A Victory Over Bigotry at Friends Seminary

February 2, 2012 3:38 pm 2 comments

Friends Seminary in New York City. Photo: wiki commons.

The Friends Seminary in New York, which made the God-awful mistake in judgment of twice inviting Gilad Atzmon to meet with its students, has now acknowledged that it was wrong to do so and has promised never again to allow that bigot to set foot on its premises.  It has also promised to invite me and representatives of the Anti-Defamation League to address its students about the dangers of the sort of anti-Semitic hatred spewed by Atzmon.

This dispute was never about Atzmon himself.  He is just one of a number of hate mongers that crawl out from beneath the rocks of the internet.  His claims that Jews may have killed “Goyim” to use their blood, his doubts about the Holocaust, his incitement to burn down synagogues as “reasonable”, his claims that Jews try to control the world and are responsible for most of its evils—these are the screwball rants of pathological anti-Semites that are and should be ignored.  The issue was always about the lack of judgment showed by the Friends Seminary, which legitimated this hate speech to its students by inviting Atzmon.

When I first raised these issues, the Headmaster of the Friends School ignored my requests for a discussion.  He obviously thought the issue would go away with time.  But I would not let it simply pass.  I wrote op eds, blogs and letters demanding that the school acknowledge its mistake. (I never sought to have his scheduled appearances cancelled.)

Finally, when I threatened to appear in front of the school and hand my essays to any of their students who were willing to read it, and when the Wall Street Journal decided to cover the story, the school began to take the issue seriously.  By expressly promising never to allow Atzmon to darken their doorstep, the school has implicitly acknowledged that it was wrong to invite him, and to assign the students to read one of his hate-filled essays.  (The school has also agreed to assign my essay rebutting Atzmon to the students who were assigned his essay.)  Of course it was wrong ever to welcome him, especially in light of the school’s policy to invite speakers and performers who represent the school’s peaceful and tolerant values.  Those who invited him should have known better, and hopefully now they do.

The school’s positive response to my advocacy, and to that like others like the ADL, demonstrates that silence is never an acceptable answer to bigotry.  I understand why some of the parents and students in the school were afraid to risk grades and college opportunities by challenging those in power.  That is precisely why those of us outside the school had a responsibility to act, and to act vigorously and firmly.

In the end, the entire experience was almost certainly a positive one in the eternal fight against bigotry.  No one in the Friends community and no one who reads the media, can now claim ignorance regarding Atzmon’s poison pen and viperous tongue.  No decent school will ever invite Atzmon again, and anyone who does invite him must be charged with the knowledge that they are legitimating a known bigot.

In a recent post, Atzmon said that he would be willing to play alongside David Duke.  What a duet!  But that’s exactly where Atzmon belongs—in the company of neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, homophobes, misogynists, sexists and other bigots.  He does not belong in American schools, especially high schools, and his views—though he has a complete right to express them—should never be legitimated.  They must be rejected in the marketplace of ideas.  The Friends Seminary has now done that.  Kudos to them for learning from their mistakes.

2 Comments

  • Alan Dershowitz sets a high moral standard in advocating for human rights of all peoples.

    He has done a superb job regarding his actions with The Friends Seminary.

    Congratulations and thanks to Alan Dershowitz.

    May he continue to do his excellent work.

    Al, Canada

  • I rather dislike Alan Deshowitz- despite my recognition of some good things he’s done, I’ve never forgiven him his comment comparing Bill Clinton’s detractors with Nazis. But this appears to be another feather in his cap of a life not without considerable achievement. That a Friends School would promote a bigot like this Atzmon leaves me quite distressed. The headmaster should be obliged to step down.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.