CUNY Trustee Under Fire After Nixing Honorary Degree For Tony Kushner

The trustees of City University of New York have finally approved an honorary degree for the playwright Tony Kushner after a controversial trustee blocked the degree over his personal disagreement with Mr. Kushner’s views on Israel. Many are now calling for the resignation of trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld (left) who has suggested that Palestinians are not human and said that a “teach in” about the 9/11 attacks at the school was an act of “sedition.”

Wiesenfeld has denounced books given to first-year students like “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,” by Chris Hedges as “deeply offensive” and “anti-Semitic.” In one interview, Wiesenfeld became short with a reporter who merely used Palestinians and Israelis in the question without distinction: “Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis. People who worship death for their children are not human.”

However, it was Wiesenfeld’s objections to the honorary degree that proved the greatest embarrassment to the school. Wiesenfeld indicated that Kushner’s views on Palestinian rights conflicted with his views. It takes a considerable amount of hubris to impose such personal views on a university in blocking such a degree. Yet, Wiesenfeld refuses to step down.
Wiesenfeld was first appointed a trustee in 1999 by Gov. George E. Pataki; he is serving his second seven-year term, which is to end in 2013. He previously worked for Pataki and was viewed as his “fixer.”

I fail to see why he was viewed as a good pick for such a board. Here is his bio from the Trustee website:

JEFFREY S. WIESENFELD, B.A., was appointed by Governor Pataki in June 1999 as a trustee of the Board of The City University of New York. Mr. Wiesenfeld was reappointed by the Governor in December 2006. He was born in The Bronx in 1958, the son of two Holocaust survivors. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and Queens College, where he also pursued graduate studies.

After serving for four years in the foreign counterintelligence division of the FBI, Mr. Wiesenfeld served as an assistant to Congressman Thomas Manton and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. He was then appointed as Chief-of-Staff to Mayor Koch’s Traffic Commissioner where he also served for four years. Following the conclusion of the Koch Administration, Mr. Wiesenfeld became the New York Metropolitan Area Executive Assistant to United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato. As a senior staff member in the New York office, he was responsible for many of the Senator’s activities and his personal representation in the eight counties comprising the downstate region. In January 1995, Mr. Wiesenfeld became the Executive Assistant to New York State Governor George Pataki for the New York Metropolitan Region. His duties included directing the New York City office, coordinating the Governor’s relations with all civic, ethnic, and geographic organizations, and other general responsibilities as a senior aide to the Governor. Mr. Wiesenfeld also became the New York City Regional Director of the Empire State Development Corporation in 1999, the State’s economic development agency.

His non-government board directorships include: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Trustee); Long Island Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America; New York Metropolitan Region and National Governing Board of the American Jewish Congress; Berkshire Hills-Emanuel Camps; Queensborough Community College Holocaust Resource Center; Irish Studies Advisory Board of CUNY; Open University of Israel; Foksbiene Yiddish Theatre (Chairman); Jewish Community Relations Council of New York; Salute to Israel Day Parade Committee; North Shore Hebrew Academy; Great Neck Arts Center; the Advisory Board of the Rubin Museum of Art and, U.S. Presidency of the Israel Independence Fund. He is a former Commissioner of the Long Island North Shore Heritage Area Planning Commission and former director of the United Nations Development Corporation (by appointment of Governor George Pataki).

Mr. Wiesenfeld is a Principal with the firm of Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He has been active for many years in the community and is a strong voice for those causes in which he believes. Active with many local and national organizations, he possesses a high level of caring and involvement.

Mr. Wiesenfeld serves as Vice Chair of the Committee on Facilities, Planning, and Management, and holds membership on the Board’s Committee on Faculty, Staff, and Administration.

17 thoughts on “CUNY Trustee Under Fire After Nixing Honorary Degree For Tony Kushner”

  1. Richard Allen, @5:47. Split all the hairs you like to try to defend bigotry. It’s not even a close call to get the drift of Mr. Weisenfelds’s prejudice, and to illustrate the arrogance of “Israel firster’s ” who trade in moral guilt trips. As a Holocaust legacy myself, I have been for long disgusted of such types leveraging the blood of my ancestors, particularly for biased and anti-democratic views and political pressuring.

