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February 4, 2016 6:34 am

An Open Letter to Vassar on Antisemitic Policies and Double Standards

avatar by Laurie Josephs

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Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

To the American Studies Steering Committee,

I write to express my deep and continuing frustration, sadness, and disgust over the continued willingness of Vassar faculty to sponsor hate speech when it comes to the Jewish State. Almost two years ago, several Vassar departments and programs co-sponsored two well-known antisemites, Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal — the latter of whom was banned from the German parliament for his antisemitic activities. Now we learn that American Studies is sponsoring Professor Jasbir Puar, a supporter of BDS and one of the luminaries who pushes the “pinkwashing” theory — that Israel cynically pretends to respect gay rights in order to distract from its alleged abuses of Palestinians.

The description of Puar’s upcoming talk indicates that she will be spewing the vitriol that Gaza is an “experimental laboratory for the Israeli military apparatuses, infrastructural chaos and metric manipulation,” and that she will be inviting her audience to imagine what types of Israeli “fantasies” about “power, about bodies, about resistance, about politics” might be driving the Israelis. Just substitute the word “Jew” for “Israeli” and you could certainly be excused for thinking this was lifted straight out of Der Sturmer, the Nazi propaganda paper that regularly portrayed Jews as filthy manipulators driven by a mad lust for power, intent on destroying the German nation.

Yes, even hate speech is protected speech and someone like Professor Puar is free to emit such garbage. And yes, she is even free to gussy it up with pretentious jargon in a pathetic effort to make it seem as if it had some academic or intellectual basis. But Vassar’s promotion and endorsement of such antisemitic speech through sponsorship by the American Studies program is entirely unfathomable and inexcusable.

This Committee would never agree to sponsor a speaker who used scientific or academic jargon to promote homophobic or racist theories. And Vassar faculty has repeatedly shown its sensitivity to any speech that is, or could possibly be construed as, Islamophobic.

But a different standard applies when it comes to Israelis and the Jewish state. Why is that?

Laurie Josephs, ’78

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  • Vassar knows no shame. Are they back to quotas??

  • Mike

    I am an alum and will not give one red cent to the school as long as there is a possibility it will be used to fund sponsored talks given by racists.

  • Jerome Levenberg

    My daughter, a once proud alumna, now holds her head in shame and embarrassment.

  • nelson marans

    The response to Vassar and any other college that sponsors Palestinian terror should be the withholding of any contributions to that school and for Jewish students not to apply nor alumni and alumnae supply funds. A decease in the salaries of these tenured anti-Israel professors and a firing of non-tenured faculty should be encouraged, they are the real instigators of Palestinian terror as being acceptable.

  • Betty Schneck

    I am so sorry that Vassar identifies it educational system with a learning that isn’t open and doesn’t respect its female students. It causes you to be uneducated and limited. Read the koran and learn how Vassar students would fit in.

  • Elisheva

    Perhaps if people start putting pressure on these institutions they will start to see the light.
    Here is what happened at York University, Ontario Canada:

  • ART

    Jewish and other alumni should stop contributions to the school. I refuse to give to Brandeis for the same type of behavior there

  • They’re radicalized by students and monies that come from Arab countries that know the best way to effect change is to start with college kids. Barack Obama has demonstrated a sympathy and bias towards Muslims and sadly, black hate groups. Check out rev Wright. His children attend an elitist Quaker school also known for another Jewish and Israel beliefs and undertones. The press is incredibly anti Israel. Left winger Jews who hated their rabbis and hate being looked at as jewishly identified. How can Jews help but not feel target when the world is still against us.

  • Diana Cohen Altman

    “A fish stinks from the head on down.” Look behind the curtain at the sad place that Vassar has become in the past few years.

    The slowness to condemn outright acts of intimidation and Jew hatred. The fear and need to be discreet about specific identity issues that several Jewish students and others affiliated with the campus have expressed.That kind of sickness could not progress were it not for the right kind of leaders–so-called leaders who just don’t understand what anti-Semitism is about, how it spreads, and what it means for society.

    Alumni Jewish or otherwise with any sense of what anti-Semitism–in particular the faux-intellectual or probably-from-the-mother’s-milk kind–is about: Please think carefully and respond.

  • Peter Joffe

    We all know the Parable of the sowing and reaping, no matter your religious beliefs! Its a fact of life and for those who live by hate and sow hate they will reap a bountiful harvest of hate and death. You haters – what did Israel or the Jewish people ever do to you that you are prepared to self destruct.

  • Paul Greenberg

    Well said.

  • Edward Alexander

    After several Vassar alumni expressed objections to this American Studies event (and similar previous extravaganzas having nothing to do with America), Vassar’s Jewish Studies Program rushed to add its name to the list of academic co-sponsors. If these certified experts on Jewish history and culture have affixed their stamp of kashrut to the febrile lucubrations of Jasbir Puar, surely these must deserve a hearing from Vassar’s students. After all, Vassar’s Jewish Studies faculty includes such luminaries as Joshua Schreier, who is a tribune of the BDS movement to expel Israel from the family of nations, and who boasts that his course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict presents only the Arab “narrative.” There is also Andrew Bush, who in 2003 defined Intifada II, in which Palestinian pogromists and lynch mobs slaughtered a thousand people and maimed 10,000 more, as “a critique of Zionism.”
    There is, to be sure, a “technical” problem in having Puar lecture at Vassar: if her spoken English resembles her stupefyingly opaque writing, Vassar students must think she was speaking in tongues. Not to worry, however: another late arrival among the co-sponsors of her lecture was Vassar’s English Department.

    • Rivkah Fiishman

      The capitulation of the Jewish Studies faculty is one of the most depressing aspects of the whole business. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me” said Rabbi Hillel the Elder. Can any one imagine a professor of African Studies supporting a guest lecturer who advocates White supremacy or any member of the faculty at Vassar shilling for a lecturer who preaches discrimination against women? When I attended Vassar (I graduated in 1967)there was no program in Jewish Studies.I was overjoyed when the College established one –now I regret my premature enthusiasm. Today’s Vassar is a far cry from the Vassar I knew, admired and remember.

      • Cynthia

        With a heavy heart, I agree with your last sentence.

      • Gale Gordon


    • Diana Cohen Altman

      What’s especially sad about the Jewish Studies piece is that according to several reports individuals in that department have been victimized repeatedly by BDS people. To the extent of feeling physically endangered. . . . Imagine the effects of this latest on lives and careers within the department.

  • Since submitting this letter, a few other departments signed up to co-sponsor Professor Puar’s talk, including Jewish Studies.

    Yes, you heard right…Jewish Studies.

    Vassar has yet to awaken to the fact that it’s losing it’s reputation to faculty hires that are having trouble representing Vassar at it’s best.

    For more:


  • Hasi

    Awwww….they’re just trying to be hip and cool.

    • Ellen Green


    • Lou P. Muccitelli

      Awwww……Hip and cool my tuchis!

    • Tzipporah

      Please let them know.