By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) – Sixteen years after Susan Shulman Tessel lost her father, she sat on a Southern college campus Wednesday night and couldn't stop thinking about him. Surrounded by hundreds in a packed ballroom, she cried because he was missing. He should have been there with her and her mother. He deserved to be.
The late Irving Shulman was the only Jewish man to enter Emory University’s School of Dentistry in 1948. That was the same year someone else came to the school: the newly appointed dean, John E. Buhler.
After one academic year, Shulman flunked out. Buhler stayed on for 13 years, leading what some Jewish students would refer to as a “reign of terror.” Between 1948 and 1961, when Buhler left, 65% of Jewish students either failed out or were forced to repeat up to two years of coursework in the four-year program.
Those who lasted often paid. There were insults from professors such as “dirty Jew,” accusations by faculty of cheating and questions from the dean like, “Why do you Jews want to be dentists? You don't have it in your hands.”
Tessel's dad earned the distinction of being the first who failed.
Irving Shulman's widow, Irma Shulman-Weiner, and daughter Susan Shulman Tessel came to Emory last week because he couldn't.
His daughter, who lives in New York, heard him tell stories about the constant reminders of how awful he was. His molds of teeth – which he was so proud of – would either get crushed by hands or grades. Convinced he wasn't being treated fairly, a non-Jewish classmate agreed to turn in one of Shulman's molds under his name. Shulman's handiwork earned that student an A-minus.
“At least he knew he didn't make it up,” Tessel said.
Her late father gave up his dentistry dream and moved on to pharmacy school. But, she said, being at Emory last week would have helped him make sense of what had transpired. That's when 19 former Jewish dental students who had experienced that era came together and finally received the apology and recognition they had never thought possible.
“He didn't have the benefit of knowing he wasn't alone."
'A fraternity of silence'
Three years after Shulman was dubbed a failure at the end of his first academic year, Perry Brickman got his surprise letter from the dean telling him the same. Unlike Shulman, though, he had never been told he wasn't doing well.
Stunned. Embarrassed. Brickman was both. But he wasn't beaten down enough to give up on dentistry and was accepted to the dental school at the University of Tennessee, where he graduated fourth in his class. He would go on to have a 43-year career as a respected oral surgeon in Atlanta. He knew he was no failure. He also knew he wasn't alone. He was one of four Jewish men who entered the school in 1951; two years later they were all gone.
Brickman, 79, wasn't one to bring up the past. In 2000, he went to a reunion of his Jewish fraternity brothers from their Emory undergrad days. It turned out eight of the men in the room had been scarred by the same dental program, but it's not something they talked about. Brickman's wife, Shirley, would later start calling the former dental students “a fraternity of silence.”
It would be years before that would change.
In 2006, Emory University celebrated its 30th anniversary of Jewish studies. Eric Goldstein, a Jewish history professor, set up the exhibit to coincide with the event. He called it, “Jews of Emory: Faces of a Changing University.”
Most of the exhibit was a celebration of the campus’ Jewish life, Goldstein said, but a small section jumped out at Brickman.
He stared at statistics, a bar graph that illustrated what happened at the dental school between 1948 and 1961. The image had been featured in a chapter of “Some of My Best Friends...,” a book published by the Anti-Defamation League in the early 1960s. Like a skyscraper among short buildings, he said, the bar showing the numbers of Jews who failed out of the school or repeated coursework towered above all others. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.
The visual highlighted what Brickman always suspected about the dental school leadership and how that period was handled at Emory: “I wasn't a failure. They were a failure.”
He knew there were stories behind those numbers – not just of those who hadn't made it but also of those who did. Between the statistics and a conversation with a still-burdened classmate, Brickman set out on a path to find them all.
A month before one man got his degree, he was forced to stand before the dean and assembled faculty for an hourlong dressing down. Later, one of the professors pulled the student aside and apologized, saying he had a wife and children to think about and had no choice but to play along.
Another said the day he got his diploma he felt like he'd been released from prison. A third repeated what a professor used to call him, "my little black sheep,” and then, bothered by the memory, muttered under his breath, “son of a bitch.”
