The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story

The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story

Postby admin » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:51 pm

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The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story

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THE BETRAYAL OF SARAH: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE SARAH GRUNFELD STORY

YORK UNIVERSITY -- SEPTEMBER 2011

SARAH GRUNFELD EXPOSED PROF. CAMERON JOHNSTON FOR USING A REPREHENSIBLE ANTI-SEMITIC STATEMENT DURING HIS CLASS

SARAH WAS SUBSEQUENTLY ATTACKED AND MALIGNED BY THE MEDIA, AND THE STORY WENT VIRAL


[Sarah Grunfeld] I was ridiculed, demonized and vilified in the most outrageous way possible: in media, online, everywhere.

Emma Teitel, Maclean's wrote:http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/26/so-much-for-the-people-of-einstein-myth/

MACLEANS.CA: So much for the 'People of Einstein' myth

by Emma Teitel
Monday, September 26, 2011

Emma Teitel on how a York University student makes Jews look bad -- and why that's a good thing

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E=MC2

There’s an inside Yiddish expression used by Jews to describe other Jews behaving badly in the public sphere: “shanda for the goyim” — shanda meaning “shame” and goyim denoting “gentiles” (non-Jews). The phrase is most commonly employed by Semitic seniors, when the modern media informs them that Jews can in fact be lechers (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), alcoholics (Amy Winehouse); unsuspecting nudes (Scarlett Johansson); and now, thanks to one 22-year-old Toronto Jewish girl, dangerously obtuse.

The woman in question—with whom I share at least one mutual Facebook friend (I am also a 22-year-old Jewish girl and it’s very possible we crossed paths, maybe at B’nai Brith summer camp, or perhaps in the annual United Synagogue Youth Limousine Sukka Hop)—is a York University senior named Sarah Grunfeld, who last week made shanda-esque headlines when she put her social science professor’s career in jeopardy over an anti-Semitic remark that turned out to be—well—not. The statement “All Jews should be sterilized,” Professor Cameron Johnston explained in the introductory lecture to his class, was an example of an invalid and dangerous opinion; his point was that in academia especially, opinions must be reasonably qualified. Grunfeld failed to catch that qualifier, though, perhaps because before the prof had a chance to offer it, she had stormed out of class and enlisted the on-campus Israel-advocacy group, Hasbara (Hebrew for “Explanation”), to call for his immediate resignation.

Word of Johnston’s so-called racism exploded virally online by way of what National Post columnist Jonathan Kay has dubbed the “Bubbie-net” (Jewish grandparents frantically emailing their kin with fresh findings of alleged anti-Semitism); at the same time widely-respected Canadian Jewish civil rights association, B’nai Brith (Children of the Covenant), leaped in with equal gusto to champion Grunfeld’s claim. Then came the big reveal: Ms. Grunfeld had made a mistake. Not only was professor Johnston not an anti-Semite, he was a Jew. To borrow a more accessible Yiddish phrase, political correctness at York University had effectively schtupped itself. Not to mention Sarah Grunfeld.

The maligned university student has since “qualified” her accusations against Johnston with claims twice as ludicrous as the original. “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’,” she told the Toronto Star recently, “still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

A lot of Canadian Jews are embarrassed and ashamed by this kind of doublespeak, and so was I, until I re-examined the root of my disquiet. There’s a reason why this particular shanda—and not, let’s say, Woody Allen’s marriage to his adopted daughter, or Garth Drabinsky’s defrauding of his shareholders, or The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart’s changing his name from John Stewart Liebowitz—ignites such fierce indignation in the Jewish community: Because Grunfeld doesn’t simply make us look bad (like the guys above); she makes us look stupid, and in doing so debunks the cultural stereotypes of intellectual superiority that we sometimes not-so-secretly enjoy.

Jewish American author Michael Chabon explored the seductiveness of this stereotype to Jews themselves in the New York Times last year in considering the calibre of the discussion following Israel’s botched raid of the Gaza bound Turkish flotilla, Mavi Marmara, in which nine activists died at the hands of Jewish soldiers (a debacle Diaspora Jews had trouble reconciling with our supposed “cultural” cleverness):

“I would look around the Passover table, say, at the members of my family, and remark on the presence of a number of highly intelligent, quick-witted, shrewd, well-educated people filled to bursting with information, explanations and opinions on a diverse range of topics. In my tractable and vainglorious eagerness to confirm the People of Einstein theory, my gaze would skip right over—God love them—any counterexamples present at that year’s Seder.”

