Ramapo takes stand against anti-Semitism

Ramapo takes stand against anti-Semitism

As Ramapo College prepared for this week’s lecture by Jan Gross, an expert on Polish anti-Semitism, a Jewish adjunct professor entered her campus classroom Nov. ‘9 to discover the words "Die Jew Bitch" scrawled in red permanent marker on the whiteboard, sparking a series of condemnations from the administration and the attention of the Anti-Defamation League.

Swastikas on the outside panels of the three-panel whiteboard surrounded the message.

A professor discovered anti-Semitic messages written on the whiteboard in her classroom last week at Ramapo College. The grafitti drew sharp condemnation from Ramapo’s administration and the Anti-Defamation League.

The university and Mahwah police are investigating the incident, which the ADL’s New Jersey office has labeled a hate crime. There were no surveillance cameras in that classroom, said Bonnie Franklin, Ramapo’s vice president for communications and public affairs. The professor, who asked not to be named and declined to comment, was coming in to teach a social issues course, she said, and it is not yet known whether the professor was the intended target of the graffiti or why that classroom had been targeted.

"We are working under the assumption that the professor was indeed the target," said Etzion Neuer, director of the New Jersey office. "That’s how the police are looking at it. She was the first person to see it."

On Nov. 30, Ramapo’s president, Peter Mercer, sent an e-mail to the student body addressing the latest hate crime on campus.

"It pains me to have to write again about such despicable behavior but let me repeat that nobody should be under any illusions that it will be tolerated. On the contrary, once apprehended the perpetrators will be banished from the campus and subject to all penalties prescribed by law," he wrote.

Mercer’s swift condemnation drew strong approval from Neuer.

"He and his administration are fully committed to addressing this situation head on," Neuer said of Mercer. "The school has to send a message that acts like this are not tolerated on campus. When a president at the highest level of the administration makes this type of bold pronouncement it forces this type of activity to the fringes."

Detectives from the Mahwah police department are in the midst of an "ongoing investigation," said a spokesman for the detectives bureau who declined further comment.

Rabbi Ely Allen, director of Hillel in area colleges, said the Ramapo student group met on Monday with the ADL to discuss the next step to take. Hillel will rely on the expertise of the ADL to guide its response, Allen said.

This is the third hate crime reported at Ramapo College this semester. On Oct. ‘7, "I hate Jews" had been scrawled on a car window on Ramapo’s campus. Two days later, "I am gay" messages were written on the message boards of three dorm rooms. In response, the student body organized an anti-hate rally, which almost 100 students, out of a student body of more than 5,000, attended.

This latest incident is not indicative of a growing problem on campus though, Neuer said. The rally a few weeks ago was an example of the college community’s opposition to the messages.

"I don’t think Ramapo is rife with anti-Semitism," he said. "One can have all the problems in place, a great administration, and that may still never prevent this type of incident from occurring. Everything I know about Ramapo indicates [that the anti-Semitic graffiti are] not an accurate reflection of Ramapo students. It seems to be the work of one sick person."

The police ask that anyone who has information about the incident should call them at (’01) 5’9-1000, ext. ’18. A message can also be posted anonymously through Ramapo’s Silent Witness Web site, www.ramapo.edu/studentlife/security/silentWitness.html.

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