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December 11, 2017 2:16 pm

An Open Letter to The New School and Parsons on Linda Sarsour

avatar by Sydney Gross

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Linda Sarsour (right). Photo: Screenshot.

Dear President Van Zandt,

My dream was always to attend a school like the Parsons School of Design, currently housed at The New School. I am committed to a career in fashion design, and I know that Parsons would provide me with a phenomenal education in this field.

And yet today, I am making one of the most painful decisions of my life thus far. Despite spending significant time on my application and design project, I will NOT be proceeding with my application to your prestigious school.

The impetus for my decision is the recent choice by The New School to host Linda Sarsour as a member on a panel discussion on the topic of antisemitism. In case you were not aware, Linda Sarsour has applauded convicted Palestinian terrorists and murderers like Rasmeah Odeh, and has proclaimed that “nothing is creepier than Zionism” and that “Zionists could not be true feminists.”

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It’s crucial for me that you understand the following: I do not aspire to hide in a “safe space” during my university years. Quite the opposite. My upbringing and my schooling has taught me to embrace dialogue and nuance, and to seek to understand opinions across the spectrum — especially those that are not my own.

I believe in the marketplace of ideas, and I want to trade in that marketplace. I believe, wholeheartedly, in the protection of free speech as a core civil liberty.

And yet … there are times to take a stand. And the offensive decision regarding Sarsour makes this one of those times.

As a young Jewish person, I worry about the recent spike in antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment across America, and what it means for my generation. For me, it strikes the most personal of chords. It speaks to the travails of our Jewish past — and the uncertainty of our future.

Linda Sarsour is salt in all of those wounds. She has demonized my community and people. She has spoken recklessly and hurtfully about Jewish people and the Jewish state. Does Ms. Sarsour reserve the right to express her views? Absolutely. But not in this setting. Putting her on a panel to address antisemitism is an appalling, egregious decision.

Harvey Weinstein is entitled to his opinions about women, but should he be invited to speak on a panel about feminism? Should David Duke speak on a panel about black people and racism? Wouldn’t it be our responsibility to speak up about the hypocrisy of such an appearance?

It’s preposterous to imagine that Linda Sarsour could speak about solutions to a problem that she is at the very center of. By allowing her to participate in the panel, your university is seriously undermining the credibility of this panel, the goals it claims to be in service of, and the venue that has chosen to host it.

When researching this issue, I have found that it is not the first time that Parsons has been on the wrong side of the topic of antisemitism. As an Asian Jew who was born in China and raised by Jewish parents, I am a double minority — and I must be an advocate. This is my moment to do so, and I hope it might compel the school to change its ways.

For me, this was an agonizing choice. Attending The New School would be a dream beyond words. But there are values more important than personal ambition. The voice that compels me to send this letter is the voice of conscience, the voice of responsibility for myself and for my people. For most of us, the day comes that we must speak not just with our words — but with our actions. For me, that day is today.


Sydney Gross
Class of 2018
Shalhevet High School
Los Angeles, CA

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  • Stacey Kellar

    Dear Sydney,
    Thank you for being so brave and outspoken. I appreciate your personal sacrifice of your dream college and have shared your story. I’m a college professor in the CUNY system and see first-hand what some of our students face. I wish you the best of luck in finding a school that will welcome you fully – and am fully confident you will make great contributions wherever you go!
    Stacey Plichta Kellar

  • Stan Flamer

    Thank you, Sydney, for standing up to this assault on your fellow Jews, whitewashed on a so-called panel on antisemitism by The New School. I hope that you will find a more welcoming place for your studies.

    Stan Flamer

  • Sraddha


  • brynababy

    Sydney, That school will be less without a person like you. I applaud your courage and your strength. I am 85 years old and it makes me happy to be alive to hear such exquisite thoughts as yours! Thank you,
    Bryna Weiss
    Los Angeles, CA

  • Sydney, so well said and sincerely so. I love what you said, every word hit the mark with it’s honesty. I’m glad that you will forgo that antisemitic school. There are others less racist than that, I can assure you. Rather than rewarding them for their bad behaviour it would be much better if you rewarded another non-racist school for their good behaviour.
    Good bye Parsons and good riddance.

