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April 28, 2016 10:46 am

Lawyer in Discrimination Suit: President of CUNY College Pressured Jewish Faculty Member to Withdraw Antisemitism Complaint

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Kingsborough Community College president Farley Herzek. Photo: CUNY.

Kingsborough Community College president Farley Herzek. Photo: CUNY.

A lawyer representing a New York City professor in a suit against his university for alleged antisemitism told The Algemeiner her client was previously pressured by the school’s president to drop an internal complaint.

Brooke Goldstein, director of the nonprofit legal think-tank the Lawfare Project and co-counsel to the plaintiff — Jewish professor of business Jeffrey Lax — said that City University of New York (CUNY) Kingsborough Community College President Farley Herzek repeatedly instructed Lax to withdraw a formal CUNY complaint lodged against Stuart Suss, former vice president for academic affairs and provost at Kingsborough. Herzek, according to Goldstein, told Lax to “let it go.”

As previously reported by The Algemeiner, Lax filed a lawsuit in February against senior Kingsborough administrators, claiming they limit the hiring and promotion of Jews and maintain a hostile work environment for them. According to the suit, which named Suss specifically, Jewish faculty members were frequently mocked for wearing religious head coverings and keeping kosher, and were referred to as “the Devil” and “evil.”

Before filing the lawsuit, Lax submitted separate informal complaints to Kingsborough’s General Counsel and the Interim Provost. Both were ignored, he claimed, forcing him to file a formal complaint with the CUNY human resources department. As a result, the suit alleges, “discrimination and harassment only intensified” against Lax.

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According to the suit, Lax, an orthodox Jew, faced “constant discrimination based on his religion” from Suss, including “comments, innuendo and verbal harassment.” Suss, the suit accuses, expressed support for suicide bombers and attacks against Jews, and was “constantly reminding people that he knows that they are Jewish.”

“The significance of Herzek responding in this manner to serious allegations of antisemitism cannot be understated,” said Goldstein. “For the president of a CUNY institution to direct an employee to drop his claim of discrimination against a senior administrator rather than investigate them, represents not just a dereliction of duty, but a vile and tacit endorsement of antisemitic practices.”

In this photo obtained by The Algemeiner, a swastika is seen scratched into a bathroom dryer at Kingsborough Community College.

In this photo obtained by The Algemeiner, a 2 foot high swastika is seen scratched into a bathroom door at Kingsborough Community College.

In March, Herzek told The Algemeiner: “Based on my knowledge of the review of this claim, it is baseless and entirely without merit. Discrimination and acts of bigotry of any kind are in complete violation of the values we stand for at Kingsborough Community College.”

In a recent op-ed by Herzek in the Jewish Voice, the Kingsborough president denied knowledge of any incidents or complaints of antisemitism on his school’s campus. However, a faculty member at Kingsborough — who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job — told The Algemeiner that acts of antisemitic vandalism at the college have become commonplace. Swastika graffiti is found on campus at increasing rates and the personal property of Jewish faculty members has been repeatedly defaced, the faculty member said.

Reports of antisemitic behavior at Kingsborough are part of ongoing charges against CUNY as a whole. In March, the New York State Senate approved a resolution cutting $485 million in funding to the institution, due to what some lawmakers considered inaction on its part where antisemitism on its campuses is concerned.

Herzek failed to immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment on the latest allegations against him. 

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  • Marianne D’Angelo

    I went to KCC from 2003-4 then to CSI,my father is Italian and my mother is Jewish.I was raised celebrating both religions,and I still do.
    I used to hear anti-semitic things there all the time from faculty and students who did not know that my mother was Jewish.
    I totally believe the allegations against KCC-I saw it even more at CSI with the Muslim students, who hated the Jews and the professors who used to teach against Israel.
    At Kingsborough the Muslim students used to make fun of this orthodox jewish teacher ( I forget her name). They were awful to her. Shame it is still going on. Loved the beach and beautiful campus.

