Participants of the gathering
Participants of the gatheringRabbinical Alliance of America

On Sunday, December 17, 2023, the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim convened its monthly Rosh Chodesh (Teves) meeting held at Kahal Bnei Matisyahu, where its Presidium Chairman, Rabbi Yaakov Klass, serves as rabbi. The Rosh Chodesh Teves conference was dedicated by Rabbi Yaakov Klass, in memory of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Chana Chaya Henna Rashe Spanier a"h, whose yahrzeit falls on the ninth of Teves. In honor of her memory, Rabbi Klass presented an erudite Dvar Torah.

The sharp rise in antisemitism was a central issue of concern at the conference. One of the participating rabbis pointed out a specific example of the antisemitism currently emanating from the City University of New York (CUNY). A sign was discovered in all the classrooms on the second floor of Hunter College which stated,

“Practice Lab Instructors must be comfortable and competent in facilitating conversations about Israel’s settler colonialism, U.S. imperialism, apartheid, and anti-colonial Palestinian resistance.”

As noted on December 11, 2023, the Rabbinical Alliance of America issued a press release congratulating Governor Kathy Hochul on the announcement that calls for genocide on college campuses violate New York’s Human Rights Laws. Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, said, “The Rabbinical Alliance of America stands by that declaration by Governor Hochul and we as a rabbinic body appreciate that directive especially as CUNY and SUNY colleges are concerned.” In light of this important declaration by Governor Hochul, Rabbi Yaakov Klass presented a resolution calling on Hunter College to take action against this despicable sign against supporters of the only Jewish country in the world. That resolution passed unanimously. The resolution “calls upon the administration of Hunter College, if it has not done so already, to investigate this matter and to remediate this matter and to take all proper curative, corrective, and if it need be appropriate disciplinary, actions to rectify the situation and to offer confidence to the Jewish American community that antisemitism is not taken lightly at Hunter College.”

Mirocznik emphasized that the Rabbinical Alliance of America’s call to action of the administration of Hunter College is so important when it is taken into consideration that the Jewish American community is still reeling in horror and is in shell shock after former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, alongside Harvard President Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, refused to offer a straight answer to a simple question posed by Rep. Elise Stefanik on December 5, at a Congressional hearing whether calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes bullying and harassment against Jewish students. Stefanik asked Magill: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?” To which Magill responded: “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.” Stefanik was aghast, saying, “Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide? The speech [itself] is not harassment? This is unacceptable.”

Mirocznik emphasized that, “as rabbis, we have deep concern for the safety of Jewish teachers and students on college campuses. The flier discovered at Hunter College is patently antisemitic and has the potential to place Jewish faculty and students at the Hunter College campus in harm’s way.

This issue is particularly important when we consider that these colleges are currently educating our future attorneys, judges, elected representatives, teachers, physicians and leaders. When schools teach future professionals and leaders to hate and discriminate, they tear apart the fabric of society. If the Hunter College flier incident is left unchecked, such destructive educational flaws will lead to a deterioration of civility and inevitable lawlessness. Universities need to turn away from their bigotry and return to their place at the vanguard of ethics and morality.

Mirocznik further stressed that this Hunter College incident is sadly another healthy wakeup call that America, as a society, must treat antisemitism with the same stigma it treats other hatreds. Antisemitism should be met with the same societal condemnation with which we treat other prejudices and vile acts of bigotry. As long as there are different standards of review or perceived differences in reaction when it comes to combating antisemitism, the potential for danger and physical harm remains plausible and a true threat to Jews on campus. Therefore, the Rabbinical Alliance of America calls upon Hunter College to take the appropriate steps to demonstrate that they are serious in combating antisemitism and to publicly share their efforts with society as proof that they consider antisemitism to be unacceptable.

Mirocznik concluded, “as rabbis we have an obligation to object when the press and media inaccurately report about Israel’s war against Hamas. The Rabbinical Alliance of America is on the record for standing with Israel during this serious time. We call for honest and unbiased reporting. The only way that terrorism will be defeated in the hearts of the public is when the media honestly reports the truth of what Hamas is and what Hamas has done to wreak havoc for Israel and democracy. Once the media allows for unfound bias to exist, not only are they betraying their important role in disseminating the news, they are placing the security of the world at risk.

“We at the Rabbinical Alliance of America pray that the A-mighty cast His canopy of peace and through His intervention Hamas shall be eradicated, the hostages returned home safely, and that a true and everlasting peace becomes the new norm in the Middle East.”

Also participating in the Rosh Chodesh Teves Conference was Rabbi Moish Schmerler, executive director, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Gil Student, director, Halacha Commission, Rabbinical Alliance of America; and Rabbi Yehuda Blank, vice-president, Development and External Affairs, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Abraham Hecht, executive director, Jewish Community Council of Canarsie; and Rabbi Tzvi Berkovitz, chaplain, National Conference of Shomrim Societies