These men said they were the "lucky" ones; the ones who actually made it through to earn degrees from the school. The 39 Jews who Brickman said enrolled during the Buhler era were all men; few women attended the school back then. Of that bunch, a dozen flunked out. Only three of those 12 became dentists. At least 15 of the Jewish dental students who lasted were forced to repeat coursework – and in some cases a year or two of study.
Art Burns, 80, of Jacksonville, Florida, flunked out in 1953 but went on to be first in his class at Temple University's dental school. The retired orthodontist recalled later bumping into the Emory dean in an Army base dental lab. Buhler looked at him and said, “Burns, I'd recognize that nose anywhere.”
Another who didn't fail – but who Buhler insisted didn't have the hands for dentistry – found himself being asked to treat dental school faculty throughout his senior year. Crowns, restorations, fillings. You name it, Ronald Goldstein did it.
“I must have had good enough hands for them,” said Goldstein, 78, of Atlanta, who lectures around the world, is considered a pioneer in his field and wrote the first comprehensive textbook on cosmetic dentistry.
The men were accepted to the school because admissions were handled by the broader university and not the dental school alone, said history professor Goldstein (no relation to Ronald). While quotas worked against Jews in many institutions at the time, the Emory dental school story was unique in that these students faced discrimination after they arrived.
Art Burns, with his wife, Olly, and daughter Marlēn, failed out of Emory's dental school but was first in his class of 131 students at Temple University.
The issues were talked about in small circles, but they weren’t discussed loudly.
What student would announce he'd flunked? What parents would talk about such news, especially in a community that put such emphasis on academic achievement? And this was Emory, a hometown liberal arts jewel many local Jews attended; who would criticize – or believe criticism about – such a place?
Beyond these hangups was the worry about backlash that permeated Atlanta's Jewish community. It was rooted in fears born of history and reality – Atlanta's infamous lynching of Leo Frank in 1913, the ongoing activity of the Ku Klux Klan, the 1958 bombing of the city's most prominent synagogue. Israel was still a fledgling nation. This was also the immediate post-Holocaust era, a time when Jewish people in America were just starting to understand the magnitude of what had happened abroad, said Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League's civil rights director.
“It was a real period of insecurity for the Jewish community, and that didn’t really shift 'til 1967,” after the Six-Day War between Israel and its neighbors, she said. “With a war victory came a newfound confidence of Jewish people.”
But a small handful of Atlanta Jews refused to let go of what was happening at the dental school. Art Levin, 95, paid attention to every snippet. Then the Southeast regional director of the ADL, Levin was determined to make Emory own up to and deal with the dental school's anti-Jewish bias. He collected graduation programs, which included lists of students in all four years, and studied how the Jewish surnames disappeared or were held back while their classmates moved ahead. He nurtured contacts who helped get him inside information from the registrar's office to back up his calculations. He wanted to make the case not by outing any victims but by presenting irrefutable facts.
When the local Jewish Community Relations Council wanted to tone down pressure on the university, Levin's response, as he stated in an Emory-commissioned documentary that premiered Wednesday evening: “Screw that. This guy has been torturing students for 10 years.”
Photos: Faces of discrimination
Levin, at the time, was “villified” by segments of the Jewish community for making waves, said ADL’s Lauter, a former Atlanta resident who, like Levin, did a stint as the organization's Southeast regional director. “But that's why we're here for people who face discrimination. Sometimes ADL has to be the tough guy. We take no prisoners in the fight against anti-Semitism.”
While Levin takes great satisfaction in knowing the story is finally getting public acknowledgement, Lauter said it's “bittersweet” for him. “He did feel stung by the whole experience." In 1962, after nine years in his position, he left the world of Jewish community work.
Levin, who now lives in Florida and is hard of hearing, was not able to be interviewed for this story.
A form devised by Buhler, which at the top asked students to check a box – Caucasian, Jewish or other (Emory was not racially integrated at the time) – ended up being his downfall, many say. The university president, S. Walter Martin, had been dismissive of the concerns Levin and some others raised. So when Martin was out of town, Levin brought a copy of the form to Judson “Jake” Ward, the dean of faculty, and Ward grew incensed. He marched down to see Buhler, who resigned soon after.
Emory's president still refused to acknowledge what had been going on and wrote off Buhler’s resignation as coincidental. Martin even insisted to local press, Goldstein said, that Buhler could have stayed at the dental school as long as he wanted.
