Schumer cites problem at high school in Queens!


Making a world we can live in: In our earlier post, we cited Chuck Schumer's guest essay in today's New York Times.

Early on in his essay, he cited an incident at a high school in Queens. Headline included, this is the passage in question:

Chuck Schumer: What American Jews Fear Most


Today, too many Americans are exploiting arguments against Israel and leaping toward a virulent antisemitism. The normalization and intensifying of this rise in hate is the danger many Jewish people fear most.

Since Oct. 7, Jewish-owned businesses that have nothing to do with Israel have been boycotted and vandalized. Jewish students on college campuses have been harassed and assaulted with alarming frequency. A Jewish high school teacher in Queens told me about being forced to hide in a locked office from student protesters who were demanding that she be fired because she attended a rally supporting Israel.

These are just a few examples, but they point to a troubling trend. Too often in Jewish history, legitimate criticism of Israeli policies or even older disputes over religious, economic and political issues have crossed over into something darker, into attacking Jewish people simply for being Jewish.

What happened last week at the Queens high school is an example of crossing that threshold. Walking out of school to march in support of Palestinians is completely legitimate. But forcing a Jewish teacher to hide because she had attended a rally in support of Israel is antisemitism, pure and simple.

Schumer's essay doesn't link to news reports about the incident in question. For that reason, it isn't entirely clear what incident he's citing.

That said, Tuesday morning's New York Times included a news report about an incident at New York City's Hillcrest High School. 

Is that the incident to which Schumer refers? Here are the key parts of that news report, headline included

After Students Target Pro-Israel Teacher, Officials Try to Quell Outrage

New York City officials are investigating after hundreds of Queens high school students protested against a pro-Israel teacher, who was moved to another part of the building during the demonstration, the schools chancellor said Monday.

The recent episode at Hillcrest High School erupted after the teacher, who is Jewish, had changed a social media profile photo to an image of her holding up an “I Stand With Israel” sign, the chancellor, David C. Banks, said. On Nov. 20, as roughly 400 teenagers roamed the school in between class periods, the teacher was moved to a different floor, Mr. Banks said. 

Mr. Banks said the teacher had been targeted for her backing of Israel and for “expressing her Jewish identity,” adding that it was “completely unacceptable.”


Still, the chancellor also called for a measure of understanding, saying the war was a “very visceral and emotional issue” at Hillcrest, where about 30 percent of students are Muslim. “They feel a kindred spirit with the folks of the Palestinian community,” Mr. Banks said, adding that the “notion that these kids are radicalized” was irresponsible.

Within hours of first reports of the incident last week, Mayor Eric Adams condemned the episode as a “vile show of antisemitism.” Melinda Katz, the borough’s district attorney and a Hillcrest alumna, said it “both angers me and breaks my heart to see young people using violence to try to silence” supporters of Israel. And one Republican city councilwoman called for Hillcrest to “be shut down pending a full and thorough investigation.”

The incident at Hillcrest was a stark example of just how fraught the fallout from the war has been for school communities across the nation.

Schumer's account doesn't perfectly match those facts. Still, we assume that this may be the incident to which his essay refers.

The incident at Hillcrest High got plenty of attention on Fox. We're not saying it shouldn't have. We'd like to see some journalists interview some of those students.

In our view, the incident might raise a point of concern. In part, it may illustrate an important fact—"diversity" can be very challenging, especially within the global context.

Senator Schumer drew a conclusion about what those Hillcrest students did. He assumed that they were exhibiting antisemitism, perhaps even a "virulent" form of same.

We don't know how to evaluate that assumption. It may be true for some of the students, not true for others. Young people often do very dumb things. So do older people. 

Diversity can be hard! That's especially true in the global cultural context, as an earlier incident at MIT might suggest or illustrate. (We hope to get to it later.)

Given the way we humans are wired, diversity can be challenging! We tend to respond poorly to difference. We've been that way for a long time.

That said, and as the iconic song goes—we have to learn how "to make a world we can live in."

We don't have to make a world some particular group can live in. We have to learn to make a world all sorts of groups can live in.

Were those Hillcrest students displaying antisemitism? Was it wise for Schumer to make that assumption, then say it? 

Chuck Schumer is a good, decent person. At this point in human history, we're called to learn how to build a world which all kinds of people can live in.

The standard editing lapse: "Today, too many Americans are...leaping toward a virulent antisemitism?"

Obviously, one such person would be "too many!" It's a standard editing lapse!


  1. Somerby doesn't seem to recognize that the mob of students roaming the halls so that this teacher had to be locked away and hidden from students, is itself a frightening experience and a form of terrorism, threat, based on nothing more than expressing an opinion OUTSIDE of school, she had every right to do. This IS anti-semitism and it definitely needs to be resisted so that students can learn the limits of free speech, both hers and their own. Threatening her job by calling for her dismissal is outrageous behavior by those students. And yes, that too is anti-semitism to the extent that this has not occurred over any other issue, only in the context of a Jewish teacher expressing support for the only Jewish state in the world.

    What kind of world exists where all other people have their own refuge homelands except Jewish people? That opposition to a Jewish homeland is at the heart of anti-semitism. And yes, rights for others living in Israel are guaranteed by law. Jews want a place that specifically includes them, not the right to keep others out. Somerby hinting otherwise by chiding Schumer and this teacher over multi-culturalism, is vile, given the history of Jews being driven from place to place everywhere.

    And yes, a teacher having to be hidden from roaming bands of students IS virulent antisemitism. Somerby has no right to suggest she is overreacting without having experienced a few pogroms himself.

  2. Somerby keeps saying that diversity is challenging or difficult. Is he implying that we should not have diversity? What does he think is the solution? I'm not sure that it is helpful to focus on diversity as a problem, as when he complains about being a multicultural society. People are what they are, with all of their complexities. Some of us find the diversity part of what makes people interesting to be with, a good thing, not a problem to be solved. Making people all the same, even if it could be done, would make this a boring world, in my opinion.

    Beyond that, variability is nature's way of evolving all species of animals and humans. The variability that helps people survive gets preserved in our species while the variability that impedes survival helps eliminate that trait (over time). I don't think we could get rid of diversity without interfering with nature in undesirable ways. So what is Somerby's point with this refrain?

    Sometimes I think he is suggesting that we should overlook, minimize, disguise our differences, pretend we are all alike, so that there would be fewer challenges. That leads to some scifi nightmares, such as societies that are so conformist that people dress alike (recall that Somerby dislikes fashion), are treated identically (except some animals are better than others on Animal Farm), are identified by numbers, have no disturbing opinions, and so on, to keep their world pleasant and calm. Or maybe he is hinting about beliefs that countries should all be the same ethnicity, religion etc., so there are no ripples and dissent, enforced by expelling immigrants and practices like eugenics, a white supremacist heaven on earth. What exactly does Somerby think should be done about this diversity he keeps complaining about?

    1. Yes, diversity is difficult. Everyone should speak American English, and everyone should be a straight white male.

  3. Kevin Drum on subpoena power:

  4. Erecting a Jewish state in Palestine was a mistake.

    1. It was a huge mistake for Arab countries and Palestinians to attack Israel.

  5. Hamas broke the truce by firing a rocket into Israel shortly before its expiration. Because that’s what they do.

  6. The civilized way to protest that teacher would have been to paint her picture on the side of a truck and drive it around the school.