Jewish students accuse SUNY New Paltz of discrimination

Two Jewish students have accused the State University of New York at New Paltz of discrimination, saying they were excluded from a group of sex abuse survivors because of their personal views on Israel.

The Brandeis Center for Human Rights filed a civil rights lawsuit with the US Department of Education alleging that SUNY’s New Paltz campus condoned anti-Semitism against two Zionist-Jewish students, Cassandra Blotner and Ofek Preis.

“SUNNY [New Paltz]…allows for a hostile environment that marginalizes and excludes these Jewish … and Israeli sexual assault survivors,” the complaint, released Thursday, said.

The school “also denies Jewish and Israeli survivors of on-campus sexual assault equal access to the educational opportunities and services they need because of their common ancestry, ethnicity and national origin, in violation of Title VI,” she adds.

Ofek Price speaks at a meeting of the New Patlz Accountability Group.
Ofek Price speaks at a meeting of the New Patlz Accountability Group.
Rachman, Chad

The controversy erupted last December when Blotner posted a message on her personal Instagram that read: “Jews are an ethnic group originating in Israel. This is supported by genealogical, historical and archaeological evidence. Israel is not a “colonial state” and Israelis are not “settlers”. You cannot colonize the land your ancestors came from.”

Members of New Paltz Accountability (NPA), a group founded by Blotner and another student to combat sexual assault, have called on Blotner to defend her views, claiming her personal post was about “the organization as a whole.” it says in the complaint.

“I saw an opportunity here to teach the NPA that, as Jews, we have a common history, theology and culture – we are both a faith and an ethnic group – and it is all deeply connected to the land of Israel,” Blotner said. “Expressing support for the Jewish homeland is at the core of my Jewish identity, the two are inseparable, and I shouldn’t have to shed that piece of my Judaism to speak up for sexual assault survivors.”

She added, “To then be canceled, followed and harassed, I can’t even put into words what a horrific and scary experience it has all become for me.”

Blotner said she was harassed on social media, with others calling her a “stupid b—h” who supports “mass genocide!!!!”. who “must go,” the complaint says.

Preis, another NPA member, a Jewish Israeli student, shared Blotner’s post on her Instagram. Soon after, the NPA stopped contacting Preis about the group’s activities and blocked her access to joint organizational documents, according to a press release accompanying the alleged complaint.

“The NPA then made it clear to Preis and through numerous posts on their Instagram that [that] The group was open only to those who reject Zionism,” the press release said.

Ofek price
Ofek Price is one of two students who have filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Cassandra Blottner
Cassandra Blottner claimed that she and Price were expelled from the group because of their views on Israel.

“The excommunication and exclusion of Jewish and Israeli survivors from the NPA denies us our right to fight against sexual assault on college campuses and to hold our universities accountable,” said Preis.

“I shouldn’t have been asked to choose between Israeli and survivor. I shouldn’t have been asked to join only survivalism or only Zionism. It is possible and necessary to include intersectional identities in spaces struggling for survivors.”

Both students are still enrolled on campus.

The complaint cites Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin, including discrimination against Jews because of their actual or perceived common ancestry or ethnic characteristics, in educational institutions that receive federal funding.

Jewish students are being attacked by “anti-Zionist hatred that conjures up classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power and control,” said Denise Katz-Prober, the Brandeis Center’s director of legal initiatives. The center previously sued ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s for supporting the boycott movement against Israel.

Complaints about anti-Semitism and Jewish hostility are a burning issue on many college campuses, including the public colleges of City University of New York and State University of New York.

SUNY New Palace
The complaint against SUNY’s New Paltz campus says the students were disfellowshipped and that the campus “allows for a hostile environment.”
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The City Council’s Higher Education Committee held a hearing on campus anti-Semitism in June, at which CUNY students testified that they had been bullied because of their Jewish beliefs.

Disagreements over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have heightened tensions.

The CUNY LAW School faculty and student groups passed resolutions in support of the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Jewish on Campus CEO Julia Jassey said of the SUNY New Paltz incident, “This case is about anti-Semitism, it’s about sexism, it’s about harassment, and it’s about xenophobia.”

“Unfortunately, as harrowing as this case is, the experience faced by these students is not unique,” Jassey said. “Across the country, Jewish students are treated unfairly because of their identity. As an organization that speaks by and for Jewish students, it is our duty to ensure that no student is denied the protection they deserve.”

SUNY New Paltz defended its lawsuits in response to the discrimination allegations.

“We unequivocally condemn all attacks on Jewish students at SUNY and will not tolerate anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on campus,” the statement said.

Cassandra Blottner speaks at a meeting of the New Patlz Accountability Group.
Cassandra Blottner speaks at a meeting of the New Patlz Accountability Group.
Rachman, Chad

“SUNY New Paltz has provided access to resources and support for those affected by the events of the past year, and we continue our active commitment to support our Jewish students and staff in connection with the rise in antisemitism and antisemitism- and to address prejudice concerns when they arise. and to continue the dialogue and educational efforts,” said SUNY New Paltz.

SUNY New Paltz also said it does not seek to restrict free speech on divisive issues.

“As a public institution, we value the First Amendment and uphold the free flow of thought,” the statement said. Jewish students accuse SUNY New Paltz of discrimination


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