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March 1, 2016 1:45 pm

Oberlin Alumni Outraged Over ‘Growing Tolerance for Antisemitism’ at Alma Mater

avatar by Andrew Pessin

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Facebook post by Oberlin Prof. Joy Karega. Photo: Facebook

Facebook post by Oberlin Prof. Joy Karega. Photo: Facebook

Anger continued to grow this week after last week’s revelation of an Oberlin professor’s antisemitic Facebook rants and the college’s response to it, particularly among alumni, some of whom returned to the Ohio school Monday and Tuesday to meet with administrators, staff and students and discuss what they consider to be growing antisemitism at the school.

As reported last Wednesday by The Tower, Oberlin Prof. Joy Karega’s Facebook page was discovered to be filled with years’ worth of posts promoting many traditional antisemitic claims: that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks, that Jews control the world’s banks and own the “news, the media, your oil, and your government.” In response to the revelation, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov issued the following statement:

Oberlin College respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff, and alumni to express their personal views. Acknowledgement of this right does not signal institutional support for, or endorsement of, any specific position. The statements posted on social media by Dr. Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, are hers alone and do not represent the views of Oberlin College.

Criticism immediately followed.

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Renowned Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz told The Tower,

If Karega had expressed comparably bigoted views about Blacks, Muslims or gays, the President of Oberlin would not have posted the boilerplate he posted. He would have condemned those views, even if he defended her right to express them.

Aron Hier, speaking for human rights and antisemitism watchdog the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner:

There’s no contradiction between embracing the First Amendment and calling upon public officials to condemn those hateful, antisemitic and odious forms of speech protected by that very amendment. Hate speech may be protected speech, but university officials have both the right and the moral obligation to call it out for what it is by vociferously repudiating and condemning it.

Alumni of Oberlin also expressed outrage. Melissa Landa (class of ’86), who in December founded “Oberlin Alumni Against Antisemitism” in response to what she and other alumni perceived as growing tolerance for and even promotion of antisemitism at their alma mater, told The Algemeiner:

As abhorrent as Joy Karega’s personal views are, they are less troubling than the fact that she feels comfortable expressing them publicly. While I knew that interpersonal interactions at Oberlin were creating a toxic environment for Jewish students who support Israel, I now fear that the toxins are emanating from the academic foundation of the institution.

More recent graduate Zachary Lewis (class of ’09) reacted similarly, telling The Algemeiner:

It is beyond disappointing to see the administration’s response. To not even offer a condemnation of Professor Karega’s statement is to suggest that nothing she said was wrong, indecent, and most importantly, antisemitic.

I would love for the administration to tell me how… her suggestion that Jews run a shadowy financial, political, and militaristic underworld that is meant to keep the rest of humanity “under control” isn’t akin to the famous antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elder of Zion? How is this not hate speech? How is this person able to pass a vetting process to become a professor at an institution that preaches inclusion and safe spaces?

[By not responding more forcefully] the administration has just given carte blanche to any person, student or professor, to engage in hate speech.

It is sad that a school that promotes itself as an egalitarian home for all has clearly made a distinction that when it comes to hate speech against its Jewish students, it is unwilling to take the necessary action against those who vilify them.

Landa, along with three other members of Oberlin Alumni Against Antisemitism (Marta Braiterman Tannebaum [class of ’72], Norman Birnbach [class of ’86], Abigail Lofchie [class of ’12]), arranged in January to come to campus this week to discuss their concerns with administrators. This followed an “Open Letter to College President Krislov” and the rest of the Oberlin community that they published in January, outlining a number of antisemitic incidents at the college, and noting that they were “troubled by the continued intimidation of Jewish students and the many other forms of antisemitism occurring on campus.”

As they further wrote in an email published on the blog Legal Insurrection, they have “begun to document all incidents of antisemitism at Oberlin by collecting testimonials from alumni and current students. As of today, that list is five pages in length and includes physical intimidation, verbal harassment, and vandalism.”

The document that was five pages long is, as of today, Landa told The Algemeiner, 30 pages long.

The alumni group, then some 250-strong, is also growing, Landa said. Since the story about Karega became public, she reported, they have been inundated by messages from upset alumni.

“Prior to the Karega story, there were some who thought we were overreacting to the antisemitism on campus,” Landa said. “Now many people are apologizing, saying they were sorry for doubting us.”

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  • Paul Bearmon

    Dr Krislov’s response to Dr Karega-Mason’s Jew hating rant ( by any definition Hate Speech) is confounding.