  • George Naftali Muenz


  • David1945

    @ Sidney Gross- Your letter possesses great force, honesty and eloquence. If thousands of people had an equal amount of moral courage to take such a stand, and put integrity before expediency and person gain, progress against Anti-semitism would happen far faster. Very sadly and even tragically it has become the chic and politically correct thing to do to allow and offer ignorant bigots and haters a platform to spew their sick and twisted points of view to large audiences only to eager to appear chic by devouring and repeating what they hear.
    The world has always had its Linda Sarsours. It always will.
    People like her come and go along with the changing Seasons.
    And she too will in time be consigned to the scrap heap of History.
    But the State of Israel will remain and survive as will its People.
    Those people she allegedly speaks for had countless opportunities over the last 75 years to have their Own State but each time their rabid hatred to destroy the Jewish People blinded them to the point that they threw away countless opportunities.
    It was not so long ago that they were offered and could have taken control of 85% of the West Bank but they rejected that offer.
    Now that offer, like a train has left the Station and like a Boat, has sailed and will never return.
    Now—It is from part of Jordan and/or part of the limitless land of Egypt that the So-called Palestinians will one day have to carve a “State” if they are ever to be able to create a State at all.
    People make their own beds- and they must sleep in them.
    Thank you for having the courage of your convictions.
    You will survive and prosper without those who have been too cowardly to stand up for Truth and reject those who would, like failed Human Beings, distort Truth for their own ends.
    Such people are to be pitied.

  • graylens

    beautifully written, insightful,well expressed. You are Parsons/New Schools’ loss. You will do well wherever you go. Your parents must be proud of you

  • Jose Rivera

    I applaud you Sydney Gross. i attended the New School almost twenty years ago. It was nutty back then, but man, to have that COW who hates Jews speak at the New School where there are many Jewish teachers and students shows me i am RIGHT to not have any loyalty to that commie Jew-hating dump. Back then, as a Jewish student, unemployed with no family, i was told I could not have a good scholarship because the “inner city” kids who LIVED AT HOME needed them. There are also people attending The New School who can’t even speak English. In one of my Shakespeare classes, the professor wrote on my paper that there is NO SEX in Shakespeare and that i must be a ……. to think so. All that said, this bringing the JEW-HATER Sansour to the New School is LOW…vagabundo anti-Semitic and remember: I will curse those who curse Israel and bless those who bless Israel.

    Chag Chanukah Sameach.

  • Jerry

    Recently I heard Sansour speak at the American Academy of Religion. Strident, defiant, volatile, self righteous. Her final claim was that she was not Anti-Semitic (evidenced by examples of dialogue with those within the Jewish community). But at least three times, she referred to Israel as imposing “military occupation”. It turned my stomach. I have personally been in Judea and Samaria (so-called West Bank) five times. This characterization is pure hate speech, intended to fire up the army of “freedom fighters”. That is what she thinks of those she support who are murderers and in prison. There is no occupation. There are check points to screen Palestinian Arabs who want to enter into Jewish territories with weapons and to be agents of terrorism. Every day the IDF soldiers confiscate knives, bombs, etc etc. But, where is the occupation? Hundreds of Palestinian villages have the freedom to live as they wish, worshiping in Mosques, creating their own schools (where hard core terrorism and Jewish hatred are taught every day). Sansour is a marketer of rhetoric infused by impassioned “cause” mentality (take it from a former hippie), who probably has never been to this “horrible” place of the Jews so-called ‘occupying Palestinian land (of course that is a myth created by a murderer, Arafat who used the term occupation to create this disinformation nightmare. For her to speak on Antisemitism will qualify and invoke her agenda to qualify and recruit more hatred for the Jews (of course not the ones who already aid her agenda). BTW, her talk produced a standing ovation. I thought I was at an SDS rally before we took over the establishment! Good thing, and the truth is, in a room with 2500 seats there were no more than 200 in attendance. Institutions pay speakers like her upwards to $10,000. My oh my, how much are they paying her from the New School??

  • Connie Goldman

    Sydney, you’ve made the right decision. As a long time artist and former art professor you have many more good options, many better than Parsons. As a Jew, it’s far better to take a stand against hypocrisy and hate. Go where you’ll be appreciated. Good for you!

  • Efram Paul

    Good for you Sydney. Unfortunately, using logic with Nazis is a waste of ink.

  • Laura P. Schulman

    Fantastic letter! Thank you, Mr. Gross. May I suggest Betzalel College of Art, in Jerusalem? I believe you would flourish in the open and vibrant atmosphere there. Blessings for a life filled with light!