An article called “Jesuits Gone Jewish” in the April Fool’s edition of a Fordham University undergraduate newspaper has prompted an angry reply from the school’s president, who blasted a reply to Fordham students, including in the law school, calling the satirical piece “directly insulting to Jews, and offensive to every member of the University community,” and asking that the paper apologize.
The Ram, which serves Fordham’s larger college in the Bronx, has not posted the article online, and I’ve been unable to obtain a copy.
The Ram’s editors have not replied to a request for comment. (Update: I emailed the wrong address, so that The Ram‘s editors never had a chance to respond. Mea culpa.) According to people who saw it, the joke was that Fordham, a Jesuit university with campuses in Manhattan and the Bronx, was going to turn Jewish. Most of the jokes were innocent—that its new competition would be Yeshiva University, for example. The prime red flag came in the byline, which apparently attributed the article to one “Herschel Q. Goldberg, staff investment banker.”
Fordham has experienced a few bias incidents in the past weeks—notably, a black student had a racial slur penned on her door—which exacerbated the effect of the article, according to Fordham’s director of communications, Robert J. Howe. “Frankly, most of it was just silly, but there were a couple of things,” he said.
Dr. Jason Morris, the Fordham Hillel’s faculty advisor, agreed that the article was for the most part anodyne. The incident “should be understood in the context of some recent offensive (non-anti-Semitic) incidences,” he said. “He was trying to limit the fallout,” Morris added of President Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
“We’re a pretty ecumenical place,” Howe said. Indeed, Fordham last made these digital pages because its basketball team earlier this year found a good-luck charm in a cantor from a nearby synagogue who sang the National Anthem at home games.
Full text of McShane’s email after the jump.
MEMO TO THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY
Dear Members of the Fordham Family,
It pains me to report that editors of The Ram have inexplicably chosen to publish an April Fool’s issue that is directly insulting to Jews, and offensive to every member of the University community.
It should go without saying that such so-called humor is entirely at odds with the ideals of any university, and especially at odds with the ideals and goals of a Jesuit university. It is also well beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse–even allowing for the more flexible standards of satire and humor.
I have sent the following letter to the editors of The Ram, but I want to apologize to each and every one of you, and most especially to our Jewish sisters and brothers, for this egregious lapse of civility. Rest assured that the University will do everything possible to heal the wounds caused by the unthinking decisions of the newspaper’s writers and editors.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Letter to the Editors of The Ram:
When I opened this year’s so-called April Fool’s issue of The Ram, I expected to discover in its pages the standard fare found in such issues, namely good-natured jabs and pokes at administrative incompetence and riffs on the foibles of collegiate life. And I was not disappointed, for such pieces were there — in abundance. I was sickened, however, when I arrived at page 3 and came face to face with “Jesuits Gone Jewish”, a particularly crude article that trafficked in the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes and that seemed to have been written for the sole purpose of offending the Jewish members of our community.
In the best of times, such an article would rightly be condemned as ill-advised, hateful and offensive. In the highly-charged atmosphere created by the bias incidents of the past month, however, it must be seen and condemned as both wildly insensitive and willfully inflammatory. (In light of your own strong editorials on those bias incidents, I must say that I found your decision to publish this piece to be completely mystifying.) Therefore, I would like both to condemn the article in the strongest possible terms and to say in equally strong terms that it and the hateful biases on which it is based are simply unacceptable here at Fordham. In addition, I would like to apologize to the entire Fordham community, and in particular to the Jewish members of our campus family, for the pain that your decision to publish this offensive, sophomoric attack has caused them.
I will be publishing this letter in the form of a memorandum to the University Community before Easter Break. I also ask that you publish it on the front page of your next issue. Finally, I expect you to publish a letter (also on the front page of your next issue) apologizing both to the University Community and to the Jewish members of our family on whom you have inflicted so much pain.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Additional reporting by Dan Klein
Related: At Jesuit School, A Pregame Assist From a Jewish Singer [NYT City Room]
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.