  2. Two points:

    Very OT: I see above that Mr. Wiesenfeld is a director of the “Irish Studies Group” at CUNY. How can this be? If CUNY is so hard up for Irish Americans to sit on that board, I will volunteer. Is this a typo for Israeli Studies Group? Is there such a thing as Israeli Studies at CUNY or anywhere?

    From The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Wiesenfeld:

    “My mother would call Tony Kushner a kapo,” he said in a telephone conversation earlier this morning. “Kapos” were Jews who worked for the Germans in concentration camps. “If I’m confronted by anti-Semitism in my face, I’m going to call it out.” I asked him if he had any doubt Kushner was an anti-Semite. He said: “Anyone who accuses the Jews of ethnic-cleansing is participating in a blood libel, so yes, he’s a Jewish anti-Semite.”

    Boy, can you get lower than this? This is libellous. It reminds me of the slander of George Soros as “collaborating” with Nazis in Hungary during WWII when he was 11.

  3. dickie dearest: there was no attempt at humor. As for insults & name calling – you bet! That bullshit “argument” you put up deserves nothing less. Since you did not dispute any of the facts in the original post, only tossing out a the strawman that the only alternative to Mr. Wiesenfeld’s hysterical slander is a “rubber stamp” approval of all things and a the red herring of mis-characterization of Professor Turley’s position, there was no need for me to present a defense that included any new information or facts.

    Now crawl back into the fetid fever swamp you came from or I shall taunt you again.

  4. Ricky, you can count me in then. Go somewhere your verbal diarrhea might be appreciated. RedState is calling.

  5. Frank

    Your attempt at humor fails.

    Lots of hot air and no real ideas. Name calling and childish rants show your “keen” mind is really not working.

    Do you have anything to offer except “Bullying”.

    Along with your sidekick ‘Buddha”, you make a classless pair.

    Why no last name……..Cowards!

  6. sorry dickie, you lose. The facts of Mr. Wiesenfeld’s behavior in this matter, and his history of hysterical statements regarding the Middle East are quite clear. Mr. Turley’s opinions and his record are also quite clear and documented here and in his body of work.

    Since you just got here & obviously have not bothered to read this site you may think your red herring attack has value. It does not, there are much better trolls here every day. The readers here are generally a bit more literate than those of whatever cesspool web sites feed your fevered mind. They are capable of discerning between a valid argument and the sort of sludge you tried here.

  7. Mr. Turley is entitled to his view, but not to made up facts. The baseless attack on Mr. Wiesenfeld is clear with no backup other than assertions without foundation. The term “Fixer” is one reporters use of a word with no foundation given. The charge of hatred is based on a discussion of the use of child terrorists and referred to those that train their children to kill. Mr. Turley who seems to like those that want to kill & maim can rant all he wants, however baseless accusations are just that.

    Mr. Turley wants trustees to rubber stamp all matters and never voice their right to vote against any issue before them………. Jonathan, not everyone votes as you say!

    I guess Turley would like a one party / one view State…..He will feel more at home there.

  8. When are we going to realize that American jews are not entitled to a Holy Disney land in Israel.

  9. He sounds more like a thuggish version of Seinfeld’s cousin Jeffrey (who worked for the Parks Department) or George Costanza’s rival, and one-time failed Dinkins advisor, Lloyd Braun. this is what happens when someone’s loudmoth, boorish uncle or cousin winds up in a patronage machine.

  10. Remember folks, Universities should only give degrees to people who think exactly like the board members want them too, that’s how human knowledge is advanced.

  11. People just don’t like some people…no reason needed…

  12. My ‘favorite’ line is . . .People who worship death for their children are not human

    How about people who eat babies? Because that was the slander against Jews. Its part of the dehumanizing that lead directly to the ovens. Yet so many of the grandchildren & great-grandchildren of that Holocaust what to demonize a different group of Semites in the same manner. Statements like his are no better and make the path to genocide much easier.

  13. “I fail to see why he was viewed as a good pick for such a board. Here is his bio from the Trustee website: …”

    It’s a great pick if you want to politicize education. Whole lot of that going on.

    Someone else posted the same info about the Koch brothers and university of Florida in another thread. Selling (for contributions) decisions about hires and by extension curriculum, is the new face of higher education in Florida.

  14. “Active with many local and national organizations, he possesses a high level of caring and involvement.”

    Unless you’re a Palestinian or critical of Israel in any way, then he possesses a high level hatred and animus.

    Bigotry runs both ways, Jeffery.

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