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Office of Civil Rights Looking into Anti-Semitism at Brooklyn College

Whoopi Goldberg made recent headlines over a discussion televised on “The View.” In that discussion, Goldberg asserts the Nazi’s treatment of Jewish individuals during the Holocaust was not about race. Similarly, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) received and is investigating a complaint by two Jewish students at Brooklyn College. Their complaint contests the definition of “whiteness” and how the ethnicity of Jewish individuals may be defined.

Two Jewish students in Brooklyn College’s graduate mental health counseling program allege that their professors “maligned Jews based on race and ethnic identity by advancing the narrative that all Jews are white and privileged and therefore contribute to the systemic oppression of people of color.” The students claim that their peers picked up on this narrative, using these ethnic stereotypes and anti-Semitic tropes in class discussions and on social media. They claim other students told them to “get their whiteness in check.” One of the students said the instructor asked them to rank their “identities,” but they were told their “whiteness” should rank higher than their Jewish identity. The OCR’s complaint does not identify the complaining students by name due to fears of harassment. One individual claims a professor said to their class, “In sum and substance, that Ashkenazi Jews [of Eastern European descent] who immigrated to America have become part of the oppressors in this country.” 

Brooklyn College issued a written statement that it “unequivocally denounces anti-Semitism in any form and does not tolerate It on its campus.” The university has been recognized for having one of the most diverse student bodies in the country. The Anti-Defamation League recorded an increase of anti-Semitic incidents over the last year, reaching the highest level since the organization began tracking in 1979. In October 2021, the American Jewish Congress published a report showing that a quarter of all Jewish Americans have been subjected to some sort of anti-Semitism over the last year. On February 10, 2022, 39 members of Congress requested that the Department of Education do more to prevent anti-Semitism on college campuses.