LTE: Jewish students, faculty, and alumni respond to Morton Schapiro

Guest Column/LTE

For the past week, Northwestern students have been marching daily to demand that the University abolish the Northwestern police force, which cited nonviolent student protestors for demonstrating outside of the Jeff Sessions talk in 2019, and to cut ties with Evanston police, who violently arrested a Black NU Ph.D. student in 2015 for driving his own car. Petition signatures, social media call-outs, and fruitless meetings between Black student leaders and administration have done little to move the NU leadership towards meaningful action. Instead, after months of promising to release NUPD’s budget, the University has refused transparency and demonized student protestors.

President Morty Schapiro’s Oct. 19 community email begins with a vague commitment to “peaceful protests” but quickly decries recent actions as “expressions that have been anything but peaceful or productive.” Instead of engaging with students’ demands, President Schapiro condemned organizers for defacing property, alleged several falsehoods about NU Community Not Cops, and flung a baseless and damaging accusation of antisemitism against student activists.

As Jewish students, graduate workers, faculty and alumni, we are particularly disturbed by Schapiro’s false accusation of antisemitism, which he makes to personally condemn student activists’ slogans and chants. He claimed that students’ use of, among other epithets, “piggy Morty” was “dangerously close to a longstanding trope against observant Jews like myself. Whether it was done out of ignorance or out of anti-Semitism, it is completely unacceptable.” We are outraged at this mischaracterization. The Black Panthers and other Black-led groups popularized the use of “pig” to refer to police and police sympathizers in the mid 1960s; in this context, the term has never singled out Jews. As such, it is both confusing and troubling to read Schapiro’s focus on antisemitism at the end of a community-wide email about demands to abolish a racist police force.

There is a long, sordid history of White Jewish leaders using antisemitism as a cudgel to denigrate Black radical protest and sow divisions among communities otherwise allied in the fight against White supremacy. Schapiro’s weaponization of his Jewish identity is no different, and is meant to distract us from the cries for justice currently being led by Black abolitionists at Northwestern and to legitimize anti-Black sanctions against them. A world free of police and incarceration is a world that keeps us as Jews safer from the forces of antisemitism. We know that the very White nationalists who have infiltrated police departments across the country despise all Jews, just as they disproportionately target Black and brown communities, harming Jews of color and non-Jewish people of color alike. We will not allow spurious, willfully ignorant accusations of antisemitism to divide us from the ultimate goals of abolishing a police force rooted in racism and White supremacy.

Antisemitism has no place in our movements for liberation. And while White Jews are certainly targets of antisemitism, violently and troublingly observed in the uptick in antisemitic and far-right violence emboldened by the Trump administration, White Jews also benefit from White supremacy. This is an inseparable part of understanding the reality of antisemitism in the 21st century –– that despite rising antisemitism under Trump, those of us who identify as White Jews are largely still protected by our Whiteness. Schapiro, as a White Jew, does not face the kind of systemic brutality at the hands of police that Black and brown NU students and Evanston residents do. Alleging antisemitism in order to discredit a movement to abolish a racist police force also erases and delegitimizes Black Jews, for whom fighting antisemitism and anti-Blackness are inseparable pursuits.

Finally, we refuse to let debates over Israel-Palestine derail the necessary work of student organizers demanding the abolition of NUPD. International solidarity between Black activists and Palestinians has ample precedent, and while our Jewish community may hold a variety of opinions on the nature and future of Zionism, we reiterate that criticism of Israel, condemnation of the brutal Israeli occupation, as well as rejection of Zionism (which also has ample historical precedent among anti-Zionist Jews) are not antisemitic.

As the undersigned 90+ Jewish members of the Northwestern community, we unequivocally reject President Schapiro’s accusations of antisemitism and stand in solidarity with the abolitionists leading NU Community Not Cops. We lift up the Jewish principle of pikuach nefesh, which states that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any law, and even demands violation of law when life is at stake. We see through President Schapiro’s attempts to distract from the work of abolition and ask that our Jewish community and allies continue to show up for daily actions until Northwestern abolishes its police.

Signed,

Allyson Bondy 2020
Sarah Kollender 2021
Marissa Page 2018
Madison Fiedler 2019
Emma Gordon 2017
Merens 2020
Jess Schwalb 2019
Sam Kahn 2017
Hannah Givertz 2018
Katherine Berman 2021
Ben Zucker 2022 Bienen
Charlotte Rosen 2022
Suna Zekioglu 2024
Kaitlin Huennekens 2021
Emma Davis 2025
Wynn Jacobson-Galan 2024
Arielle Tolman 2021
Alexis Prybutok 2022
Melissa Cagan 2018
Zach Watson 2022
Emily Handsman 2021
Cory Borgman 2017
Eli Lichtenstein 2022
Emma Blau 2020
Anna Rosenthal 2024
Dani Kosover-Ayala 2021
Alexandra Isaia 2021
Nathan Cohen 2020
Isaac Ginsberg Miller 2022
Daniel Weinberg 2016
Julia Clark-Riddell 2017
Maggie Davidson 2024
Amanda Gordon 2020
Emma Gordon 2017
Sophie Boorstein 2021
Erica Littman 2020
Laila Francis 2019
Lauren Miller 2021
Kayli Fradin 2022
Anna Dumont 2022
Anna Dumont 2022
Eric Wagner 2023
Ben Ratskoff 2013
Carter Liebman 2021
Sally Kim 2024
Andrea Tipton 2024
Michael Abber 2020
Jamie Lipman 2020
Emma Kupor 2018
Sam Bernitz 2020
Maggie Davidson 2024
Jess Zeidman 2018
Jake Rosner 2012
Rachel Hoffman 2012
Aliana Ruxin 2019
Ariel Weiner 2022
Jonah Michel 2024
Michael Aronson 2017
Nadav Avruch 2020
Adam Fogelman Chanes 2019
Anna Rosenthal 2024
Archie 2022
Anna Cork 2022
Eden Berke 2021
Isabel Sturla 2017
Isn’t Hirschtritt Licht 2015
Yadid Hirschtritt Licht 2018
Becca Greenstein 2020
Maya Davis 2021
Sophia Levin 2022
Elena Sucharetza 2000
Eliana Liebman 2022
Macey Goldstein 2022
Alexander Muller 2019
Sarah Libfraind 2022
Will Bloom 2013
Sophie Mann 2018
Rose Taylor 2022
Alex Rubin 2017
Talia Waxman 2019
Maya Davis 2021
Ariel Sheffey 2020
Hayley Krolik 2020
Talia Meidan 2020
Carol Muskin 1995
Carly Rubin 2021
Jessica Lewis 2017
Kate Hader 2022
Aviva Kaplan 2024
Marissa Levy 2022
Dana Westmoreland 2020
Rachel Wallack 2019
Caren Levy-Van Slyke 1971
Dawn Rafal 2019

If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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