Initially I was aghast, despite the great rise of antisemitism, the English department would be insensitive to the feelings of Jews at Princeton and choose Mohammed El-Kurd to be the Said lecturer (President’s Page, April issue). El-Kurd repeated Medieval lies about Jews and expressed his desire to dispose of all Israelis. President Eisgruber ’83 never denounced the choice but merely praised the genteel response of the audience.
Then I realized that I have been subjected to antisemitic behavior at Princeton. My planned Gilded Age American Jewish Art Exhibit was cancelled by the librarian Anne Jarvis and President Eisgruber because two of the distinguished artists had been Confederates [see editor’s note]. One did a bust of Lincoln and Franz Liszt. Recently, Firestone Library and previously the University Art Museum feted a self-acclaimed antisemitic poet Amiri Baraka, who wrote, “I got the extermination blues Jew boys” and claimed Israel was responsible for 9/11.
In 2017, I donated a Professorship of American Jewish Studies. The gift agreement says that the professor “shall be a tenured member of the faculty whose research and teaching focus is American Jewish Studies.” To my knowledge, the holder of that chair has not taught courses on American Jewish studies. Would this have happened if the chair had been in Italian or Greek studies?
A symposium to celebrate my 15th publication about Gilded Age Jewry, which the University Press asked to distribute, was shown at the American Jewish Historical Society because Eisgruber declined my offer to hold it at Princeton.
Ironically, I have made some 13,000 gifts and held nine exhibits at Princeton.
Editor’s note: Eisgruber disputed this point in an April 2022 interview with PAW, saying that the issue was not whether Princeton would display controversial art but rather “how that art gets displayed and who has the editorial control.” Read more in a story from the May 2022 issue.