On June 30, 2022, Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the director of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Center for Law and Justice, testified at the New York City Council’s hearing on campus antisemitism at the City University of New York (CUNY). Ms. Tuchman informed City Council members that antisemitism at CUNY has been a serious and longstanding problem.
In 2013, the ZOA filed and successfully resolved a student-supported civil rights complaint against Brooklyn College after four Jewish students were ousted from an anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) program, allegedly because they were disrupting it. As Brooklyn College eventually publicly admitted, the Jewish students were ejected without justification. Expelling them was a way to prevent them from expressing their anti-BDS, pro-Israel views.
In 2016, the ZOA alerted CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees to the antisemitic harassment and intimidation that Jewish students were enduring at CUNY’s Hunter College, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, and John Jay College. For example, a Hunter College rally to protest rising tuition turned into a frightening attack on Jews. Protestors there shouted, “Death to Jews,” “Jews out of CUNY,” and “We should drag the Zionists down the street.” The ZOA’s letter to CUNY triggered an independent investigation into campus antisemitism. The investigation confirmed that Jewish students felt harassed, threatened and unsafe, and that some students were afraid to identify openly as Jewish on campus.
In 2020, the ZOA filed a complaint against the CUNY School of Law under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that the law school was a hostile antisemitic environment that CUNY officials were failing to address. A CUNY Law student uploaded a video on social media in which she threatens to light someone on fire because he is wearing a sweatshirt bearing the emblem of the Israel Defense Forces. CUNY officials failed to investigate this student for violating CUNY’s rules and policies, and instead justified her actions as free speech and acceptable activism. Even after the Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into the ZOA’s Title VI complaint, CUNY Law rewarded this law student by featuring her as a speaker at its May 2022 commencement ceremony. As Ms. Tuchman informed the Council members, this law student “was treated like a celebrity there, with cheers and applause.”
In addition to her oral testimony, Ms. Tuchman submitted detailed written testimony to the City Council, describing years of antisemitic harassment and intimidation that Jewish students have been subjected to at CUNY and that CUNY officials have failed to effectively address. The written testimony recommends several steps for the City Council to take, to ensure that CUNY becomes a safe and welcoming place for Jewish and pro-Israel students.
The ZOA strongly criticizes CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez for failing to appear at the City Council’s hearing. The hearing had been slated for earlier in June, but was postponed at the Chancellor’s request, reportedly due to scheduling conflicts. At the June 30 hearing, City Council members stated that they were informed at the last minute that the Chancellor would not be appearing. Instead, three CUNY officials attended, but they appeared virtually, not in person. These actions sent the wrong and unacceptable message to Jewish students and faculty at CUNY, to the City Council members, and to Jewish and non-Jewish members of the public – that CUNY does not take seriously the antisemitic harassment and intimidation that Jewish students are facing, or CUNY’s moral and legal obligation to address these problems.
The ZOA thanks Eric Dinowitz, the chair of the Council’s Committee on Higher Education; and Council Members Inna Vernikov and Kalman Yeger. All three, by their comments and questions throughout the hearing, showed that they understand that CUNY has a long and unacceptable antisemitism problem and that is must finally be fixed. All three asked tough and unrelenting questions of CUNY officials and made it clear that CUNY’s response to campus antisemitism so far has been inadequate and intolerable. Even before the hearing, Council Member Vernikov demonstrated her zero tolerance for CUNY’s abysmal response to campus antisemitism, pulling $50,000 in funding from a program affiliated with the CUNY School of Law.
The ZOA looks forward to working with the City Council to ensure that Jewish students at CUNY have the safe and welcoming environment that every student deserves.
Watch Susan Tuchman’s testimony before the City Council here: https://youtu.be/iL2gLd3h4m0
Read Susan Tuchman’s written testimony to the City Council here: https://zoa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Susan-Tuchman-ZOA-Statement-to-NYC-Councils-Higher-Education-Committee-7-4-22.pdf
|Watch Susan Tuchman’s Testimony Before the City Council
|Read Susan Tuchman’s Written Testimony to the City Council