In defense of Andrew Getraer, Hillel director
I am deeply saddened by the libelous commentaries in last week’s Targum by Janna Aladdin and Muhammad Raza about Andrew Getraer, Executive Director of Rutgers Hillel. They characterize him numerous times as racist, bigoted, prejudiced and Islamophobic.
As a senior, I have been privileged in the past four years to spend countless hours in conversation and at meetings with Mr. Getraer. Not once has he ever exhibited animosity toward anyone, least of all Muslims. On the contrary, as his tweets prove, he encourages understanding and respect for all.
Ms. Aladdin and Mr. Raza’s commentaries in the Targum drew from an article by Zaid Jilani in Alternet, an “alternative” Web journal, which accuses Mr. Getraer of tweeting hate speech that insults Muslims. These accusations are based on Tweets between Mr. Getraer and an alleged person named “Ido Shapiro.” However, as Mr. Jilani’s article itself illustrates, Mr. Getraer does not tweet the prejudice of which he is accused. For example, in Alternet, Mr. Jilani quotes a Twitter conversation between Mr. Getraer and a seemingly curious Jew self-identified as “Ido Shapiro.” (Although “Ido Shapiro” labels himself as a Jew from Maryland, a web search of White Pages, Google and Facebook reveals no one by that name in Maryland.) According to Mr. Jilani, “Ido Shapiro” tweets: “It must be hard for them [Muslims] to be devout without wanting to kill Jews.” Andrew Getraer responds “No” and elaborates on how tragically many Muslim people suffer from terrorism in Pakistan and other countries. Mr. Getraer deflects a bigoted comment and is the moderate voice in the conversation — yet Ms. Aladdin accuses Andrew Getraer of being racist.
Throughout the Twitter conversation, the alleged “Ido Shapiro” spews hateful comments that Mr. Getraer consistently refutes. Mr. Zaid, Ms. Aladdin and Mr. Raza also allege that Mr. Getraer retweeted an Islamophobic comment written by someone else. But this was clearly to show an example of intolerance that he considers unacceptable. The Tweets he himself writes preach tolerance of Muslims. Strangely, Mr. Jilani and Mr. Raza call that response “hateful,” while in reality it reflects the interreligious comity that Mr. Getraer has always encouraged. In fact, Mr. Getraer was instrumental in starting Shalom-Salaam on campus, to encourage interfaith dialogue. Scores of Jewish and Muslim students participated jointly in activities such as supporting homeless shelters and soup kitchens through this organization.
Whoever tweeted under the name “Ido Shapiro” and tried to elicit from Mr. Getraer an Islamophobic comment utterly failed. If Andrew Getraer is guilty of anything, it might be an overly generous trust in people. Any Tweets about Muslims that he initiated were only to promote moderation and understanding.
Unfortunately for people at Rutgers, so soon after the physical attacks on Charlie Hebdo came this verbal attack on Mr. Getraer. The insidious efforts at character assassination in the accusatory articles against him turned the truth upside down. Contrary to their insinuations, Andrew Getraer’s voice has always been one of moderation and tolerance.
Talia Friedman is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences double majoring in economics and Middle Eastern studies.