When Leilah Abelman moved to Long Island from San Diego to attend Hofstra University last year, she encountered anti-Semitism on the Hempstead campus, she wrote last week in a Hofstra Chronicle article titled “Anti-Semitism is alive and well at Hofstra.”
“What I discovered was that anti-Semitism is alive and more insidious than I had expected.”
Over the weekend, Hofstra pledged to investigate Abelman’s allegations and said it “condemns anti-Semitism and is committed to ensuring that our campus promotes diversity, inclusion and freedom from all forms of discrimination.”
“Hate of any kind has no place at Hofstra and it will not be tolerated,” the university said.
Abelman described a number of problematic personal interactions with students, including one in which a classmate mocked her Orthodox lifestyle and another in which a student told her that Holocaust education was unnecessary “since everyone knows about it already.”
“I disagreed, citing a statistic stating that over a third of people in major European cities do not know about Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp in Nazi Germany,” Abelman wrote. “She replied, ‘Of course Europeans wouldn’t know about that, the Holocaust is American history’.”
Here are some of the incidents involving Hofstra staff that Abelman recounted in the Hofstra Chronicle:
“After telling a professor I would need to miss class for the Jewish high holidays, I was told I needed to re-evaluate my religious beliefs. That same professor told the class to imagine a world without Jews in it.
“Later, a student compared the Jewish tradition of marrying within the religion to Nazi eugenics. When I approached the aforementioned professor after class to tell her how uncomfortable the comments had me feel, I was essentially told to be less sensitive.
“Then, just three days after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in which 11 Jews were shot attending services, another professor asked the class to discuss whether the shooter was ‘truly evil.’ Many students expressed the belief that the shooter, who murdered 11 innocent Jewish people, could not be considered evil as he did what he believed was right.
“I confronted this professor too, and while he did apologize to me personally, he never brought the issue up with the class. Students left thinking they had said nothing wrong.”
She said that she spoke with professors who witnessed or were a part of these incidents and also spoke with Hofstra administrators and clergy.
“While these administrators were sympathetic, they told me there was nothing to be done as the incidents had already occurred and no university rules had been broken.”
Her article concluded:
“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. 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.
“I am sick and tired of being ignored by the administration and told by professors and students alike that anti-Semitism isn’t a real problem, or that it’s not as bad as other forms of racism and bigotry plaguing this nation. We as a community must confront this issue now to curb the rise of anti-Semitism, before it’s too late.”