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...

  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.