Sarah Grunfeld—God love her—is one such counterexample. But we’d be wrong to let our gaze skip right over her, because there’s another, more disturbing lesson to be drawn from the Grunfeld affair and it’s this: as Jews, we hold the moral high ground to call out anti-Semitism. That’s why, in part, Grunfeld’s accusation had the legs it did, and why, perhaps, it got the backing from the Jewish infrastructure organizations such as B’nai Brith, which still hasn’t distanced itself from Grunfeld or denounced her fallacious claim, but has instead published her unapologetic letter blasting Professor Johnston for a sin he didn’t commit, with a logic even more addled than before.

B'nai Brith Canada wrote:“Sarah Grunfeld, fourth year York University student has made the following statement relating to the recent incident in Professor Cameron Johnston’s class at York University, and has asked B’nai Brith Canada to circulate it to interested parties on her behalf. This statement of her position is only to be used in its entirety:

“I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

“I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply ‘misheard’ or ‘half heard’ what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his ‘miscommunication’.

“This is in spite of the fact that in a meeting with Martin Singer, Dean, (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York) and Rhonda Lenton (Vice Provost Academic), I was assured that they believed Professor Johnston was ‘terribly regretful’, and that they expected and would encourage him to issue an unambiguous in-class apology. I have not heard even minimal expressions of regret by Professor Johnston, and a York university representative in subsequent communications with the media, has since contradicted the assurances I was given to that effect.

“It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.”


And there lies the biggest shanda of all: Grunfeld’s false allegations and the group’s uninformed decision to support her are bad mistakes, but both parties’ inability to own up to those mistakes renders them inexcusable. Because when we cry wolf —especially on one of our own—serious apologies are in order.

But it’s doubtful that apologies of any kind will be made, and B’nai Brith will continue sniffing out anti-Semitism where there may not be any, all the while undermining cases where there is. If anything good does come from this debacle, however, it’s that our enemies and unsolicited friends (Glenn Beck comes to mind) may think twice before attributing all things grave and glorious to the “People of Einstein.” Because if public representatives of the Jewish faith continue to make exceedingly stupid mistakes, then the various calumnies the conspiracy theorists like to heap on all of us—the blood libel, the plague, AIDS, the Iraq War, and our obvious plans to take over everything from Saturday night TV to the World Bank—start to ring kind of hollow. After all, with Sarah Grunfeld leading the way, for what exactly can they blame us?


[Sarah Grunfeld] I was called a moron, a dimwit, stupid.

Kai Ma, newsfeed.time.com wrote:http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/09/15/confused-student-claims-her-jewish-professor-is-anti-semitic/

TIME NewsFeed

Confused Student Claims Her Jewish Professor Is Anti-Semitic

By Kai Ma

Sept. 15, 20110

A student at York University in Toronto accused her professor of making an anti-Semitic statement during class. Pretty commendable to stand up against that, right? Except that the professor wasn’t being anti-Semitic.

During a Monday lecture in his “Social Sciences 1140: Self, Culture and Society” course, Professor Cameron Johnston, who has taught at the university for more than 30 years, was providing examples of unacceptable and dangerous opinions, citing “All Jews should be sterilized” as a belief that is deplorable.

One of his students, 22-year-old Sarah Grunfeld, thought Johnston was stating this as his personal opinion. Instead of raising her hand to ask for clarification, she abruptly stormed out of class and informed an Israel advocacy group that her professor was an anti-Semite. Press releases were churned out and sent to Jewish groups and the media, calling for Johnston’s firing. The campaign instantly went viral.

Johnston, who also happens to be Jewish, is “terribly upset,” he told the Toronto Star on Tuesday. “I’m very proud of the fact that in the history of my teaching career I’ve stood for the best values of what constitutes a meaningful human community.”

In his response to the allegations, he did note one silver lining in the strange ordeal: “It’s a very good thing that people are sensitive to this kind of remark, and I think it’s a very good thing that someone would respond immediately and deal with it if they thought that they heard an anti-Semitic comment,” said Johnston, who teaches social sciences and humanities.

“But in this case,” he added, “it’s a misreading.”

Several media reports are siding with the Toronto professor, and believe Grunfeld grossly misunderstood her teacher because she wasn’t listening or paying attention.

So did Grunfeld eventually apologize for the embarrassing blunder? Not at all.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious,” Grunfeld said. She also has doubts that her professor is even Jewish.

“Whether he is or is not, no one will know,” she concluded. “Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews.”

After the story spread to several news outlets, Grunfeld issued a statement (via Gawker):

Sarah Grunfeld wrote:I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply “misheard” or “half heard” what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his “miscommunication”.

