A website for a Jewish Day School is the last place you’d expect to find a link to an anti-Semitic organization. But, until the afternoon of November 24, 2004, the Ramaz School located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, had the dubious distinction of listing such a organization as possible resource for college scholarships.
It only took the Ramaz School a nano-second on the afternoon of November 24th to get rid of the link to The National Academy of American Scholars.
If you look closely between Loanstar and Scholaraid you can see a gap where the link used to be. But, and it’s a big but, what was the link doing on the site in the first place? The school received over four emails and a call warning about the anti-Semitic link.
The Ramaz School is not alone. A lot of organizations have been warned about The National Academy of American Scholars and apparently taken a Rhett Butler on doing anything about it.
That may be changing because of an article published in the November 17th edition of The New York Times -- Apply Here for Scholarship, And Prepare to Be Smeared ."
The article chronicles the experience of one Josh Centor. That would be my cousin Larry Centor’s son, Josh.
Five years ago when Josh was a senior in high school, he innocently applied for a scholarship from The National Academy of American Scholars. He was informed he was a semi-finalist. Then he heard nothing. Curious as to who won, Larry sent the organization an email.
Larry did not know it at the time, but sending an email requesting any information about a scholarship candidate is a breach of the web site's Rule 39.
I would hyperlink to Rule39 so you could see it yourself, but Rule 0 says I cannot hyperlink or post anything from their website without permission.
I doubt they’d give me permission.
In fact, there’s probably a rule which says I can’t mention the name of the organization, so just as the wizards in Harry Potter opt to never say the name Lord Voldemort , it’s probably safer from now on to refer to The National Academy of American Scholars as “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named”
I'm not interested in violating their rules.
I’m interested in seeing them forced out of business.
Anyway, the penalty for violating Rule 39 is that the applicant, that would be my cousin-once-removed, Josh Centor, instantly waived his right to privacy.
And so, with the click of an email, Larry inadvertently launched a smear campaign against his own son. With his right to privacy now gone, Josh's name was turned over to other websites that began writing vicious things about him.
Google Josh Centor.You’ll find over 300 results. Most of them have to do with sports.But, if you scroll down on page three you’ll find this headline: “Federal Complaint Against Joshua Centor.” It’s a post on, “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named,” web site.
There’s more awful stuff on different web sites -- all linked and associated with, “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named.” It's very ugly. And it’s not just about Josh. There are several other students who have been horribly defamed by these websites.
In the past several years Larry has contacted every state department of education in every state in the United States. He heard back from four.
He contacted his congressman. The state attorney general for New York. The state attorney general for California. The state attorney general for Nevada.
Larry has contacted the Internet providers who host the website, and he has tried to track down who really owns, “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named”.
He’s run into a lot of dead ends.
Which takes us back to the Ramaz School. When Larry saw that this Yeshiva had a link to “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named,” on its web site, he sent an email to the school.
When he didn’t get a response, he sent a second email to the school's principal ,Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. Then a third. Then a fourth. And he called. The rabbi's assistant must not have taken him seriously because Larry never talked to the rabbi.
When I called the school I was informed that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein was out of the country. I then introduced myself saying, “I’m a freelance journalist and following up on a story that ran in The New York Times.”
Before you could say “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named,” I was chatting with Ken Rochlin, the school administrator. At first, Rochlin wanted to defend the fact that Rabbi Lookstein had not answered Larry’s emails.
But how do you defend the indefensible? He couldn't explain what happened. Instead, he took action.
Later in the day I got an email from Albert Goetz who was responsible for putting the link on the website in the first place.
In the email he said,
“In building our website, I relied on a publication of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors which listed about 48 pages of websites helpful to students and parents in the college search process. I investigated each link to make sure that it would be helpful to our student/parent body before I added it to our list. The NACAC seal of approval was good enough an imprimatur to make me confident of the bona fides of the links. And my admittedly cursory glance failed to provide any evidence of blatant or even covert anti-Semitism."
It's not surprising that Goetz didn't find the anti-Semitic slurs. You have to look very hard to find them. Like the 500 rules associated with the website, the links to the nefarious websites that spew their vile accusations are even harder to find. But they are there. You just have to drill down.
Josh’s story is sobering on many counts.
It’s sobering that “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named,” is still alive and well and linked from a host of reputable schools.
It’s sobering to know that innocent teenagers are being defamed and libeled and no one is coming to their aid to make it stop.
It's sobering when a citizen tries to alert organizations of the danger of the link, and no one seems to give a damn.
Is it simply a case of email overload? Or are we behaving like the 40 neighbors of Kitty Genovese?
We’re not quite done with “The organization-who-shall-not-be-named.” Next up we’re going to try chat with the website’s sponsors, and of course a call will be placed to National Association of College Admissions Counselors.