October 20, 2019

Hofstra Student Says She Has Experienced Several Instances of ‘Subtle’ Anti-Semitism on Campus

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Hofstra University student Leilah Abelman wrote an op-ed in the school’s newspaper Hofstra Chronicle alleging myriad instances of anti-Semitism she has experienced on campus, saying “anti-Semitism is alive and more insidious than I expected.”

Abelman, an Orthodox Jew, recalled an instance in which a professor told her “to re-evaluate” her religion after she told him that she was going to be absent during the High Holidays. The professor also told her “to be less sensitive” when she complained that a student in class said “the Jewish tradition of marrying within the religion” is analogous to “Nazi eugenics.”

Additionally, the “professor told the class to imagine a world without Jews in it,” Abelman wrote.

A different professor led a class discussion on if the alleged gunman of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October is “truly evil” and many students concluded that the shooter “could not be considered evil as he did what he believed was right.” The professor later apologized to Abelman, but did not discuss the issue again with the class.

Abelman also documented instances where she has experienced anti-Semitism from individual students. Two female students declined to room with Abelman and another Jewish girl after Abelman mentioned that they’re “religious Jews.” Another student backed out of living in the same suite as Abelman after Abelman said she wasn’t comfortable with the student’s boyfriend staying the night, telling other students that Abelman is a “crazy Jewish girl she almost had to live with. And can you believe she only wears skirts in front of guys? How ridiculous!”

In one of her classes, a student argued that the Holocaust shouldn’t be required learning “since everyone knows about it already.” After Abelman pointed out that recent polls have shown that around a third of Europeans aren’t familiar with basic Holocaust knowledge, the student replied that it’s because the Holocaust is “American history.”

Abelman criticized the Hofstra administration at the conclusion of her column, saying administrators have told her that they can’t take any action because the instance didn’t break any university rules.

“Anti-Semitism at Hofstra may be more subtle than a swastika spray-painted onto a Jewish professor’s office door, which happened at Columbia University last year,” Abelman wrote. “However, it is just as dangerous, if not more so, in a time when Jews are the most targeted minority in the state of New York, Jewish men are attacked in broad daylight on the streets of Brooklyn and Jewish children are targeted during holiday services at their synagogue.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “It’s important to call out & educate about #antiSemitism on campus. Together, we can ensure that universities are places for growth, not #bias or #hate incident.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal, “Jewish and pro Israel students are experiencing subtle and overt anti-Semitism in greater numbers. We need to hear them, and take them seriously. Universities may need to institute sensitivity training, as should be the case with the professor at Hofstra who suggested to a Jewish student that she re-examine her faith.”

Hofstra University Assistant Vice President of University Relations Karla Schuster said in a statement to the Journal that the university has “tremendous concern” over the allegations in Abelman’s op-ed.

Hofstra University condemns anti-semitism and is committed to ensuring that our campus promotes diversity, inclusion and freedom from all forms of discrimination,” Schuster said. “We will thoroughly investigate the claims made in the Chronicle editorial and take all appropriate steps to protect and further the rights of all campus members to be free from discrimination. Hate of any kind has no place at Hofstra and it will not be tolerated.”