EXCLUSIVE: Jewish prof demands security amid 'coordinated harassment'

A City University of New York (CUNY) administrator is demanding that the school protect him from a “coordinated harassment and discrimination campaign” that has left him “fearing for his life.”

In a demand letter sent to the chancellor of the CUNY system Thursday, Michael Goldstein claims he has experienced “targeted harassment and discrimination” while working at the CUNY Kingsborough Community College (KCC) for being an “outwardly observant Jew and Zionist” as well as a public supporter of President Trump.

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The letter was sent on behalf of Goldstein by the Lawfare Project, a non-profit legal advocacy group that “works to protect the civil rights of Jewish and pro-Israel communities” who have experienced harassment based on their identity. 

The demand letter, addressed to CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz, takes issue with what it describes as an “ongoing discrimination campaign” against Goldstein, who is both an administrator and an adjunct professor of communications and government relations.

Goldstein, who has worked at KCC for over 20 years, says he has been harassed and targeted since February by members of an unsanctioned group of KCC faculty known as the Progressive Faculty Caucus (PFC), according to the letter.

“Over the past year alone, Jewish faculty and staff members have filed five internal complaints against the PFC with CUNY administrators,” the letter states. 

“There have also been two federal EEOC complaints filed related to anti-Semitism by members of the PFC,” it adds, noting that the PFC “has also been accused of regularly, actively, and illegally lobbying against ‘non-progressive’ faculty members for various positions and employment roles on campus, including elected positions.”

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Campus Reform originally reported on the initial harassment of Goldstein in February, when unknown perpetrators wrote anti-Semitic and anti-Trump messages on a photograph that was posted on a bulletin board outside of Goldstein’s office.

The message, “F**k Trump Goldstein. Kill Zionist Entity,” was written on an image of Goldstein’s late father and former president of Kingsborough Community College, Leon M. Goldstein. None of the other images of other former faculty members on the board were touched.

Following the vandalism, which the letter describes as “vitriolic,” Goldstein says he was left feeling “vulnerable and afraid,” prompting him to request security measures such as moving existing security cameras to better surveille his office and installing an alarm under his desk. 

After multiple requests and wide media coverage, KCC honored the request for added security, but refused to investigate or classify the incident as a hate crime.

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The letter identifies one woman, sociology professor Katia Perea, as a “leader” of PFC who allegedly made several attempts to get Goldstein fired for his views despite having never met him before. Perea allegedly filed numerous complaints with KCC Human Resources and Chief Diversity Office about Goldstein, accusing him of being “anti-Muslim”, “pro-slavery”, “anti-trans”, and “anti-gay.”

The letter also accuses Perea of distributing flyers on campus featuring “vile, false allegations of racism” against Goldstein, claiming they were given “to students and placed in offices and nearly every classroom.” The flyer included “forged” images as well as a photograph of Goldstein’s 13 year-old daughter along with the statement, “We will continue to expose those who express similar ideas.” 

The letter claims that KCC failed to “take any steps to cause Ms. Perea to halt her smear campaign of slander and harassment against Mr. Goldstein,” instead subjecting him to repeated “indignities” throughout the school year.

According to the demand letter, Goldstein “was moved from his office near the President’s Suite to a very remote ‘temporary’ trailer area,” was denied a program on the school’s radio station without explanation, and was removed from his role as Director of Communications and College Relations by an administrator who had allegedly questioned him in the past about his absence from work on Jewish holidays.

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The letter claims that the leafleting campaign “is clearly a threat that people at KCC who share Mr. Goldstein’s views will be targeted in a similar manner,” noting that at least one faculty member was seen distributing the flyer. The college “has refused to identify this faculty member despite Mr. Goldstein requesting this information in the interest of his personal safety.”

After the flyers were distributed, Goldstein reportedly had “dozens” of them pushed under his office door, received numerous “hang-up phone calls,” and had students “peering” through his office windows and “banging” on his door demanding to speak with him about his “racist views”, “hatred of women”, “pro-slavery statements”, “anti-Muslim views”, and “anti-sexist views.” These incidents caused Goldstein to fear for his life and seek a public safety officer for “support” but was denied by then-KCC president, Peter Cohen, the letter claims.

The Lawfare Project claims that existing CUNY policies, as well as state and federal law, “mandate it to provide a safe workplace environment that is free from hostility and discrimination,” and are urging KCC to “remediate the hostile environment.”

The letter demands that Goldstein, who returns to work on September 12, receive personal security and that the person or persons responsible for the “harassment and threatening acts” receive immediate “meaningful sanctions” from the college.

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“It is my sincerest hope and prayer that the university acts against these people that are out to hurt me and to investigate and eliminate the anti-Semitic activity that’s been taking place at Kingsborough for years now not only against myself, but against other faculty, students, and staff as well,” Goldstein told Campus Reform.

“The pervasively hostile environment for Jews at CUNY is only getting worse and is part of a larger, very disturbing trend,” Brooke Goldstein, the executive director of the Lawfare Project, told Campus Reform. “Throughout the US we are seeing campuses taken hostage by radical professors, students and faculty, whose goals are to silence, marginalize and harass Jews. This is not only illegal but a serious threat to our liberal democracy.

“If we as a democratic and Jewish community don’t stand up to this unlawful bullying and harassment, we are sending the green light for it to continue,” she added. “CUNY has a chance now to do the right thing and I implore it to do so.” 

“No student or employee should have to live or work in an environment like that, that has gotten to the point where other members of the college campus feel like they can do whatever they want at any given time to any person because they don’t agree with their religion or political views,” Lori Tucker, a legal coordinator at Lawfare, told Campus Reform. “That’s a campus that is out of control.

“Our hope is to resolve it amicably,” Tucker continued. “But, if they won’t do that or refuse to do that and ignore the letter, we will have to look at other legal options that are available to us.”

KCC media relations, in a call with Campus Reform, stated that they have “no comment at this time.” 

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