    Linked here:

    https://oncampus.oberlin.edu/source/articles/2016/03/01/mission-liberal-arts-education

    “I believe, as the American Association of University Professors says, that academic freedom is “the indispensable quality of institutions of higher education” because it encourages free inquiry, promotes the expansion of knowledge, and creates an environment in which learning and research can flourish.”

    Dr Krislov seems to be arguing there is some sort of process that will clarify the comments by Dr Karega- Mason as either within or outside of the boundaries defining academic discourse, and thus possibly within an acceptable range.

    Had her comments involved any other group besides Jews he would have responded quite differently, and her tenure at Oberlin would have been terminated with an apology given to the Jewish community at Oberlin as well as the Jewish community at large.

    He called upon his relationship to his “Orthodox” Grandfather, as if this somehow gave credence to his position. Even worse he called upon “members of his family murdered in the Holocaust again to bolster his position. Dr Krislov has no right to invoke either his Orthodox Grandfather or family murdered in the Holocaust in order to defend such Jew hatred under some kind of appeal to academic freedom or and an evaluation hrough “critical thinking from multiple viewpoints.”

    Oberlin has been badly sullied and apparently it will be up to others to rectify this embarrassment. Both President Krislov and Dr Karega-Mason need to leave Oberlin.

  • al talena

    American University administrations will do nothing. After all, in there view, it’s only Jews who are the victims.
    The administrations either have no balls to stand up to the muSLIME/Lefty assault or are themselves members of the lefty intelligentsia. And what do they have to fear. Most Jews who are libs/Reform will not rock the boat.

  • Esther Kaplan

    @ Stevenl
    I am sure Donald Trump is bothered bigly by those who call him out for the David Duke deal. After all, the world is only relevant in so far as it exists for Mr. Trump’s vision of himself.

  • Richard Katz

    Karega should be denied tenure and dismissed over shoddy scholarship and failure to meet even minimal standards of the discipline of logic. As for rhetoric–the purported specialty–gimme a break!

  • Z

    Shocking

  • Myron Slater

    Any Jewish students should publicly speak out and change schools.

  • stevenl

    Soon people who decide to read Mein Kampf will be labeled as being NAZI!

  • stevenl

    For not disavowing the KKK ferociously or passionately, although many times in the past he did disavow KKK, D Trump is now considered a RACIST. For liking a “Mussolini” quote he is now a FASCIST! The spin liberal machine is “FAST & FURIOUS”!

  • Jerry Ram

    Should she be fired, should she retract, should she apologize, does it matter? The damage is done. Should one be surprised of her rants inciting anti-Semitism? No. Jews have been the targets of anti- Semitism since we became the “CHOSEN”. How many thousands of years have passed? And, what has changed?

  • Monty Pogoda

    Karega should have her mouth washed out – preferably with sulphuric acid. At least it will clean her teeth.

  • Ephraim

    Well, now we know how she was hired in the first place, and why she will remain there. Add Oberlin to the tsunami of bigoted universities who wear their antisemitism with pride.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    Joy Karega and the rest of the Oberlin Jew-haters are fortunate to have a Jew like Marvin Krislov as the president of the college.

    Jews like Krislov arealways prepared to offer, if not safe haven, at least a blind eye to anti-Semitic bigotry.

    Like it says in the Geico commercial, “It’s what they do.”

  • SteveHC

    There are only three truly useful responses to such anti-Semitic environments on university and college campuses –

    a) for Jewish donors to such institutions and their related organizations to inform them that henceforth they will no longer donate to them,
    b) that the parents of Jewish students refuse to fund or otherwise encourage or facilitate their children’s attendance at such institutions, and
    c) that Jewish organizations compile and make available to Jewish students and their parents accurate and up-to-date lists of such academic organizations, including descriptive tallies of incidents that resulted in the placement the institutions onto the list(s).

  • ZG

    Very best luck in your effort to protect Jews against racism which would habeen condemned had it been directed against any other group.
    Shame on the leaders of such institutions permitting blatant any Jewish racism.

  • It was disappointing to learn that the high academic standards I saw as a science student are not held universally throughout the college. Professor Karega’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are being parroted on the alumni Facebook page. She teaches Israeli-Palestinian conflict in her class despite the fact that has no background in Middle Eastern Studies and does not rely the level of evidence to support her argument that one would expect of an academic. Her continued employment is embarrassing and the apathy President Krislov demonstrated in his initial statement is unacceptable.

  • Aliq Ranea

    Thanks for your work, Professor Pessin.

  • dante

    the fact that karega is a vile, despicable, loathsome swine is clear.

    but, her little fb illustration shows that she’s, not surprisingly, also, a moron. any intelligent reader should be able to see why the illustration supports a point that is diametrically different from the one that karega intended to make.

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