Tuesday, November 28th | 15 Kislev 5784

October 12, 2023 11:20 am

An Open Letter to the President of Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

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avatar by Jeffrey Lax


The bodies of people, some of them elderly, lie on a street after they were killed during a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Dear President Schrader,

Here are some of the beautiful, gut-wrenching words you so admirably wrote to the campus in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd:

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath for almost a year until I exhaled yesterday after hearing the verdict in George Floyd’s murder case. My momentary relief was short-lived and immediately replaced by overwhelming exhaustion, sadness, anger and guarded anticipation of what comes next — not with regards to sentencing, but with regards to the need for systemic change– not just in policing, but in how we educate our children and what we teach them through our actions and messages about whose lives matter.  

George Floyd is gone. His family is fatherless, sonless, and brotherless. There is no celebration for me, just the overwhelming understanding about how much work has to be done within ourselves and with each other because that’s where it starts.

Here are some of the similarly beautiful and gut-wrenching words you shared with the college community after the brutal and murderous attacks against Asian-Americans:

I am sure you are all aware of the horrific events that occurred in Atlanta yesterday.  Eight people, 6 of them Asian, were shot and killed by a gunman who is now in police custody.  Even while my thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of all the victims, there is an anger and sadness with the news of yet another senseless loss of life. My thoughts are with the millions of Asian and Pacific Islanders who call this country and Kingsborough their home.  The racism, bias, discrimination and hate that our brothers and sisters have been subjected to is intolerable and I am sure you stand with me in not only denouncing this hate, but standing up for and with them.  Times like this not only call for us to be allies, but to be staunch advocates for an anti-racist and inclusive community, where we respect, embrace and celebrate the differences among us.

You have expressed similar deeply-pained, meaningful sentiments in defense of viciously attacked LGBTQ+ individuals, on behalf of the mass shooting of children and teachers in Texas, on behalf of Tyre Nichols, and more.

Your words have been powerful, genuine, and have meant a lot to me — and surely, to the members of any and all of these suffering communities. I have always proudly stood with you and these statements. They exemplified true, genuine, and compassionate leadership.

Over this past Jewish holiday weekend and Shabbat, a massive, coordinated attack was organized by Hamas terrorists against Israelis and Jewish civilians in Israel. More than 20 Americans were murdered, and more have been kidnapped. Nearly all have been Jews. More than 1,000 Israelis have been murdered — the single greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust (where my four grandparents were tortured, caged, lost their parents, and all but one member of their entire families).

Hamas raped women and dragged them through the streets.

Hamas murdered children in their homes, often while their siblings and parents watched at gunpoint; and then Hamas kidnapped those families.

Hamas handcuffed small children.

Hamas set children on fire.

Hamas beheaded infants.

Hamas kidnapped small children and babies and locked them into tiny metal cages.

Hamas murdered elderly people, their bloodied, gruesome bodies strewn across the streets.

Hamas murdered more than 200 Israeli young adults in a mass shooting at a music festival. Survivors were kidnapped and dragged into Gaza.

Hamas dragged bloodied Jewish bodies through Gaza, while celebrating and cheering.

Hamas kidnapped Holocaust survivors in wheelchairs.

Many of those murdered by Hamas had their cell phones taken. Hamas videoed the murdered victims with their own phones, and uploaded the videos and images to the victims’ social media pages, for their families and friends to see.

I could go on, and I could share unwatchable videos and photos here, but I will not.

Instead, I will share the vapid message you shared after all of this with our campus community — many of whom have relatives in Israel– about these horrors.

You wrote: “we must only [sic] not continue to pray for peace, but  each of us must act for peace and understanding in ways that will continue to bridge that which threatens to divide us.”

When Jews were the victims of such unimaginable atrocities, that was your message?

I ask that decent people reading this email compare these hollow words to the lengthy other meaningful statements you have previously issued in brutal attacks against other groups.

People can draw their own conclusions.

We can also compare your words with what other presidents at CUNY have said about the recent monstrosities:

Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson stated, “we condemn the violent attack by Hamas on Israel and its diverse peoples.” Hunter President Ann Kirschner stated “we condemn the violent attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel.” BMCC President Anthony Munroe emphatically expressed, “the heinous attack by Hamas on Israel and its people is as horrific as it is heartbreaking.”

There is also some deeply hurtful history here. Some people will be shocked to learn that in May 2021, a Kingsborough student beat an Orthodox Jew with a baseball bat, blocks from our campus. Leaving no doubt about his motivations, the student yelled, “Kill All the Jews! Free Palestine!” while beating his victim.

He was charged with a hate crime. Soon after the attack, Brooklyn College issued a strong statement condemning it.

But President Schrader, you said absolutely nothing about the gruesome attack. For me, an openly observant Jew, that really hurt. One of our own students was responsible for something so horrific against an underrepresented group that has been victimized by all too much horror and violence, and you refused to speak.

It is impossible not to ask: what kind of leader bravely and beautifully speaks out for every victimized group except for one? What kind of institutional head makes an exception for one and only one group?

I have long praised you for speaking out so beautifully and strongly in support of communities under attack. But it appears that you have made one clear exception — Jews. It is absolutely shameful and should not be tolerated by decent people of any background on our campus or anywhere.

Please explain why you haven’t spoken out on these two occasions where the brutalized were Jews.

You owe Jewish (and all decent) people much more than an apology and an appropriate statement, but that would certainly be a good start.

Jeffrey Lax

Jeffrey Lax is the Chair of the Department of Business at Kingsborough Community College.

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