This is in spite of the fact that in a meeting with Martin Singer, Dean, (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York) and Rhonda Lenton (Vice Provost Academic), I was assured that they believed Professor Johnston was ‘terribly regretful’, and that they expected and would encourage him to issue an unambiguous in-class apology. I have not heard even minimal expressions of regret by Professor Johnston, and a York university representative in subsequent communications with the media, has since contradicted the assurances I was given to that effect.

It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.

Kai Ma is a TIME contributor. Find her on Twitter at @Kai_Ma or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.


[Sarah Grunfeld] I was said to be lacking cognitive skills, half-listening, not listening, texting, tweeting, Facebook-messaging, and simply not paying attention. I am not stupid. I am a 4th year honor student. I was not texting, nor Facebook-messaging. I was paying full attention! I was sitting in the front row, right in front of Professor Johnston. Yes, it was a lecture hall of 450 students, but I was in the front row. I know exactly what I heard. And none of the lies or fabrications that were made up about me, or what the Professor claims he said, is going to change the truth. It was in the first five minutes of class that Professor Johnston made his comment during his talk about how opinions can be dangerous. He said, "I happen to hold an opinion, and this is going to offend some of you: 'All Jews should be sterilized.' It's a dangerous opinion, but it's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it." I waited to hear if the Professor would provide some sort of explanation or follow-up to the unbelievable thing he had just uttered, but he didn't. He just went on to another topic. And that's when I left the lecture hall in disgust. Several other students were equally disturbed by Cameron Johnston's reprehensible comment, and met with me the next day to discuss it, but they were too afraid to come forward publicly.

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RHONDA LENTON, VICE PROVOST
MARTIN SINGER, DEAN, LIBERAL ARTS
YORK UNIVERSITY


[Sarah Grunfeld] When university officials met with me and my mom, what they said in that office was in shocking contrast to what was put out to the media. They said they met with the professor that morning, and that he was extremely apologetic and regretful. They said the professor intended to use the statement as an example of an unacceptable opinion, but that he blew the presentation, and that they were sure he will rethink how he frames his comments in the future. They said the professor even told them, had he been the student, he would have perceived his remarks the exact same way I did. They told me they would encourage the professor to issue a public apology within 24 hours. It turned out that instead of an apology, York University chose to launch a personal campaign against me through the media. In a Toronto Star article, the reporter branded me as a half-listening student among other things. He fabricated content and deliberately mis-quoted me, saying, "I misunderstood the context of the professor's comment," which I had never said, and distorted whatever I said to fit what seemed to be his own agenda.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/09/15/student_who_mistakenly_
accused_prof_of_antisemitism_unapologetic.html

thestar.com

Student who mistakenly accused Prof of anti-Semitism unapologetic

Published on Thurs, Sept 15, 2011

The 22-year-old York University student who mistakenly accused her professor of making anti-Semitic remarks issued an unapologetic response to the ridicule that has been widely levelled against her.

“I understand that there may have been a miscommunication,” Sarah Grunfeld writes in the statement distributed Wednesday evening by B’nai Brith Canada. “But any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me.”

Since the story was first published Wednesday in the Toronto Star it has rapidly spread on social networking sites, where readers have been unabashedly and openly scornful of Grunfeld.

The incident has also been discussed in local newspaper comment pages and was picked up by U.S. gossip website Gawker.

Grunfeld accused social sciences professor Cameron Johnston of telling a class on Monday afternoon that “All Jews should be sterilized.”

In fact, Johnston — who is Jewish — was explaining to the students that not all opinions are valid or acceptable, using the example of Jewish sterilization as a reprehensible opinion, with historical precedent.

Here is Grunfeld’s statement in full, including a preface from B’nai Brith:

“Sarah Grunfeld, fourth year York University student has made the following statement relating to the recent incident in Professor Cameron Johnston’s class at York University, and has asked B’nai Brith Canada to circulate it to interested parties on her behalf. This statement of her position is only to be used in its entirety:

“I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

“I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply ‘misheard’ or ‘half heard’ what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his ‘miscommunication’.

“This is in spite of the fact that in a meeting with Martin Singer, Dean, (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York) and Rhonda Lenton (Vice Provost Academic), I was assured that they believed Professor Johnston was ‘terribly regretful’, and that they expected and would encourage him to issue an unambiguous in-class apology. I have not heard even minimal expressions of regret by Professor Johnston, and a York university representative in subsequent communications with the media, has since contradicted the assurances I was given to that effect.