With the dean gone, Atlanta's Jewish community essentially closed the book and put it away.
Not the man he knew
That book only recently opened for the former dean's son.
A sister-in-law sent John E. Buhler Jr., 65, a copy of a recent story in the The New York Times about the episode. What he read “caught me completely off guard,” he said. “I was completely unaware of that situation.”
He was a kid when his father landed at Emory and always believed politics in academia prompted his departure, nothing more. Everything he ever knew about his father, who died on Easter Sunday in 1976, belied what is being discussed now.
The former dean of Emory's dental school, John E. Buhler, was a different man to Jewish students than he was to his son.
The younger Buhler, a retired oral surgeon living in Huntington, Indiana, said he grew up with a man who cared about “helping kids stay in school and not throwing them out of school.” When he got into the field himself, he proudly watched how former students sought out his father at conferences, showering him with gratitude. One even boasted that he had named his child after Buhler.
“It just sort of blows me away. … He did so many positive things for dentistry and students,” the younger Buhler said. “It's hard to believe.”
Trying to make sense of it all, Buhler Jr.'s daughter sent her father an article that appeared in The Spartanburg Herald in South Carolina in 1964. It was written soon after the older Buhler assumed the dean’s post at the new dental school of what was then known as the Medical College of South Carolina – and after the Jewish community there weighed in with concerns about past anti-Semitism, demanding his appointment be rescinded.
The 1964 article quoted the chairman of the Medical College's board of trustees defending Buhler, saying he was recommended for the new position after a committee concluded the Emory charges were “not as serious as painted at one time."
The former dean's namesake doesn't remember his father ever saying a derogatory word about Jewish people. In fact, he's quick to point out that when the family lived in Atlanta, some of his parents' closest friends were Jewish.
These sorts of claims get former students like Brickman, who led the charge to humanize the dental school’s history, riled up. He has collected too many stories and seen too many documents, including incriminating notes written by Buhler himself, to call the former dean anything but an anti-Semite.
But for Buhler Jr., none of this adds up. Really, how can it?
“If this situation did exist, it was certainly out of character of the man I knew,” he wrote CNN the morning after the Emory event. “If indeed these events did occur, I feel badly for the individuals involved. Last night’s event might have made them feel better but didn't compensate for their injury.”
‘I am sorry. We are sorry.’
Facing its history is something Emory isn’t afraid to do.
In 2011, it issued a statement of regret for the school's involvement with slavery. The Southern institution once had slave laborers on campus and faculty members who owned slaves.
Earlier this year, Emory fessed up to fudging data to boost its ranking.
Meantime, the university boasts a Center for Ethics, campus dialogues on matters like race, sexuality and gender, and has long-proven its support for Jewish studies and community. It has 20 full-time faculty members dedicated to the field, including world-renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt.
The school seemed ripe for the resurfacing of the dental school's history, which is why Goldstein, the Jewish history professor, placed a call last spring to Gary Hauk, Emory's vice president and deputy to the president. He said he had a friend Hauk needed to meet.
With testimonies he had recorded with his Flip camera, Brickman showed Hauk videos of men in their 70s and 80s, their negative Emory dental school experience still etched in their faces and emotions. Hauk didn't need convincing that something needed to be done.
A documentary incorporating Brickman's footage was commissioned, resulting in “From Silence to Recognition: Confronting Discrimination in Emory's Dental School History.” A plan was developed to invite the former students, their families and their widows to come together on campus for an apology that was half a century overdue.
What had happened to them at the dental school, which closed in the early 1990s for unrelated reasons, had never been formally acknowledged. It was time.
Blue ribbons were strung along aisles to reserve seats for the special guests, who first met privately with Emory President James W. Wagner. The men, some of whom hadn't returned to Emory since the day they left, arrived with family members from all over the country. Many went on to become great successes in dentistry. Those who gave up that dream excelled as physicians, lawyers, CPAs and computer experts. One man who flunked out tried his hand at painting, wanting to prove he had the manual skills the dean said he lacked; he won art show awards.
The experience had been a guarded secret for some – a chapter in life they hid from parents, friends, future spouses and their children. One woman in attendance said she had only learned the day before that her father failed out of Emory. For other former students, their time at Emory haunted them. One of their daughters – who refused even years later to apply to Emory when she went to dental school – dubbed herself and others like her “children of survivors,” a term often linked to the Holocaust. An 18-year-old man, who is gay and faced plenty of bullying, realized he could relate to the grandfather sitting next to him in new ways.
