Abraham Foxman To Speak at Boston Graduation Despite Armenian Genocide Debate

ADL Leader Opposed by Suffolk U. Petition

adl

By JTA

Published April 23, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Despite protests from some student groups, Suffolk University affirmed its selection of Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman as the law school’s commencement speaker.

Foxman, who will step down from his position in July 2015, also will receive an honorary degree at the May 17 graduation ceremony of the private university located in downtown Boston.

More than 800 people signed an online petition criticizing Foxman for his opposition of U.S. congressional recognition of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians on the eve of World War I as genocide. The petition, initiated by the law school’s chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, states that comments by Foxman on the genocide may make families of students of Armenian descent feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

The petition also cites Foxman’s published comments about racial profiling of Muslims for purposes of national security, and his opposition of the construction of a Muslim Community Center near the site of the former World Trade Center.

In 2007, after coming under fire for not acknowledging the Armenian massacre as genocide, the national ADL organization changed its position, though some in the Armenian community said its language was ambiguous and did not go far enough.

Foxman later wrote, “ADL has never denied the tragic and painful events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians, and we have referred to those massacres and atrocities as genocide.”

Nonetheless, the issue continues to dog the outspoken leader and cause controversy for the ADL, especially in the Boston area, home to a large Armenian community.

In a statement issued to the Boston Globe, the administration of Suffolk University President James McCarthy praised Foxman for contributions to the organization for nearly 50 years. The statement said the administration has examined the concerns raised by students but that “Mr. Foxman’s body of work is well deserving of recognition… It is our hope that Mr. Foxman’s personal story as a Holocaust survivor and attorney who has dedicated his life to public service will inspire our graduates as they embark on their professional careers.”

Suffolk has nearly 9,000 full- and part-time students, with 1,500 law students.

Matthew Smith, a member of the school’s Jewish Law Students Association, told JTA he is disappointed “that a small group” has “attempted to create a controversy” over the commencement speaker,” and that he is proud that the university is standing by Foxman.

In an email, Smith, a third-year graduating law student wrote that many members of the Jewish community are alarmed by some of the rhetoric attacking Foxman. “Some supporters of the petition have attacked Foxman for his support of Israel and … inappropriately referenced Foxman’s Jewish heritage,” he wrote. He added: “It is difficult to listen to a student inaccurately label a Holocaust survivor and civil rights leader as a “racist.”

Sammy Nabulsi, president of the Student Bar Association at Suffolk acknowledged that Foxman has done good work in fighting discrimination. But he told the Boston Globe that Foxman’s selection is stirring division among the graduating class.

Nabulsi, who is Muslim-American, told the Globe he is speaking out on behalf of the student body as a whole. “My concern is there’s a very dangerous conversation happening among the graduating class,” he said. He suggested that Foxman would make a more appropriate guest speaker on campus and not a recipient of an honorary degree.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.