How CUNY became America’s most anti-Semitic university

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Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The “cleansing” of Jewish students and lecturers from German universities from 1933 to 1935 was one of the Nazis’ first goals met.

Ninety years later, in the metropolis with the world’s largest Jewish population, the City University of New York has successfully completed a yearslong initiative to expunge all Jews from its senior leadership.

Spring will see the exit of the last two remaining Jews on the school’s 80-member senior-leadership team, in a city whose population is about 20% Jewish.

It will be the first time since its 1961 founding that CUNY’s senior leadership will be Jew-free or Judenrein, for those who fear the horrors of history repeating itself.

This is just one of many systemic initiatives designed to expel the Jewish presence at CUNY.

The once-vibrant recruitment of students at New York City’s Jewish schools has all but ceased at most campuses, and there is now abundant evidence demonstrating it’s more difficult than ever for a Jewish professor to attain a CUNY faculty position.

But what bodes even worse for the city’s Jewish students and academic leaders is that CUNY seems hell-bent on replacing its Jews with anti-Semites.

Three of CUNY’s most powerful leaders have documented ties or allegiances to the Hamas-connected Council on American-Islamic Relations and the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement.

Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez in 2021 hired Saly Abd Alla as the university’s chief diversity officer, overseeing 25 campuses and 230,000+ students.

Abd Alla was a director at CAIR Minnesota, which pushed the BDS movement under her watch.

In what The Post’s Melissa Klein referred to as “a master class in ‘gaslighting,’” the chancellor saw fit to have Abd Alla investigate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism claims and oversee initiatives combating anti-Semitism at the university.

CUNY’s most powerful leaders have had documented ties or allegiances to the Hamas-connected Council on American-Islamic Relations.
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Never mind that CAIR’s Minnesota chapter is so extreme that even CAIR national has distanced itself from it.

In doubling down and commending CAIR’s work, the chancellor also falsely denied Abd Alla’s connection to the BDS movement.

Rodriguez famously skipped out on not one but two City Council probes into pervasive anti-Semitism at his university.

He’s pushed a “discrimination portal” as a tool to combat anti-Semitism when, in fact, the portal does quite the opposite.

Overseen by Abd Alla, the portal uses the CAIR-endorsed Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which the nonpartisan nonprofit education organization StandWithUs has blasted as “deeply harmful,” “intended to cause confusion” and an attempt to “further the spread of antisemitism.”

Anti-Semitic groups and individuals created the JDA to undermine the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s widely accepted anti-Semitism definition that more than 1,110 entities have adopted or endorsed.

The portal collects discrimination complaints from all protected classes but assigned only one group — Jews — a new definition of discrimination against them that Jewish people and groups have overwhelmingly rejected.

CUNY’s third anti-Jewish power broker is the 23,000-member faculty union president, James Davis, a well-documented BDS activist who repeatedly lied about it in City Council hearings.

Under Davis’ leadership, Professional Staff Congress delegates have pushed #ZionismOutOfCUNY campaigns.

In June 2021, PSC adopted a vitriolically anti-Semitic, pro-BDS resolution that led to the swift resignations of about 300 mostly Jewish faculty members in protest.

My organization, Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY, recently released a report that found alarming systemic anti-Semitism at the school’s very highest levels.

Just this month at Borough of Manhattan Community College, for example, taxpayer funds were used to create, endorse and publicly display vile posters trafficking in classic anti-Semitic tropes.

At Kingsborough Community College, professors with substantiated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims alleged they were placed under retaliatory investigation for following up with ongoing allegations of unaddressed anti-Semitic activity.

And CUNY School of Law is under state investigation for its faculty’s unanimous adoption of a BDS resolution as campus policy.

Perhaps the report’s most important finding: The university doesn’t merely misunderstand anti-Semitism — its leaders actively work to promote and defend it.

CUNY’s culture is so severely anti-Semitic and at odds with the lived experiences of the school’s Jewish constituency that SAFE CUNY declined at this stage to offer the multiple layers of remedial recommendations necessary to eventually return the university to its inclusive roots.

Instead, as a first step in protecting Jewish students, staff and faculty members, we urged CUNY to formally adopt the IHRA anti-Semitism definition as the university’s Equal Employment Opportunity definition and incorporate it into CUNY’s discrimination policies and procedures.

We believe you cannot fight a problem you cannot define.

By embracing IHRA, the university might just begin to accept and endeavor to address the pervasive, deep-rooted, systemic anti-Semitism that’s infected its campuses and the highest levels of its leadership.

Jeffrey Lax is a CUNY professor, department chair and a founder of Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY.

How CUNY became America’s most anti-Semitic university

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