Widows and children of deceased former students showed up for those who didn't live long enough to see this day. One man, who was young when his father died, came to hear stories no one else in his life could tell.
All around them, as they took their seats, the ballroom filled. A standing-room-only crowd of hundreds came out to recognize them. Here, any shame from the past was lifted. Instead, these men were the picture of courage and worthy of respect – and that long-awaited apology.
“Institutions – universities – are as fallible as the human beings who populate them, and like individuals, universities need to remind themselves frequently of the principles they want to live by,” President Wagner said. “The discrimination against Jewish dental students undermined the academic integrity of the dental school and ultimately of Emory. … I am sorry. We are sorry.”
The night, which would end with a special dinner for this no-longer-silent fraternity, included a tribute to Brickman, who was called to the stage.
Norman Trieger traveled last week from New York to hear Emory's apology for and acknowledgement of past anti-Semitism. On Saturday, he passed away.
His wife, surrounded by family, clung to a tissue and dabbed her eyes. A daughter clutched her mother’s hand. A son looked up at his dad and beamed.
Brickman never did this for the Emory History Maker medal Wagner strung around his neck. Nor did he do this for the citation read to honor his work.
For him, this was a journey of discovery - one he took with the faces behind the numbers. With him that night were these men and their families, as well as the university he still loved.
Throughout the evening, and long after dinner ended, he saw tears, camaraderie, even laughter from some of the very men he feared were no longer capable of smiling.
All of this, he hoped, signaled what mattered most: Healing.
The worst thing for any human being is to face discrimination , I am glad, this is no longer practiced in any universities in this great country.
REALLY...I think starving or getting a tax audit is worse. Get a grip.
Judaism and Christianity are too different to co-exist anywhere. They are 180 degrees apart ideologically.
Judaism can stand on its own. Christianity cannot because it is based upon Judaism. Have you ever heard of
the Ten Commandments?
Judaism is the result of melding numerous beliefs together. Monotheism existed in Palestine longer than the first Hebrew thought it was a good idea. Judaism also has other beginnings.
Jews have been the target of discriminatiion for centuries. However Jews readily discriminate agains non- jews all the time. Tired of all this whining by everyone of all races and creeds that they are being picedon. Put on you big boy/girl pants, learn to deal with it and get on with life.
The discrimination is more than well deserved
The antisemitism in these comments is ridiculous; are you all related to Buhler? If you don't want to read the story, DON'T READ IT. There are plenty of other stories on the website; that's the power of the internet, you can remove this story from your sight with a single click. For all of those comments about this not being worth reporting, apparently it's of enough significance to warrant all of your stu pid comments...
Digest this thought...We think he is a total fraud. Enema University probably can't say it's BS. More over this draft dodger should have been in Korea...fighting with the Americans....Not hiding in college. Take a hike cry baby Brickman.
Exactly on point. What really scares me is that these people can vote.
I have no idea what you're talking about. Was that meant to be a response to my comment?
sry, talking to Lord, not pwin
The state with the greatest number of Klan members is Ohio.
Feeling sorry for Jews and their sob stories is right up there with feeling bad for failed Wall Street banks.
One in the same.
LT: How can you possibly compare the two, unless you are stereoptyping.
Ira. This is a typical "feel sorry for me" story. He had no lasting problems from the alleged racial slight. Go throughout the world and see real suffering. I don't hear them complaining about being insulted as they die from starvation and disease. Go to Haiti...Incredible suffering. Many Americans have become total emotional wimps.
Your obvious stereotyping of Jews shows that such "stories" of discrimination are continuing today and will continue in the future, thanks to the hypocrisy and bigotry of people like you.
I bet you're one of those guys who denies the Holocaust, eh?
This is outstanding reporting. As an Emory undergrad in the early 1070's I know that the University has more than tried to make up for this shameful chapter. Times are different now but it is always helpful to be reminded of the past. Thanks fro your good work.
1070's wow, didn't realize emory was around that long.
1070's?!? Man you are OLD...
