Elite $53,000-a-year New York private school faces anti-Semitism claims

An elite New York private school is facing anti-Semitism claims after Jewish students accused staff of failing to call out anti-Jewish hatred.  

Jewish students at the $53,000-a-year Fieldston School in the Bronx, whose alumni include Sofia Coppola, Barbara Walters and Jeffrey Katzenberg, say they are treated as ‘white and privileged’ by some of their fellow classmates and believe that discrimination against them is not taken seriously.  

The school has also been accused of a lackluster response after swastikas started appearing around the building and a visiting speaker suggested that Holocaust survivors had turned into oppressors. 

According to a detailed report by Tablet magazine, some parents have accused the school of having a ‘problem calling out hate against this community’. 

Jewish students at the $53,000-a-year Fieldston School (pictured) in the Bronx say they are treated as ‘white and privileged’ by some of their fellow classmates

Matters reportedly came to a head last month after an invited speaker, Kayum Ahmed of Columbia University Law School, made provocative comments about the Holocaust and Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Ahmed apparently suggested that Holocaust survivors had turned into oppressors in a cycle of ‘victims becoming perpetrators’ at a lecture on November 21.  

‘Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and established the State of Israel today – they perpetuate violence against Palestinians that [is] unthinkable,’ he said.  

Furious Jewish students said that no-one had called out the remark and that the school’s response had been insufficient. 

One parent told the magazine: ‘If someone was coming to Fieldston to talk about apartheid and went off on a rant about the pea-sized brains of women who belong in a kitchen, or repeated racist tropes, or ranted about any form of homophobia or racism or sexism, immediately teachers would have stood up and said that’s not how we feel, that’s not an idea we share.’ 

Instead, parents said they had received a vaguely-worded letter which said ‘we will not accept anti-Semitism’ while also listing a series of other prejudices. 

The school’s apparent refusal to single out anti-Semitism caused further fury and one father felt that the letter was ‘worse than doing nothing’.  

‘It’s part of the assumption at Fieldston that Jewish students are rich and white and thus privileged, so it doesn’t matter,’ one parent said. 

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Sofia Coppola

The school’s alumni include former Walt Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg (left) and actress Sofia Coppola (right) 

The comments also earned a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organisation. 

On another occasion, Fieldston students found swastikas appearing in halls and classrooms. 

The school responded with a presentation highlighting the symbol’s pre-Nazi history, it is claimed.  

Only after an outcry did the school send out a second message which specifically described the swastika as a ‘hateful symbol of the Nazi genocide’ and the ‘destruction of European Jewry’.   

In a further cause of anger, the school created ‘affinity groups’ to help students from different backgrounds discuss their identities, but blocked the creation of a Jewish group, it is claimed.  

The school declined to provide any statement or clarification to the magazine. DailyMail.com has also reached out for comment. 

Fieldston alumni include actress Sofia Coppola, composer Stephen Sondheim and journalist Barbara Walters. 

Others include former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, ex-New York Times editor Jill Abramson and ‘father of the atomic bomb’ J. Robert Oppenheimer.  

The school was originally founded by New York Jews in the late 19th century.  

The Anti-Defamation League reported earlier this year that violent anti-Semitic episodes in the United States doubled in 2018. 

Jewish leaders have warned that the receding memory of the Holocaust and rising far-right sentiment are fuelling a growing anti-Semitic climate. 

Last month a Jewish professor at Syracuse University revealed an anonymous anti-Semitic email which told her to ‘get in the oven where you belong’. 

The message sent to Genevieve Garcia de Müeller had the subject line ‘JEW’ and included a racist term for Jewish people.    

Boycotts of Israeli products have also caused tensions, although supporters of the campaign say they are critical of the Israeli government, not Jewish people in general. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk