June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Fordham Skips Encampment Drama; Pro-Palestinians Introduce Anti-Israel Legislation

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a 1981 Fordham graduate, talks about her collaborative experience at the Jesuit school.
(Credit: Marc Gronich)

With several colleges and universities having their campuses taken over by student protesters, how is it that many campuses did not have that same ruckus just prior to finals week last month?

There are nine members of the New York State legislature who are Fordham graduates. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Greenwich Village, Manhattan), a Jewish lawmaker and a 1981 graduate of Fordham, had some thoughts on this when speaking at the Fordham University alumni legislative reception recently.

“When people that you built bonds with and time become not just classmates but colleagues and friends, that is really important,” Glick said. “Fordham works a little extra hard at trying to make sure that happens and reaches out to students at every level to try to bring them into the Fordham family. It’s a tribute to the values and the ethos that Fordham represents. Fordham has taken a leap of faith and has been reflective of the change in society.”

Established as St. John’s College on June 24, 1841, the university, based in the Bronx, was renamed Fordham University on March 7, 1907. The president of the university gave additional details when she spoke to the state lawmakers in attendance.

“We were founded in exclusion when those Catholic students weren’t particularly welcome at the elite institutions elsewhere, and we became the place of welcome for Jewish students and increasingly opening our doors wider and wider, living up to our values,” said Tania Tetlow, president of the university since 2022.

“We, now at Fordham, look to a world full of turmoil and to a generation really desperate to matter. A generation that feels a whole lot of despair and cynicism about what is to come and about what the world has in store for them. What they want is a university that matters to the world, that cares and has credibility in that.”

Tania Tetlow, the first woman and first layperson to hold the position of president at Fordham. (Credit: Marc Gronich)

Tetlow alluded to how the student body avoided falling into the trap of campus protests that afflicted so many other nearby campuses.

“At this moment the world our students have grown up in, with social media where they learned how to swipe a screen before they could walk, is a world full of vitriol and turmoil and toxic rhetoric and anonymous bullying. In that world that is modeled all around them we have to make our campus be the opposite of that. We are taking moments of great pressure ever more seriously.

“How do we teach, not just mere civility, not just the free speech right to yell at each other, but how do we teach grace, how do we fundamentally teach the superpower of discernment, which to some is the opposite of social-media land? It’s about being patient. It’s about assuming good intentions. It’s about listening hard to people with whom you disagree. It’s about trying to persuade them, not by calling them a fascist, but by really trying to profoundly persuade and be willing to constantly be humble enough to be wrong.

“We know how much power our alumni exercise while they go out into the world. You demonstrate that every day, all of you. We know that when we can make you into the kind of person that’s not just a brilliant graduate full of knowledge but a good citizen and most of all, a good human being,” Tetlow concluded.

Meanwhile, a group of five pro-Palestinian lawmakers rallied on the Million Dollar Staircase at the State Capitol for a bill called the ‘Not on our dime’ act. The sponsors of the measure are all aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America, including Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani (D-Astoria, Queens), 32, a Muslim who hails from Kampala, Uganda; and Senator Jabari Brisport, 38, (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn), a Caribbean-American. Others supporting the measure who attended the rally include three female members of the Assembly: Sarahana Shrestha, 43, (D-Esopus, Ulster County), a native of Kathmandu, Nepal; Emily Gallagher, 40, (D-Williamsburg, Brooklyn); and Marcela Mitaynes, 50, (D-Sunset Park, Brooklyn), a native of Peru. Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest (D-Crown Heights, Brooklyn), 35, the daughter of Haitian immigrants; and Senator Kristen Gonzalez (D-Astoria, Queens), 28, a Democratic Socialist Latina did not attend the rally.

Mamdani played emcee for the rally, opening up by stating: “In this moment New York State law allows for New Yorkers to get a tax deduction if they donate to the very kind of Israeli military unit that dropped bombs on innocent Palestinians. We gather here to demand the bare minimum, which is to end tax breaks for genocide.”

Brisport began his remarks with a chant to rile up the crowd: “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, we will never let you die. Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, we will never let you die.

“Military aid to Israel has been funded at the state level through state policy that gives tax-exempt status to these fake charities that take money for the needy and use it to fund drones, military equipment and the violent displacement of the Palestinian people from their homes,” Brisport said.

Shrestha made a point of continuing to chastise the state government. “American taxpayers are subsidizing Israeli settler violence through New York State registered charities. … Whether it is affordable housing, whether it’s universal health care, whether it’s immigrant rights, not on our dime belongs in the state legislature just like any other bill that seeks to make good change in our state.”

Gallaher, whose district includes the religious Jewish enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn said: “Endless military occupation is a crime. So is the theft of land and the collective punishment of a civilian population. Yet, here in New York state organizations have raised money to perpetrate these violations of international law and human rights violations, enjoy tax-exempt status as nonprofit charities. That must end. There are so many incredible, fantastic, wonderful charities in my district that are run by incredible Jewish organizations and they do not deserve to be paired up with these criminals.”

Mitaynes said: “It is shameful that our state helps people fund illegal settlements in a war that targets civilian populations. Not on our dime makes sure that New York does not support war crimes. This legislation does the bare minimum that the state can’t classify financial support for war as a charitable giving. … I will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Palestinian brothers and sisters as we march and fight for justice.”

There were organizations speaking at the rally in support of the measure.

“Our governments hide their complicity. They hide their own financial and imperial interests behind the justification that we do it for Jewish safety. Don’t you dare use our families as a justification for endorsing Israel’s horror show against the Palestinian people,” said Elena Stein, director of Organizing Strategy for Jewish Voices for Peace. “Don’t you dare call this bill and its supporters antisemitic for asking for the bare minimum to end tax breaks for Israel’s war crimes.”

“We are standing here in support of Palestinian people. What we are saying is that they deserve that which every other person deserves: freedom, safety and liberty,” Mamdani told The Jewish Link. “This is a coalition and a commitment that is built until we pass this bill. Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

The measure does not have enough support to be voted on this year.

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