A Victory Over Bigotry at Friends Seminary

February 2, 2012 3:38 pm 3 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.

3 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.

    • charlie johnson

      Alan takes up for a guy who spent his adult years in the most expensive institutes of higher learning but had not made the correct determination of a cigars intended purpose.Nor has yet the nation connected the link between higher learning and babbling idiots.

Leave a Reply

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


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →
  • Commentary Featured Features Jewish 100 The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014 ACADEMIA Alain Finkielkraut Moshe Halbertal Deborah Lipstadt Jacob Metzer Steven Pinker Tammi Rossman-Benjamin ARTS AND CULTURE Yaacov Agam David Blatt Leonard Cohen Gal Gadot Scarlett Johansson Ryan Kavanaugh Steven Spielberg Harry Styles INNOVATION AND ACTIVISM Meira Aboulafia Adina Bar-Shalom Nitsana Darshan-Leitner Daniel Gold Anett Haskia Ephrat Levy-Lahad Gabriel Nadaf Dumisani Washington GOVERNMENT Tony Abbott José María Aznar Ron Dermer Yuli Edelstein Abdul Fatah el-Sisi Stephen Harper Goodluck Jonathan Mitch McConnell Narendra Modi [...]

    Read more →
  • Features Jewish 100 Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Bassam Eid Palestinian human rights activist While Palestinians who demonize Israel as the sole reason for their woes receive no shortage of media invitations, those among them who spotlight their own leaders’ iniquities are far less in demand. Even so, the profile of Bassam Eid, the Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, is thankfully continuing to grow. Eid’s latest campaign is for the overhaul of UNRWA, the UN refugee agency dedicated solely to the Palestinians, which he says [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.