jan. 11 notified Barnard that it had halted its investigation into a complaint that Professor Rachel McDermott, then the chair of the college’s Asian and Middle Eastern culture department, had discouraged a Barnard freshman in January 2011 from taking a class with Columbia
Professor Joseph Massad, a critic of Israel who also has been accused of being anti-Semitic.

Barnard is affiliated with Columbia.

The Office of Civil Rights said it decided to halt the probe due to conflicting accounts of what occurred during the meeting between McDermott and the student, and because no other Jewish students have come forward to say that they also were steered away from the course.
“Because of the conflicting version of events and no other evidence to support the complainant’s allegation, OCR determined that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the complainant’s allegation that the Chair discriminated against the Student, on the basis of her national origin, by discouraging her from enrolling in the Course,” the letter said.

The complaint was filed by Kenneth Marcus, director of the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Marcus told the Columbia Spectator student newspaper that he is looking into appealing the case. Marcus is a former head of the Office of Civil Rights.

Professor’s ‘Death to Israel’ Rant Sparks Controversy at Kent State University

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Professor’s ‘Death to Israel’ Rant Sparks Controversy at Kent State University

Source: Fox News, 10-28-11

Kent State Professor IsraelKent State University history professor Julio Pino, right, shouted “Death to Israel” at a presentation by Israeli consulate official Ismael Khaldi, seen in this flyer for the event.

A Kent State University professor allegedly with former ties to a jihadist website shouted “Death to Israel” at a public lecture delivered on the Ohio campus by a former Israeli diplomat.

The outburst came during a presentation this week by Ismael Khaldi, a former deputy counsel general at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco. During the question and answer period, KSU history professor Julio Pino launched a series of provocative questions at Khaldi.

At some point, the professor shouted “Death to Israel” and then stormed out of the building. The event was first reported by the KSU student news site KentWired.

KSU president Lester Lefton, who is Jewish, denounced Pino’s outburst, calling it “reprehensible and an embarrassment to our university.”

At the same time, he defended Pino’s free speech rights.

“It may have been professor Pino’s right to do so, but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable and his behavior deeply troubling,” his statement read.

Pino, who is originally from Cuba and a convert to Islam, did not return calls for comment.

A Kent State spokesman confirmed the professor was once investigated by federal authorities. The university said they were also aware of allegations that Pino wrote stories for a now-defunct jihadist website.

And according to the Akron Beacon Journal , the professor eulogized an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber in the Daily Kent Stater, the student-run newspaper.

And yet, the tenured history professor still remains employed by the university….READ MORE

Joseph Massad: U.S. Department of Education Investigating Columbia University for Discrimination Against a Jewish Student at Barnard

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U.S. probing bias allegation at Columbia

Source: JTA, 10-5-11

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Columbia University for allegedly discriminating against a Jewish student.

The probe by the department’s Office for Civil Rights concerns an Orthodox student at the Columbia-affiliated Barnard College who was “steered” by an academic adviser away from a course taught by Professor Joseph Massad because she would be made uncomfortable, according to the complaintant, Kenneth Marcus, the director of the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the Institute for Jewish Civil Rights. Marcus served as the head of the Office for Civil Rights in 2003-04.

Massad, a sharp critic of Israel, was cleared of accusations of anti-Semitism by a Columbia committee some years ago.

“Steering” is a legal term typically used in housing discrimination cases, such as when a black family might be steered away from a white neighborhood.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger said in a statement that the university has strong policies against discrimination and treats such allegations “very seriously.” He also noted that the complaint appears to relate to academic advising and it was unfair to cite Massad because he played no part in the matter.

In 2004, Marcus instructed the Office for Civil Rights to be vigilant about campus anti-Semitism.

