MOSHE HILL OPINION COLUMNS AUGUST 09 2023
The City University of New York, comprising more than two dozen colleges throughout the five boroughs, has an anti-Semitism problem. For years, Jewish professors and students at several campuses have felt targeted and harassed for their religion and their Zionism. Now, for the great crime of complaining about this, four Jewish professors are the subject of investigations.
CUNY’s anti-Semitism problem did not spring up overnight, nor is it limited to any single incident. This has been a regular feature of CUNY for over a decade. According to David Hirsch, who is running for State Assembly, “CUNY has become a bastion of anti-Semitism under Chancellor [Felix Matos] Rodríguez. When he ran Queens College, new Jewish hires went down, fewer Jews were in high positions, etc.” Hirsch also called for a State Hate investigation into Rodriguez and CUNY.
He’s not alone. After the commencement address at CUNY Law by Fatima Mousa Mohammed, the Jewish rights watchdog group StopAntiSemitism called for Rodriguez’s resignation. New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer called for a federal civil rights probe of anti-Semitism at CUNY. This was the second consecutive commencement address given by a Jew-hater at CUNY Law, following Palestinian activist Nerdeen Kiswani, who blasted the Jewish State during her 2022 commencement address.
“Enough is enough! CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez must step down. He has done nothing to properly fight anti-Semitism and is miserably failing to protect CUNY’s Jewish students against hate,” said StopAntiSemitism’s executive director Liora Rez.
Professor Jeff Lax faced an atmosphere of hostility towards Orthodox and Zionist faculty members at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn
These are the most public-facing and viral incidents at CUNY, yet not the only ones. In early 2022, Professor Jeff Lax, who has dedicated 17 years to Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, disclosed a distressing series of events that highlight the deep-rooted discrimination and hostility faced by Jewish faculty members. Professor Lax recounts a chilling incident where he found himself trapped by five members of the Progressive Faculty Caucus (PFC), a group known for their political stance. He alleges that an associate professor raised his hand in a threatening manner and ominously declared, “We’re just starting.” Lax discovered nails in his car tires on multiple occasions, but the culprits were never identified. The ordeal left Lax shaken and fearful for his safety.
Lax also reveals that he was singled out by name in a faculty survey, which contained troubling references to “Zionist faculty who preserve positions of authority through nepotism.” He describes a chilling atmosphere of hostility towards Orthodox and Zionist faculty members. Other faculty members, like Mike Goldstein, an adjunct professor, have similarly faced ostracism and intimidation. Goldstein’s experience of threats, defacement of personal belongings, and isolation reflects a disturbing trend within the institution.
It should be unsurprising that CUNY administration and other leadership have reflexive disdain for the Jewish State. The union that has exclusive rights to bargain on behalf of CUNY professors, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), adopted a resolution in May 2021 endorsing the BDS movement and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa. The Chief Diversity Officer and the person who oversees all discrimination complaints in CUNY is Saly Abd Alla, who formerly worked as the civil-rights director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR is a terrorist-supporting organization that has garnered support from many on the Left, including the Biden administration.
CUNY has also been accused of not taking anti-Semitism seriously. When putting together an anti-discrimination panel with the express purpose of policing anti-Semitism, CUNY did not include one Jewish person in the group. When creating a curriculum regarding anti-Semitism, CUNY included the never-used Jerusalem Declaration of anti-Semitism (the JDA), which is seen as the “All Lives Matter” version of anti-Semitism definitions. Nearly everyone else (over 1,100 entities) use the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. The JDA is so unpopular that their website is basically defunct, but it is still listed on CUNY’s discrimination page.
This culminated in the latest actions taken by CUNY. The activist group SAFE CUNY – a group founded by Lax for the express purpose of advocating for Zionists who are discriminated against – has reported that four Zionist Jewish professors who spoke out against anti-Semitism on their campuses are now being investigated by the City University of New York (CUNY) for “discrimination” against BDS and radical Islamist anti-Semitic activists. While the group has confirmed the story, details are pending as they assist the professors in preparing their defense. All four professors are members of SAFE CUNY. Lax has confirmed that he is one of the four professors under investigation and likened the situation to a 1930s Germany-style purge of faculty in academia.
In a separate post, Lax shared his own experience of the investigation process. He claimed that CUNY initially concealed that he was the target of the investigation and questioned him without informing him of the accusations. When it was revealed that he was the target, CUNY refused to provide him with a copy of the complaint against him, despite protocol. When Lax requested that he have the opportunity to testify in his own defense, CUNY denied it.
According to Lax, the investigation concluded over five months ago, yet CUNY has not communicated the results or potential consequences, leaving him in a limbo regarding his employment or future.
CUNY’s chief diversity officer, Saly Abd Alla, formerly worked as the civil-rights director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a terrorist-supporting organization
This recent controversy follows the American Center for Law and Justice’s lawsuit against CUNY last year, claiming the university ignored anti-Semitism. In a separate federal civil rights lawsuit, six CUNY professors, including Lax, alleged a hostile work environment based on religion. These incidents highlight ongoing concerns about discrimination and censorship within academic institutions.
Academia, which has long since become a bastion of the radical Left, has been a hostile place for diverse opinions regarding the Jewish State for many years. Despite its proximity to the largest Jewish population in America, CUNY is not immune to this. The discrimination that Jews feel on college campuses everywhere has become prevalent in the beating heart of American Judaism. If there is no action now against this discrimination and anti-Semitism, Jews will be unable to partake in the higher education institutions available to the rest of the population. Perhaps that’s what Rodriguez, Alla, and others at CUNY are hoping for.