New School benefactor threatens to cut off funding over panel on anti-Semitism


(JTA) — A major Jewish benefactor of The New School has threatened to pull future funding if the university does not withdraw its sponsorship of a panel on anti-Semitism featuring members of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.

Kenneth Bialkin, an attorney who serves as president of the American Jewish Historical Society and chairman of the America-Israel Friendship League, wrote a letter to the university president calling it “intellectually dishonest, irresponsible, and immoral” for the Manhattan-based university to host a panel on anti-Semitism featuring “some of America’s leading purveyors of anti-Jewish prejudice.”

“I urge you to reconsider your position, so that I do not have to reconsider mine,” wrote Bialkin, a former member of The New School’s board of directors. The letter was obtained and first reported Wednesday by Tablet.

The Nov. 28 event,  titled “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice,” is described by organizers as an examination of “the growing power of antisemitic, racist white nationalists” as well as the “systematic efforts within the American Jewish establishment to silence or defame those who are critical of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights as antisemitic.”

Critics of the event say it is meant to justify anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on the left. Major Jewish groups have criticized Sarsour for her harsh criticism of Israel and Zionism, and Jewish Voice for Peace for its support of the movement to boycott Israel.

Asked by Tablet for a response to Bialkin’s letter, the university’s communication office replied, “Regarding your question about the letter from Mr. Bialkin, we are proud of and grateful for the wide ranging contributions of our supporters but do not comment on specific relationships or interactions with them.”

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