 

New Charge Over Hostile Columbia Classroom

U.S. reportedly probing whether Jewish student was ‘steered’

Source: Tablet Mag, 10-4-11

It’s possible Morningside Heights has found its annual autumn incident. A U.S. Department of Education committee is investigating whether a Columbia University department head “steered” a Jewish student away from taking a class on the Mideast taught by Professor Joseph Massad due to the perception that she would be “uncomfortable” because of the professor’s pro-Palestinian tilt, according to the Institute for Jewish & Community Research’s Kenneth L. Marcus, the complainant in the case. According to Marcus, Judith Jacobson, an epidemiology professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health who is also active in campus politics, informed him of the alleged incident. He also said that Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which he headed for a time during the Bush administration, informed him it had granted its request to launch a probe.

“The University has strong policies against discrimination and we treat allegations of discrimination of any kind very seriously,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said through a press officer. “It is important to note that the individual complaint appears to relate to academic advising at Barnard College and in no way involves Professor Joseph Massad. Based on these facts, therefore, it is extremely unfair for Professor Massad to be cited in a matter in which he played no part whatsoever.” Added Barnard Vice President for Communications Joanne Kwong: “We do not tolerate discrimination by any member of the College community, so we are carefully exploring and reviewing the claims made about this alleged incident. As this is a pending investigation, it would be inappropriate and premature to comment any further at this time.” OCR has not replied to a request for comment.

Massad was one of a few members of Columbia’s Middle Eastern Studies faculty who came under fire in 2005 in a film produced by the David Project, a pro-Israel advocacy group. The documentary, Columbia Unbecoming, featured several students alleging that Massad and others had cultivated classrooms hostile to pro-Israel voices. Maybe most memorably, Massad was accused of asking one student, who had identified himself as a former Israeli soldier, how many Palestinians he had killed. Massad disputes the story. (He has not replied to a request for comment.) A subsequent investigation by Columbia did not lead to any of the professors leaving, prompting critics to call it a whitewash.

Technically, “Barnard’s Middle East studies department chair” (Barnard is an all-women college at Columbia) is accused of encouraging the student, who was dressed as an Orthodox Jewish woman would be, not to take a particular class in January 2011, in violation of federal civil rights law. (In the spring 2011 semester, Massad’s class was a seminar on “Contemporary Culture in the Arab World”; this fall, he is teaching an open lecture on “Palestinian-Israeli Politics and Society.”) But Marcus’ actual beef is not with the act of steering by the individual department head. It’s with Columbia’s alleged failure to address the perception that Massad’s classes might make Jewish students unduly uncomfortable.

“The big question is whether Massad is violating students’ rights too,” Marcus wrote. “If there is a problem in Professor Massad’s classroom, as the Barnard chair may believe, then steering Jewish students away is not the solution. Nor is it the biggest problem. The biggest problem may be the failure of some universities to take anti-Semitism allegations seriously, especially when academic freedom is frivolously invoked.”

In an interview this morning, Marcus said that he looked forward to the investigation itself and for the potential for Columbia to negotiate a voluntary settlement. “We would want to see Columbia take firm actions to ensure not only that the steering problem is addressed, but more importantly that Jewish students are not facing a hostile environment in Middle East studies classes,” he told me. When asked if that meant he wanted Massad’s resignation, he demurred, slightly: “We would like for Columbia to look into what’s going on, especially in Professor Massad’s class, and reconsider whether the investigation they did a few years ago is really adequate,” he said. “If it turns out as a result of the investigation that there’s a hostile environment for Jewish students in any Columbia classes, then the instructors need to be dealt with.”

In addition to working at the OCR, as assistant secretary of education for civil rights, Marcus was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. That independent commission has a mandate to examine all charges of civil rights violations, although on its Website, the most prominently trumpeted specific issue is, “Ending Campus Anti-Semitism.” According to Marcus, he issued a guidance for the OCR to police campus anti-Semitism, which, he said, it not do since he left the office, in 2004, until last year, when, partly after the lobbying of several Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Obama administration adopted an anti-bullying policy that reinstated that mandate.

Marcus has also served as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Indeed, the legal notion of “steering” primarily comes out of that jurisprudence; “It is similar,” Marcus wrote of what allegedly happened to the student, “to what happens when a realtor tells a young African American couple that they would not be ‘comfortable’ living in a particular white neighborhood.” He told me that applying steering in this context was “a somewhat novel theory, but,” he added, “it fits exactly.”

