Founded in 1919 by progressive New York intellectuals, The New School rose to prominence two decades later, when it took in a small band of Jewish intellectuals fleeing the Nazis. Eminences like Hannah Arednt, Leo Strauss, and Erich Fromm all benefited from the institution’s commitment to taking in the victims of the world’s most ancient and persistent hatred and giving them a place to pursue their ideas in peace.
How things change: Later this month, the university will co-sponsor a panel on anti-Semitism that will feature, among others, Linda Sarsour, who opined that “nothing is creepier than Zionism,” praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and believes one cannot support the right of Jews to a homeland of their own and still be a feminist. Alongside Sarsour will be Rebecca Vilkomerson, who heads the odious Jewish Voice for Peace. The group, as an ADL report aptly put it, “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and to provide the movement with a veneer of legitimacy.” Among JVP’s recent achievements are the enthusiastic support of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian terrorist convicted of a bombing attack on a Jerusalem supermarket that left two young students dead and who was recently deported from the United States after lying about the incident on her immigration forms. The group is also a frequent supporter, despite its allegations to the contrary, of Alison Weir, an activist robustly promoting modern-day blood libels against Jews.
It goes without saying, sadly, that the event—which is co-sponsored by prominent progressive institutions like the radical magazine Jacobin—features not a single actual scholar of anti-Semitism, nor one voice that doesn’t belong comfortably in the deep left. In supporting this pathetic farce, then, the New School betrays its mission and its heritage twice: First by inviting some of the leading purveyors of anti-Jewish prejudice to discuss anti-Semitism, and second by failing to invite to the panel anyone who might disrupt the torrent of invective with dispassionate facts and real expertise.
“At its founding,” the invitation to the event concludes, “The New School offered a refuge and funding for nearly 200 Jewish scholars during Hitler’s purge of Jews from Germany. The New School Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism program has allowed us to humbly step into a long tradition of combatting antisemitism.” What a sick joke.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.