Rabbinic Group Calls for Review of Professor in Viral Video Bias Incident
May 30, 2018

[UPDATE: Mark Story, Director of Strategic Communications at American University, reached out to us to indicate that Ms. Peri’s listing on the faculty page of the Middle East Studies department is in error. “Ms. Pnina Peri is not an employee of American University as has been reported. According to our records, Ms. Peri last served as adjunct faculty at AU in 2015. We apologize for the misunderstanding.” We appreciate the response from AU and are happy to correct the record.]

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), representing over 1000 traditional rabbis in public policy, called today for two universities to revisit the courses assigned to Professor Pnina Peri next year, and to mandate diversity and sensitivity training before her return to teaching. This came after Peri was caught on video mocking and shaming two men performing Jewish rituals.

In separate letters to the President of American University and the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, the CJV said that Peri, listed as faculty by both, showed “unbridled hostility towards religious activity” which calls into doubt her ability to “demonstrate appropriate tolerance and accommodation of religious needs.”

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The man who posted the video, Gad Kaufman, said that he was waiting for his departure on a business trip to Europe. He described what transpired: “I was asked politely by a Chabad representative if I was interested in putting on tefillin (phylacteries), and I responded positively. This woman then appeared and began screeching and interfering.”

“Her behavior was gratuitous and outrageous,” said Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, East Coast Regional Vice President of the CJV, “and appeared to reflect a deep-seated animus towards Jewish observance. Her derision and forced, sarcastic laughter were completely outside the behavior expected of rational adults. If her hostility is so severe that it overwhelmed common decency and decorum in a public place, it is difficult to imagine how she could banish it from her classroom presentations for a full semester.”

“According to her online biography,” commented Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, Chairman of the CJV Rabbinic Circle, “Peri is a ‘specialist in multicultural theories’ and the writer of Education in Multi-Cultured Society: Pluralism and Congruence Among Cultural Divisions. It is difficult to adequately describe the disconnect between her writing about tolerance and her own appalling, biased behavior.”

The CJV requested that university officials “immediately review the course load assigned to Professor Peri for the upcoming semester,” as “one could not anticipate that the woman portrayed on that video would necessarily treat [religious students] impartially and with complete fairness.”

“The universities should require diversity and tolerance training before she returns to the classroom,” explained Rabbi Pruzansky. “They must examine her teaching assignments to ensure an environment of mutual respect for students in the fall.”

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America, articulates and advocates for public policy positions based upon traditional Jewish thought.

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