Cameron Johnston: Sensitivity training needed at Canada’s York University, B’nai Brit Says

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JEWISH ACADEMIC/ UNIVERSITY NEWS

Sensitivity training needed at Canada’s York U., Jewish group says

Source: JTA, 9-18-11

B’nai Brith Canada has called for “sensitivity training” for the faculty of Toronto’s York University in the wake of a complaint by a Jewish student over the remarks of a Jewish professor.

BBC called on the university “to investigate further” the incident in which a student in a class taught by Professor Johnston “felt marginalized and targeted by the way subject matter relating to odious opinions was presented.

“Clearly, a key message was miscommunicated, and sensitivity training needs to be instituted for faculty to ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” BBC said.

On Sept. 12, Johnston began an introductory lecture to a first-year course with examples of extreme opinions and whether one should be entitled to them.

“All Jews should be sterilized” is an example of such an extreme view, Johnston had said.

Sarah Grunfeld, 22, a fourth-year student, stormed out of the class and reported Johnston to the Hasbara at York, an on-campus Israel advocacy group, which sent a news release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for the professor’s firing. The story went viral on social media.

In his defense, Johnston said he pointed out “that everyone is not entitled to their opinion by giving the example of someone having an anti-Semitic opinion which is clearly not acceptable. This was an example of the fact that opinions can be dangerous, and that none of us really do believe that all opinions are acceptable.”

In a statement circulated by B’nai Brith Canada, Grunfeld said she stands by her initial concerns. Although the teacher “made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said Johnston’s point was “without ill intentions [and] taken out of context.” It added that the episode “is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

Cameron Johnston: York University Student who mistakenly accused Professor of anti-Semitism unapologetic

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JEWISH ACADEMIC/ UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: Toronto Star, 9-15-11

The 22-year-old York University student who mistakenly accused her professor of making anti-Semitic remarks issued an unapologetic response to the ridicule that has been widely levelled against her.

“I understand that there may have been a miscommunication,” Sarah Grunfeld writes in the statement distributed Wednesday evening by B’nai Brith Canada. “But any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me.”

Since the story was first published Wednesday in the Toronto Star it has rapidly spread on social networking sites, where readers have been unabashedly and openly scornful of Grunfeld.

The incident has also been discussed in local newspaper comment pages and was picked up by U.S. gossip website Gawker.

Grunfeld accused social sciences professor Cameron Johnston of telling a class on Monday afternoon that “All Jews should be sterilized.”

In fact, Johnston — who is Jewish — was explaining to the students that not all opinions are valid or acceptable, using the example of Jewish sterilization as a reprehensible opinion, with historical precedent.

Here is Grunfeld’s statement in full, including a preface from B’nai Brith:

“Sarah Grunfeld, fourth year York University student has made the following statement relating to the recent incident in Professor Cameron Johnston’s class at York University, and has asked B’nai Brith Canada to circulate it to interested parties on her behalf. This statement of her position is only to be used in its entirety:

“I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

“I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply ‘misheard’ or ‘half heard’ what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his ‘miscommunication’.

“This is in spite of the fact that in a meeting with Martin Singer, Dean, (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York) and Rhonda Lenton (Vice Provost Academic), I was assured that they believed Professor Johnston was ‘terribly regretful’, and that they expected and would encourage him to issue an unambiguous in-class apology. I have not heard even minimal expressions of regret by Professor Johnston, and a York university representative in subsequent communications with the media, has since contradicted the assurances I was given to that effect.

“It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.”

Cameron Johnston: York University Jewish professor forced to defend himself against anti-Semitism claims

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JEWISH ACADEMIC/ UNIVERSITY NEWS

Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor at York University, is having to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism after a student apparently misunderstood comments he made in a lecture on Monday.Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor at York University, is having to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism after a student apparently misunderstood comments he made in a lecture on Monday.

Brendan Kennedy/Toronto Star

Brendan Kennedy Staff Reporter

A half-listening student, a hypersensitive campus and the speed at which gossip travels on the Internet conspired to create a very damaging game of broken telephone for one York University professor this week.

