The Friends Seminary of New York, which invited the notorious anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon, to one of its classes, and assigned its students to read his hate-filled writings, has now backed out of an agreement to invite me to the school to talk to the students about the evils of anti-Semitism. The Headmaster of the Friends Seminary, a school which is supposed to be committed to honesty and integrity, has broken his solemn promise to me, and to members of its own community, to allow its students to hear both sides of an issue which really has only one side: namely, the illegitimacy of bringing hate mongers into high school classrooms.
After I exposed the original invitations to Gilad Atzmon—who justifies the burning down of synagogues as “reasonable” response to Jewish efforts to “control the world”—the Headmaster of the school agreed to several things. First, he would speak at an assembly to the students about the evils of anti-Semitism; second, he would assign my essay to the students who were assigned Atzmon’s essay; and third, he would invite me to address the students. He has now broken each of these promises.
Students who were at the assembly have confirmed that the speakers only made things worse. The teacher who invited Atzmon talked about what a great musician he was. The Headmaster was defensive about how his words were manipulated and justified bringing Atzmon based on Quaker principles. Apparently the word anti-Semitism was never once mentioned during this meeting. My article was not assigned to the students; a citation was sent to them saying that I wanted students to read its content.
When I wrote to the Headmaster complaining about these breaches, they used my letter as an excuse for canceling my appearance. The real reason was almost certainly pressure from hard-left members of his faculty and others.
Let’s be clear what this means. The school was unwilling to cancel Atzmon’s appearance, even after learning that he was virulent anti-Semite who questions the Holocaust but believes that it may be true that Jews kill Christians to use their blood for religious purposes. But they have canceled my appearance because they didn’t like the tone of a private letter that I wrote to them that was critical of the Headmaster’s failure to comply with his promises. I ended my letter with the following words: “Please assure me that I am wrong about my judgment about you. I really would like to see this move forward in a positive direction, but you are not helping. The ultimate sufferers are your students, who are being taught the wrong values that will serve them poorly in college and in life.”
The values that Headmaster Bo Lauder is imbuing to his students are deception, breach of promise, toleration of anti-Semitism and an unwillingness to present all sides of an issue. In the end, the Headmaster is showing tremendous distrust of his students by refusing to allow them to hear another side of the issue, by canceling my promised appearance, by not assigning my essay and by continuing to be defensive regarding the dreadful mistake of judgment he made in allowing Atzmon to teach his students.
The Headmaster may believe that by breaking his promises, he has ended this issue. Let him be absolute certain, that, as I wrote in my letter to him: “This issue will not go away, and nor will I. Misled once, shame on you. Misled twice, shame on me.” Unless I am invited to address the students inside of the school, I will appear outside of the school, where I will hand out my essays to those students who are willing to read them and will address those students who have an interest in hearing a response to anti-Semitism. I am also considering inviting parents, students and other members of the Friends Seminary community to an event, in a venue outside of the school, where these issues can be discussed openly and candidly. Headmaster Lauder may be able to keep me physically outside of his school, but he will not be able to stop my ideas from reaching his community. The truth does not respect artificial boundaries.
The Friends Seminary, like other elite schools around the country, teaches our future leaders. Many Friends Schools around the country have espoused strongly anti-Israel policies for years. The Friends Seminary in New York itself has a rabidly anti-Israel history teacher on its faculty, who propagandizes his students against Israel in the classroom, and who has a picture of Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian headdress on his website. The school has and is again planning to take its students on trips to the Middle East that present a one-sided perspective. Now they have crossed the line from preaching anti-Zionism to tolerating anti-Semitism. I will not remain silent in the face of the Friends Seminary’s double standard and neither should you.