Navigate to News section

NYU Student: Erase Anti-Semitic Donor’s Name From Library

Uptown, Columbia kids are equating Israel with campus rape

Liel Leibovitz
December 03, 2015

And you thought the library was a safe space.

Having wrapped up their work at Yale and Mizzou, and with Woodrow Wilson’s name stripped of all but its most racist connotations, the avenging angels of political correctness have found their newest target: NYU’s Bobst library, named after pharmaceutical executive and philanthropist Elmer Holmes Bobst.

How much of a meanie was old Elmer? “Jews,” he wrote in a letter to his pal Richard Nixon, “have troubled the world from the very beginning. If this beloved country of ours ever falls apart, the blame rightly should be attributed to the malicious action of Jews in complete control of our communications.”

It’s nasty stuff, and now NYU students on Washington Square are joining the social justice vanguard and calling for Bobst’s head. Writing in NYU’s student paper, one Max Schachere, a staff writer, captured the indignation of his peers when he demanded that Bobst must go—or else. “This issue is actually quite simple,” he wrote. “It will not be resolved until NYU strips all references to Elmer Holmes Bobst. In the meantime, students must take action through a wholescale boycott of Bobst Library. Unless you attend a class in the library or need a book, there really is no reason to go there.”

Why, though, stop there? Why are the names on the books in the library any different than the name of the building of the library? Why not demand the removal of each and every hurtful title, from Animal Farm (really just a neo-conservative Capitalist assault on the virtues of Communism), to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (a heinous case of a white man culturally appropriating eastern philosophical traditions)?

The students up at Columbia, New York’s finer school, are doing just that. In a symposium held late last month in my beloved alma mater, much attention was paid to the harrowing tale of one student who said she was severely traumatized from reading too many books by and about white people. The event ended in a demand—which is increasingly recurring on the Morningside Heights campus—to abolish the university’s mandatory great books program; all that rape in Ovid and all those privileged cisgendered white heterosexual authors like Plato or Dante can really be hazardous to one’s health.

What, then, are poor students to do for relief? The answer is simple: hate Israel. No Red Tape—a Columbia student run group that won international acclaim after its co-founder, Emma Sulkowicz, embarked on an art project involving carrying her mattress around campus to protest an alleged case of sexual assault—has now broadened its focus from campus rape to that oh-so-similar subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor are they alone in making this dubious connection: As Lizzie Crocker reported in The Daily Beast, earlier this year a visiting professor at SUNY Plattsburgh delivered a paper entitled “Feminist perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Campus Sexual Assault Crisis,” which called for examining the “systemic nature and root-causes of violence in both settings.”

Which brings me back to Bobst. Nutty as the effort to ban his name from the building he had endowed may be, it’s safe to assume it will not go very far: the only ones offended here, after all, are the Jews.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.

Become a Member of Tablet

Get access to exclusive conversations, our custom app, and special perks from our favorite Jewish artists, creators, and businesses. You’ll not only join our community of editors, writers, and friends—you’ll be helping us rebuild this broken world.