Cameron Johnston, who has been teaching at York for more than 30 years, has been forced to respond to allegations that he made anti-Semitic remarks in a lecture on Monday afternoon after a student misunderstood his comments and began sending emails to Jewish groups and the media.

Johnston was giving his introductory lecture to Social Sciences 1140: “Self, Culture and Society,” when he explained to the nearly 500 students that the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

“All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.

He didn’t notice Sarah Grunfeld storm out. Grunfeld, a 22-year-old in her final year at York, understood Johnston’s example to be his personal opinion.

She contacted Oriyah Barzilay, the president of Hasbara at York — an Israel advocacy group on campus — who then sent a press release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for Johnston to be fired.

Blogs and Facebook groups picked it up, and in a few hours the allegations spread within the city’s Jewish community, albeit mostly online.

Sensitivities around anti-Semitism are particularly heightened at York, which has a large Jewish population and a history of toxic relations between supporters and critics of Israel on campus.

“I’m terribly upset,” Johnston said Tuesday. “I’m very proud of the fact that in the history of my teaching career I’ve stood for the best values of what constitutes a meaningful human community.”

Johnston, who is Jewish, said his religion likely influenced his choice of words, why he used “this example of a completely reprehensible opinion” with historical precedent.

During the Second World War, Nazi scientists experimented with mass sterilization on Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.

“I think it’s a very good thing that people are sensitive to this kind of remark, and I think it’s a very good thing that someone would respond immediately and deal with it if they thought that they heard an anti-Semitic comment,” Johnston said. “But in this case, it’s a misreading.”

The irony for Johnston is that he was trying to teach his students that ideas have consequences.

“So I’m pretty shocked to find the consequences — what I was talking about in lecture — is that I get seen as an example of prejudice.”

Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.

Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.

“Whether he is or is not, no one will know,” she said. “. . . Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews.”

Sheldon Goodman, GTA co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which speaks on behalf of the city’s organized Jewish community, called the incident “a very unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic,” he said.

Allan Nadler: Imaginary vampires, imagined Jews

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Source: Jerusalem Post, Jewish Daily Ideas, 7-17-11

The practice of depicting Jews as drinkers of blood has been common for centuries.

The writer is a professor of religious studies and director of the program in Jewish studies at Drew University. This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily (www.jewishideasdaily.com), and is reprinted with permission.

Eighteen ninety seven was a watershed year in Jewish history. The first Zionist Congress convened in a grand hotel in Basel, Switzerland. With much less pomp, the Yiddisher Arbeter Bund, the Jewish Labor Movement, was clandestinely founded in a Vilna basement (socialist movements being illegal under Tsarist rule).

In New York, Der Forverts, the world’s largest-circulation and longest-running Yiddish newspaper, began publication.

Meanwhile, in Odessa, the Hebrew-language Ha- Shahar, the first and most influential Zionist journal, was founded under the editorship of Ahad Ha’am. And now, thanks to Blood Will Tell, an engaging and insightful new study by Sara Libby Robinson, Jewish historians may consider adding a surprising entry to this list of 1897 events: the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

While never explicitly identified as a Jew, the figure of Dracula – and vampires more generally – encompassed an array of anti-Semitic stereotypes: rootless, of East European origin, dark-complected, and lusting after the money/blood of others. Assessing a wide range of themes in which blood and vampirism were evoked in late-19thcentury European “scientific” thought (Social Darwinism and criminology in particular), Robinson argues that Stoker’s depiction of Dracula exploited widespread anxieties about the dangers posed by the flood of Yiddish-speaking immigrants to Great Britain.

