NEW YORK (Aug. 26)
A Jewish leader today accused the president of New York University of a “tortured and outrageous effort to de-odorize the noxious anti-Semitism” of an article by John Hatchett, newly appointed director of NYU’s Afro-American Student Center. But Albert Vorspan, director of the Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the representative body of American Reform Judaism, warned at the same time that “beneath the viciousness and racism of Mr. Hatchett’s article there is a real problem for public education that must be faced.”
Mr. Vorspan’s statement took sharp issue with the views expressed by Dr. James M. Hester, president of NYU, in an interview published in the New York Times yesterday. Dr. Hester accepted the former Harlem school teacher’s disclaimer that his article, which charged that Jews who dominate the New York City public school system were responsible for the lack of progress by Negro pupils was anti-Semitic in intent. Dr. Hester told the Times that he understood how somebody could level such charges and not be an anti-Semite “in the classical sense.” He was also critical of Mr. Hatchett’s accusers who he said were exacerbating racial tensions.
Mr. Vorspan called the NYU head’s statement “a clumsy effort to justify the original appointment” of Mr. Hatchett and accused Dr. Hester of becoming “an apologist for Mr. Hatchett’s views while blaming critics of the article for creating tension.” However, Mr. Vorspan added, “simplistic reactions on either side do not serve the interests of anyone. Both the black student who threaten to riot if Mr. Hatchett is removed and the Jewish alumnus who says simply, ‘he’s an anti-Semite… let’s get him fired.’are sweeping live problems under the carpet, where they will smolder until they burst into a conflagration.” Mr. Vorspan stated further that “while it is malicious and unfair to accuse the Jewish teachers of New York, as a group, of being anti-black, there may well be some anti-black teachers, both Jewish and non-Jewish. We call upon such teachers to examine their consciences and determine whether they are conveying such attitudes in the classroom…While charges of conscious cultural genocide and educational emasculation are unconscionable, it may be true that white teachers sometimes reflect values which have become repugnant to many black people.”