I just finished reading an op-ed piece that was published in the Hofstra Chronicle, entitled: “Anti-Semitism is alive and well at Hofstra” (Sept. 12). The author – Leilah Abelman, moved from San Diego to attend college at Hofstra last year. Abelman, an orthodox Jew wrote: “What I discovered was that anti-Semitism is alive and more insidious than I had expected.”
Her introduction to anti-Semitism occurred before she even stepped foot on campus. When two roommates assigned to her suite discovered that she and another roommate were religious Jews, they opted out. And, then early in her first semester when she told a professor that she would be absent from class during the Jewish high holy days, she was advised that she should reevaluate her religious beliefs.
Shortly after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in which 11 Jews were shot, she recalled, “another professor asked the class to discuss whether the shooter was “truly evil.” Many students expressed the belief that the shooter, who murdered 11 innocent Jewish people, could not be considered evil as he did what he believed was right.”
When Abelman expressed her discomfort with one professor asking the class to “imagine a world without Jews in it,” she was told by him to be “less sensitive.” She went on to address her concerns about these and other incidents with university administration and was told that since no university rules had been broken there was nothing they could do about it.
On page 9 of the Hofstra University Handbook, 2019-2012, Dean of Students Gabrielle St. Léger greets the campus community and speaks to the values expected of all Hofstra students regarding the importance of taking personal and social responsibility – and contributing to the greater campus community. The values she cited include: demonstrating respect for yourself and those around you, focusing on acting with integrity and developing into an ethical leader, and exploring the rich diversity around you.
According to Abelman, “Anti-Semitism at Hofstra may be more subtle than a swastika spray-painted onto a Jewish professor’s office door, which happened at Columbia University last year. However, it is just as dangerous.”
Abelman concluded her commentary by stating that she is tired of being ignored by the administration and “told by professors and students alike that anti-Semitism isn’t a real problem, or that it’s not as bad as other forms of racism and bigotry plaguing this nation.”
As the 2019 Jewish high holy days are upon us, we owe a debt of gratitude to Leilah Abelman, who had the courage to speak out and, in so doing, exemplified one of Hofstra’s core values: acting with integrity and developing into an ethical leader.
Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, which provides comprehensive mental health services for children from birth through 24 and their families. To find out more, call (516) 626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.