DRACULA’S FEATURES are “stereotypically Jewish… [his] nose is hooked, he has bushy eyebrows, pointed ears, and sharp, ugly fingers.” As for his behavior, Robinson situates Dracula in the realm of fin-de-siècle national chauvinism, which viewed non-Anglo-Saxons – and Jews in particular – as dangerous interlopers, loyal only to their alien tribe. “Like many immigrants, Dracula has made great efforts to acculturate himself to his new country and to blend in with the rest of the population, through studying its language and customs… [his] greatest concern is whether his mastery of English and his pronunciation would brand him as a foreigner.” Likewise, Stoker mines anxieties over Jewish dual loyalty. The one identified person whose aid Dracula enlists in escaping Britain is a German Jew named Hildesheim, “with a nose like a sheep.”…READ MORE

Scotland: Top Jewish academics quit union in anti-Semitism row

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Source: Herald Scotland, 7-12-11

FOUR leading Jewish academics in Scotland have quit one of the largest UK lecturers’ unions over its stance on the definition of anti-Semitism.

The lecturers resigned from the 12,000-member University and College Union after it rejected the European Union Monitoring Centre’s working definition of anti-Semitism. The detailed guidance paper defines it as a hatred towards Jews and says the “rhetorical and physical manifestations” of anti-Semitism can also target the state of Israel….READ MORE

Canada is Fertile Ground for Anti-Semitism, Report Says

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Source: JTA, 7-11-11

Canada is fertile ground for anti-Semitism, especially on university campuses, a parliamentary committee has concluded.

After two years of hearings, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism in a report released last week called on the federal government to do more to fight anti-Semitism in Canada, which it said is rising, due partly to increased hostility toward Israel.

Over 10 days of hearings between November 2009 and February 2010, the coalition’s 22 members, consisting of lawmakers from all federal parties, heard from 74 witnesses, including federal and provincial politicians, diplomats, university administrators, academics, chiefs of police, journalists and other interested individuals.

Among its dozens of recommendations, which are not binding on the government, the coalition said that police forces across Canada should be better trained to deal with anti-Semitism; Canada’s immigration department should take into account rising international anti-Semitism when designating source countries for refugees; and the Foreign Affairs Ministry should study the United Nations’ criticisms of Israel.

It also said that legislators and others need “a clear and concise definition of what anti-Semitism entails.”

One major concern of the coalition was Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual event on Canadian university campuses.

“We had got several testimonies from students, particularly Jewish students, who were scared,” committee co-chair Mario Silvia, a former Toronto-area member of Parliament, told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

“They were quite fearful of attending classes and going to their campuses because of the fact that they felt they were being targeted for being supportive of Israel.”

Jeffrey Herf: Why Did Yale Close, Then Open, a Center for Studying Anti-Semitism?

Source: TNR, 7-5-11
Developments at Yale University in recent weeks concerning the scholarly study of anti-Semitism have aroused broad attention. In early June, Yale’s Provost Peter Salovey accepted the recommendations of a faculty committee to close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). On June 19, however, following an outcry over the news, Salovey announced that a new center, the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA) would be established. The university’s Whitney Humanities has agreed to sponsor it, and Professor Maurice Samuels, whose scholarship focuses on the presentation of Jews in French literature, will convene this reconstituted center.

For those of us who are familiar with YIISA and valued its engagement with scholarship about anti-Semitism not only in Europe but around the world, the decision to close YIISA was disturbing. We hope that the reconstituted program at Yale will incorporate the research concerns and ferment that YIISA fostered and place these at times unpopular efforts on a sound scholarly foundation befitting a great university. The stakes, for the study of anti-Semitism and the credibility of the academy more broadly, could not be higher.

IT WAS A gamble when Charles Small, YIISA’s director, established the center in 2007. He did so armed with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, engagement in social theory, experience in policy discussions in Canada, Europe, Israel, and the US, outside funding, and support from some Yale faculty and administrators. YIISA was to be a research center devoted to examining the history and nature of contemporary anti-Semitism—that is, not only the much examined anti-Semitism of the Nazi era but also Jew-hatred in the Middle East, including Iran, and in Islamist ideology and politics as well. Small was aware that there was a hard road to travel because the area specialists who read Arabic or, in the case of Iran, Farsi were almost universally opposed to even posing the question of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Or, if they posed it, they had a ready answer to its causes—namely, Zionism and then the existence and policies of the state of Israel….READ MORE