In a statement issued Jan. 5, the Baltimore Jewish Council and The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore condemned the anti-Semitic comments allegedly posted on social media by a Johns Hopkins University teaching assistant.
According to media reports, the teaching assistant was identified as Rasha Anayah, a graduate student in the chemistry department.
“The teaching assistant — who is also a graduate student at the University — is reported to have openly threatened to give lower grades to Jewish and Israeli students in her classes because of their religion and background,” the statement read. “She allegedly followed up with additional racist and antisemitic remarks on social media.”
The statement noted that federal law guidelines and policies established by the university protect all students from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or membership in any other protected group.
“For Jewish students to face the threat of academic punishment due to their religion is unacceptable,” the statement read. “On behalf of Baltimore’s Jewish community, we condemn this reported outrageous act of antisemitism and hatred of any kind. …
“The Baltimore Jewish Council and The Associated, as well as the Johns Hopkins Hillel, have been working with the University since we first learned of the incident. Although we understand that the University has specific legal processes in place for investigation and discipline, this is an urgent matter and we believe this situation must be resolved as quickly as possible and with transparency. If the allegations are true, we expect there to be clear communications from top leadership to the University’s Jewish community that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and has consequences.”
The statement also noted that The Associated and the BJC recently issued a report from the Baltimore Community Task Force on Antisemitism offering recommendations on combatting anti-Semitism on campuses.
“We call on Johns Hopkins University leadership to embrace these recommendations and commit to working with The Associated, the Baltimore Jewish Council, and Hillel to ensure antisemitism will not be tolerated on this campus, or any other,” the statement said.
When contacted by The Forward, Anayah said, “I have always acted with the utmost integrity and fairness. I am a dedicated teacher and scholar with a commitment to social justice and to my role. My record as a teaching assistant is a testament to these facts.”
Caren Leven, executive director of the Baltimore Zionist District, also issued a statement condemning the teaching assistant’s alleged actions.
“We condemn this outrageous act of Antisemitism and demand the University make a statement and hold their Teacher Assistant Accountable,” Leven wrote. “A threat to fail a student solely based on their religion or ethnicity is a clear sign of antisemitism. Jewish and Israeli students should not have to be subjected to a TA who intends to fail them for this reason. We are counting on JHU not only to hold this TA accountable but to release a statement condemning this horrific act of Antisemitism immediately.”
Hopkins Hillel said in a statement that it is “engaged with university administrators and the Provost’s Office to ensure the matter is investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken. We are also working together with our community partners to ensure Johns Hopkins University remains a safe and welcoming campus for Jewish and Israeli students.”
The Hillel also forwarded the following statement from Sunil Kumar, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Hopkins, and John Toscano, the interim dean of Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences:
“On behalf of President [Ronald J.] Daniels and the university, we thank you for taking the time to write to us about your concerns. We are aware of an incident of alleged anti-Semitism and potential abuse of authority in the discharge of academic responsibilities on our campus, and while we are constrained in what we can share with you and others about matters such as these, we wish to assure you that we take seriously any and all allegations of discrimination, harassment, or other misconduct — including anti-Semitism. Any link between grading and bias runs counter to our values and policies, and we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that does not occur.
“Please know that the Johns Hopkins University is firmly committed to equal opportunity for its faculty, staff and students. This commitment applies to all academic programs and educational policies administered by the university. … We appreciate the efforts of our local Jewish community to raise awareness of anti-Semitism, and we are eager to work with them to ensure that it has no place on our campus.”
The JTA global Jewish news source contributed to this report.