  • SOUTH FLORIDA

    Thanks Obama for giving the world permission to hate Jews, by your treatment of Israel, your appeasement of Jew haters, your lack of strong denouncement of anti-Jew hate on American university campuses….the list is too long for this post. Obama, no friend of the Jewish people.

  • Robert Davis

    Mr.Goldstein should immediately claim for huge damages for each of the jews persecuted so as to encourage the latter to make suits to that wretched CUNY and not fear to be fired.strezek should be fired instead to change this hostile environment.

  • Ephraim

    May Hashem help him win his case.

  • Dear Jeffrey Lax

    I’m very happy that you are standing for your rights and fighting Anti-Semitism.

    Enough is enough. How many millennia do the Jewish people have to suffer from this malignant virus? It must be stopped in its’ tracks before it gets out of hand as it did in Europe.

    Do not let these racist bullies intimidate you.

    May the Force be with you.

  • stevenl

    How stupid can stupid people be?
    The sky must be the limit.
    The liberal Jews still ignore at their own expense people STUPIDITY!
    On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews.

  • This article shocked me, on reading it. What hype of sophistry is Farley Herzek, the President od Kingsborough Community College still engaging in , as his position of denyWing such horrific acts anti-semitism on the campus of ths educational insttution. This guy should be fied Why is he still there?

    f he was appointed to his position by say the Brooklyn Borough President, why has the Borough president remained silent? Where s the voice of NYC Mayor DeBlsio in all of this?

    I am a graduate of Baruch College, which is part of CUNY. I was an adjunct professor in a CUNY college more than once. I am outraged by Herzek’s weak attempts to cover anti-Seeitism on hs campus, instead of doing something about it.

    NO Jew in NYC today today, should remain silent on this matter. We must unite to confront neo -Nazi fanatics here on our home turf who seek to divide us , vilify them, and if possible and legally provable, prosecute them to punish them for perpetrating hate cries.

    . \\\

  • Mayor de Blasio for his entire political career has supported the Sandanistas whose foundational principles included the burning of synagogues and the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Nicaragua. Herzek and Suss are wallowing in the same antisemitic muck that DeBlasio has wallowed in for forty years.

  • HALF-BREED

    Don’t let anything go—Ever. Doing that only encourages these people. Haven’t we learned anything? Fight back! Not to do so is to betray the memory of all those who died at the hands of the Nazis. I am sure that Jewish alumni are big contributors to these schools. Cut them off. Stop sending your children there. Stop going yourselves. I don’t see that you have a thing to lose (not talking about the teachers, who should be documenting every single bit of this). Do you really think graduating from Harvard when they are, at best, allowing this to continue, is an honor? Bigots are bullies and most bullies back down from people who defend themselves in a way that significantly impacts the bullies. A university in Paris recently kicked out—not suspended—a female student who was attacking Jews in her emails. They also relieved her of an apprentice-type post at the UN. Why is our government not doing this? Indeed, not even acknowledging it’s going on. Where the administrators are helping this along, get rid of them. A policy of zero tolerance is necessary. Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea why not. Don’t you?

  • HALF-BREED

    DON’T LET ANYTHING GO—EVER. Doing that only encourages the bastards. Haven’t we learned anything? FIGHT BACK! No to do so is to betray the memory of all those who died at the hands of the Nazis. I am sure that Jewish alumni are big supporters of this and other universities. CUT THEM OFF. STOP SENDING YOUR CHILDREN THERE. STOP GOING THERE YOURSELVES. I don’t see that you have a thing to lose (not talking about the teachers, who should be documenting every single bit of this). They are bullies and most bullies back down from people who defend themselves in a way that significantly impacts the bullies. A university in Paris recently kicked out—NOT SUSPENDED—a female student who was attacking Jews in her emails. They also relieved her of an apprentice-type post at the UN. Why is our government not doing this? Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea why not. Don’t you?

  • Lia

    Good for NY State Senate … if this sort of behaviour still continues there, further cuts may be indicated.

  • Jacki Silber

    This is appalling, what country do we live in?
    Is this 2016 or 1938?
    If you do not show your staff and administrators this is not OK, you will lose total control and have no one but yourselves to blame

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