The moves taken by Rutgers University in response to Professor Michael Chikendas' anti-Semitic and homophobic social media posts were "significant and welcome steps," according to Rutgers Hillel.
But, Rutgers Hillel Andrew Getraer cautioned that more needed to be done to stem the tide of anti-Semitism with regards to the university.
"We call upon the entire Rutgers community, administration, faculty, students, parents and alumni, to unite in condemnation of this vile prejudice and to ensure that Rutgers remains one of the premier institutions in the nation for Jewish students — and for everyone," Getraer said in a news release Monday.
On Friday, Rutgers President Robert Barchi and Chancellor Deba Dutta sent a letter to Rutgers University faculty detailing action the university is taking regarding Chikindas, including removing him as head of the Center for Digestive Health at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health department.
A Rutgers University – New Brunswick tenured professor, Chikendas was "found to have posted extensive bigoted, discriminatory, and anti-Semitic material on social media" earlier in the fall.
Getraer said uhe university has taken "serious concrete actions which address many of the concerns of the Jewish community." But, he added, the recent events had placed a "negative spotlight" on the University, to the "deep concern of the greater Rutgers University community as well as the New Jersey, and global, Jewish communities."
"Rutgers Hillel applauds the sensitivity and integrity of the University leadership in the matter of Professor Michael Chickindas," Getraer said. "Prof. Michael Chikindas' social media posts expressed a base racism, homophobia, and misogyny which has no place in our university or our society. From the first revelation of these remarks, Rutgers Hillel has called for the university to hold him accountable."
As part of the university's response, no student is required to take Chickindas' courses and no Rutgers employee will be required to work in an administrative unit that he heads. Further disciplinary action may be taken, according to the Barchi/Dutta letter. Getraer said Rutgers Hillel praises that move in particular.
"We are united in the conviction that Jewish students should not and will not face open anti-Semitism from the faculty of our State University, and look forward to the final resolution of this matter," Getraer said.
Getraer cautions that is is "important to remember that Chickindas' remarks do not take place in a vacuum" as there are other anti-Semitic and problematic issues occurring at the University.
"The revelation of his anti-Semitism occurred in the context of a campus Jewish community reeling from white supremacist flyers, swastikas on buildings, and the announcement that another Rutgers professor, Jasbir Puar, has published a book falsely accusing the world's only Jewish state of what amounts to a modern blood libel," he said. "In addition, it has since been revealed that the Political Science Department has employed Mazen Adi, former spokesperson for the genocidal Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad to teach, of all things, international human rights law. Prof. Adi has also voiced support for the blood libel spread by Professor Puar that Israel harvests Palestinian children's organs for some nefarious cause. These events are a source of continuing pain to the Rutgers Jewish community, and have become a national embarrassment to the University."
Citing demonstrations of thousands explicitly calling for violence against Jews and violent attacks in cities around the world including New York this past weekend, Getraer said that we — society — are at "a dangerous moment in time."
"In a world such as this, it is imperative that University leadership exert whatever moral authority is has and condemns anti-Semitism in its midst, including the anti-Semitism voiced by Professors Puar and Adi," he said. "Even if the University lacks the will or ability to take action against these professors, it has a moral responsibility to reject the messages of hate for which they stand."
Despite these serious and disturbing matters, Getraer said that Rutgers Hillel reaffirms its confidence that "Rutgers Is A Great Place To Be Jewish." Home to 6,400 Jewish undergraduates as well as the "newest, largest, and most beautiful" Jewish campus facility in the country — the Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House on the Wilf Family Campus, Rutgers also has one of the "finest Jewish Studies Departments in the country."
"Four hundred students come together at Hillel each week to celebrate and enjoy a free Shabbat dinner," he said. "Hundreds of Rutgers students will be traveling to Israel with Hillel this winter. Our student leaders are nationally recognized. Rutgers students can walk down College Avenue with pride, free to express their Jewishness in any way they see fit."