Recent publicized moves by both the New Jersey town and state university to reverse anti-Semitic bias are no better than dabbing makeup over a festering blemish.
Mahwah, which by its regrettable actions all but shouted “Orthodox Jews keep out,” walked back its controversial eruv lechi and park bans only because it faced a serious civil rights lawsuit from the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
Its recent reversal of the ban on non-state residents in township parks (read: Orthodox Jews) does little to mask the obvious, continuing concern that frum people could actually “infiltrate” the town. Also, the reversal on a ban on PVC piping as part of an eruv was nothing more than a reaction to the costs it would have incurred to fight lawsuits against its woeful acts of discrimination.
In New Brunswick, Rutgers professor Michael Chikindas, who used social media to call Israel a “terrorist country” and who went out of his way to post ugly anti-Semitic statements and drawings that would have made Joseph Goebbels proud, was removed as head of the university’s School of Digestive Health. He wasn’t fired, just “removed.” True, he is also no longer teaching required courses, meaning that no student will be forced to take a class with him. But he remains a tenured member of the faculty at the university.
Also still in place at Rutgers are professors Jasbir Puar, author of a book falsely accusing Israel of what amounts to a blood libel, and Mazen Adi, a political science department staffer who was the former spokesman for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who teaches, of all things, “international human rights laws.”
Adi, whose former boss used toxic gas to kill his own people, should be the last person in this state to teach the students political science.
These first moves to walk back the anti-Semitism in Mahwah and Rutgers are welcome, but the work to eradicate hatred and bigotry must continue. It can’t escape our collective memories that some 1,200 Mahwah residents signed an anti-eruv petition last July.
Also, The Jewish Link has been made keenly aware that Jewish students are made to feel so uncomfortable on the Rutgers campus that they remain quiet about their support for Israel and even remove or shield their kippot under ball caps because they fear for their safety.
Whether it’s an eruv issue in a small New Jersey town or a rogue professor attempting to use the First Amendment to shroud his anti-Semitism, the message in both instances is clear.
It’s unfortunate that it took a threat from the State’s Attorney’s office to get Mahwah to back down. And it’s also not enough that an anti-Semitic professor was merely “removed” from teaching required courses.
We New Jersey residents, Jews and non-Jews, who care about and respect each other, can ill-afford to rest after these recent actions. That we are positioned to write an editorial because we are still so concerned about the civil rights of Jews in our state speaks volumes. Nobody should feel unwanted or unsafe in New Jersey—ever. New Jersey has more work to do.