Thursday, October 11, 2012
Emory University confronts its toxic legacy of Anti-Semitism
From the NY Times
Early in the summer of 1952, after his first year of dental school at Emory University in Atlanta, Perry Brickman received a letter from the dean. It informed him that he had flunked out.
Perry Brickman was among Jewish students who faced discrimination at Emory University’s dental school. His interviews with other such students formed the basis of a documentary.
Mr. Brickman was mystified. He had been a B-plus student in biology as an Emory undergraduate and had earned early admission to dental school. He had never failed a course in his life.
Over the next few weeks of that summer, Mr. Brickman found out that three of his classmates had also been failed. All of them happened to be Jewish. Yet instead of fighting back, Mr. Brickman and his friends searched for other dental schools and swallowed a shame that lasted decades.
Mr. Brickman taped interviews with many of the Jewish students, and that video became the foundation of a documentary, “From Silence to Recognition" by David Hughes Duke.
Its been over 60 years, but Emory University has finally apologized for anti-Semitism at its Dental School. John Buhler served as dean of the Dental School from from 1948 to 1961. At that time, Emory's application designated prospective students as “Caucasian, Jew or Other.” Quota limited Jewish admission to 4 students per year. During Buhler's tenure 65 percent of Jewish students were flunked out or forced to repeat courses. All four Jewish students in Perry Brickman's dental school class were gone within two years. Brickman eventually went on to graduated fourth in his class from the University of Tennessee's dental school.
This week, some of the Jewish students forced out have been invited back to the school, to meet with Emory President James Wagner, and to attend a screening of Perry Brickman’s documentary.
From Kate Brumback,
"We knew individually and collectively what the truth was," Brickman said. "But the truth in a situation like this is never really validated until the perpetrator says sorry."
In one interview, former student Ronald Goldstein recalls the dean asking him, "Why do you Jews want to go into dentistry? You don't have it in the hands." Another, George Marholin, recalls a professor coming into a room cursing at him and calling him a "damn Jew."
"I'm sorry. We are sorry," Wagner said before a ballroom packed with several hundred people....
In 2006, Dr. Brickman went to an exhibition at Emory celebrating the 30th anniversary of the school's Jewish studies department. He was surprised to see panels about the discrimination at the dental school. The exhibition's curator, Professor Eric Goldstein, told Brickman he thought the school was ready to face the issue.
Still, Brickman wasn't sure he wanted to reopen that wound. But two years later, when an old friend and former classmate he hadn't spoken to in more than 55 years called him and said he still struggled every day with that pain, Brickman decided to do something. He contacted dozens of former students for interviews and showed them to Hauk, the university vice president. Hauk helped commission father-son documentary filmmakers John and David Hughes Duke to interview Emory administrators and turn them into a film along with Brickman's interviews.
After Wagner's apology and a screening of the film Wednesday night, some of the men and their families had tears in their eyes and expressed a feeling of relief and vindication, grateful the apology came while they're still alive.