Barkat sits huddled in a circle speaking with other students
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat speaking at San Francisco State University on April 6, 2016 (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

$1.7m Koret grant held back from SFSU due to ‘anti-Jewish animus,’ suit alleges

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The San Francisco-based Koret Foundation last year held back a $1.7 million grant to San Francisco State University, according to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week.

Among other accusations in the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s lawyers laid out a squabble over the sizable grant between SFSU and the San Francisco-based Koret Foundation, a well-funded philanthropic organization that works on a range of causes.

Koret’s reason for withholding the grant was due to concerns about “anti-Jewish animus” at SFSU, the lawsuit claims, and because of a 2016 incident where protesters prevented Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat from giving a scheduled talk at the school.

The Koret Foundation declined to comment.

Screenshot of the civil complaint.
Screenshot of the relevant section of the civil complaint.

On Dec. 8, 2016, SFSU President Leslie Wong met with Jewish faculty and others. At the meeting, Wong asked the group to sit down with Koret representatives in order to reassure the foundation — likely because of its prominent Jewish origins and mission — that the school should receive the grant, according to the lawsuit.

At the time SFSU professor Marc Dollinger “expressed a profound conflict as well as discomfort” with the request for the meeting with Koret, saying such a meeting would be “an effort toward donor repair,” according to a letter dated Jan. 2 obtained by J.

The letter recapped the Dec. 8 meeting and was written to SFSU vice president of university advancement Robert Nava from Jewish studies professors Dollinger and Fred Astren.

Nava is one of the 13 individuals named in the lawsuit against SFSU, which is being brought by Jewish students and community members. SFSU and California State University’s board of trustees were also named as defendants.

Attorneys filed the suit in federal court on June 19. It accuses the university of violating the plaintiffs’ rights to free speech and equal protection, as well as a provision of the Civil Rights Act that outlaws race-based discrimination under any federal program, or one that receives federal funding.

The full complaint is below, with the relevant material on Koret on page 41:

max cherney
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a former J. staff writer.