“It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.”


[Sarah Grunfeld] Most disturbing of all, a spinned and cleaned-up version of the professor's statement appeared as fact in the article.

ORIGINAL STATEMENT: "ALL JEWS SHOULD BE STERILIZED. IT'S A DANGEROUS OPINION, BUT IT'S MY OPINION, AND I'M ENTITLED TO IT."

TORONTO STAR STATEMENT: "ALL JEWS SHOULD BE STERILIZED WOULD BE AN EXAMPLE OF AN UNACCEPTABLE AND DANGEROUS OPINION."


[Sarah Grunfeld] Suddenly, the abhorrent words and question were quoted with the missing qualifiers that the professor had excluded when making the statement in class.

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[Sarah Grunfeld] This is the version the whole world knows, or thinks they know thanks to every subsequent article and blog that was based on this one propagandized Toronto Star article.

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[Sarah Grunfeld] The professor said that he's Jewish, too, but honestly, what self-respecting Jew would use that kind of repulsive statement even just as an example?

And on top of all that, there's CIJA (The Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs).

CIJA MISSION STATEMENT: "...CREATING AND IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF JEWISH LIFE IN CANADA"


[Sarah Grunfeld] CIJA claimed to have done a thorough investigation. They claimed they spoke to me to find out what happened, but they never did. Without ever speaking to me, or contacting me, they released a statement absolving the professor of any wrongdoing, and called the whole thing a student misunderstanding.

STATEMENT ON THE RECENT CONTROVERSY AT YORK UNIVERSITY

Posted on September 13, 2011

Toronto, ON -- The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs was recently made aware of a lecture given by Professor Cameron Johnston yesterday at York University, which reportedly included an anti-Semitic remark.

In response, Sheldon Goodman, the GTA Co-Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued the following statement:

“Upon hearing of this incident, we immediately contacted York University as well as Professor Johnston directly. While York is currently looking into the matter, it appears that a very unfortunate misunderstanding has taken place. We believe Professor Johnston’s use of an abhorrent statement was intended to demonstrate that some opinions are simply not legitimate. This point was, without ill intentions, taken out of context and circulated in the Jewish community.

“Professor Johnston, himself a member of the Jewish community, may regret his wording but should not see his reputation tarnished. This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is now the spokesperson for all issues concerning the organized Canadian Jewish community, including those formerly handled by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee, and the Quebec-Israel Committee.

Statement from Professor Cameron Johnston

September 13, 2011

In lecture, I discussed that the course focuses on the texts and not “opinions”. In fact, I stated that for this course opinions are not relevant and I questioned the common idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I pointed out that everyone is not entitled to their opinion by giving the example of someone having an anti-semitic opinion which is clearly not acceptable. This was an example of the fact that opinions can be dangerous and that none of us really do believe that all opinions are acceptable.

For the record, I am also Jewish which undoubtedly influenced my choice of this example of a reprehensible opinion.

Regards,
Cameron Johnston


[Sarah Grunfeld] Whatever happened to a fair investigation. Shockingly, they absolved the professor even before the university did. You have to wonder why they would do this.

SOME OF CIJA'S LEADERS ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO MAKE UP YORK'S BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND THE JEWISH DONOR LIST OF YORK UNIVERSITY


[Sarah Grunfeld] Then the Canadian Jewish News came out with an article loaded with fabrications. In the article, the president of Hillel, claims he calmed me down and encouraged me to go through the proper channels. I have never even met Zach Liknaitzky, the president of Hillel.

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[Sarah Grunfeld] And CIJA claimed in the article that they reached out to me and spoke to me several times, which is completely untrue. They never spoke to me. Not even once.

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[Sarah Grunfeld] So what does this all mean for Jewish students on York campus? It's a gloomy answer. Who in their right mind will ever report anything now what's happened to me is the threat looming over all students. York, together with CIJA and the media, think they have won this round. But they didn't. Not as long as students refuse to be silenced.

SARAH GRUNFELD IS NOT THE FIRST STUDENT THIS HAS HAPPENED TO -- HER CASE IS JUST THE MOST PUBLIC.

YORK UNIVERSITY HAS A HISTORY OF SILENCING THEIR JEWISH STUDENTS.

REPORTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM HAVE BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY DENIED BY THE ADMINISTRATION AND ANYONE VOICING CONCERN HAS BEEN BULLIED INTO SILENCE.

DEMAND THAT CIJA STAND UP FOR JEWISH STUDENTS. CONTACT@CIJA.CA
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