Jacob had twelve sons, his favorite was Joseph. Joseph faced his brothers hatred because he was the favored son. The Jews are Gods chosen people they are the favorite son of humanity, as a result they are the inheritors of the unreasonable, jealous hatred of the world. Their very existence declares the Glory of God !
Even Einstein who was a Jew did say that the claim that Jews are favored people is nonsense. They are people like the rest of humanity, no better or worse.
Stop hating on Jews! We all should stop hating, period. Hate is not productive and will not get any good results. It breeds more hate and violence. Jewish people I know (and I know a lot of them) work very hard and exercise a lot of inter-family cooperation in order to succeed financially. Instead of hating them and being jealous, try working hard yourself!
I hate particular human BEHAVIORS. We should not hate each other. People can change their behavior if they wise up!
Ellen could not be more right! You go Ellen!
I do not believe in Jewish supremacy. I believe that all humans have potential and are worthy of being called human.
Why do we need to know this?
you can choose not to be here,
For the same reason my Dad fought at the Battle of the Bulge
Because, if we don't know the mistakes of the past, we can not learn from those mistakes. And if we don't learn from those mistakes, we will repeat them.
If you ask this question, you are incapable of understanding the profound and necessary answer. Truly, pity to you.
It is sad to see all the anti-Semitism on this comments page. Nothing has changed in America as far as hatred of Jewish people goes. A few weeks back a Jewish student at Michigan State U was beaten up by anti-Semites who gave Nazi salutes, said "Heil Hitler" and used a stapler (that's right people, a stapler) on his jaws and gums, simply because he was Jewish. His parents were heartbroken at how much their innocent child had to suffer due to other people's ignorance. America should be ashamed of the way it has treated (and continues to treat) its Jewish citizens. I think America owes reparations to the Jewish community ... although that won't even begin to compensate for everything Jewish-Americans have suffered, at least it would be a start.
Hope you're not serious. Because if you are.....You're a freak.
Comments on this page are the printed proof that.....and tragically so....anti-semitism in America
is alive and well.
I agree, it seems Jewish people are the only minority in America that it's acceptable, even humorous to hate.
CNN- what is happening to you? Your becoming a liberal NY Post. Too jewish-centric. We all understand the jewish diaspora- especially in the last 80 years. But please put cover stories about poor harvests, poor people and the poor electorate. My jewish friends and neighbors are doing just fine- Thank you.
Want some cheese with that whine?
OK.. Emory was horrible. Hopefully this is not still going on.
This is NO excuse to come online to bash Jewish people, folks. Grow up.
Too many of the people who respond to these things just want to post childish hate statements!
That is regrettable and does not reflect well on those who post. If you want attention, try not to make people
think you are dumb at the same time!
No, it is a matter of truth absolute regarding hindu Judaism, criminal secular ism and hindu terrorist Jew's, secularist, deniers of truth absolute GOD.
This is Ellen replying to the Stop Murder person who responded to my comments.
See, you sound stupid! Ranting doesn't make you any friends or supporters. You
sound like a frothing at the mouth extremist of some sort, not a rational human being.
I don't think his stupidity ends with how he sounds. Pretty sure it goes much further than that! (-:
Truth is enemy of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, secular's, not just you, every hindu criminal act's same, as you do, after seeing his hindu ugly face.
To learn fraud of hindu Judaism, criminal self center ism, secularism, denial of truth absolute GOD, please visit limitisthetruth.com, an eye opener.
fauk off and die already OK
I went to that website and far from being enlightening, it is nothing but ramblings with many misspelled words. I can't even tell if that website is pro god or anti. it's all mumbo jumbo. Good luck with your writing career if you are the one that wrote that crap.
You have proven to be from the linage of Roman NERO, a hindu, child of hinduism, incest.
Jews will keep mediatizing to the last drop, and will always return to the Holocaust cow until the next news, always.
this happened decades ago and none of these guys went to the media. They were silent, sometimes even to their own families about what happened to them. You should read the article you stupid moron. I'm of hispanic descent, primarily mexican with no jewish blood whatsoever. You cannot judge a culture or race. If you feel the need to judge people, do it on an individual basis and quit stereotyping everyone. Are they bad jews out there? Sure? Don't know what your race is, but I'm sure their is plenty of bad people within your race, maybe even your own family (you).
Really? Apologized for slavery in 2011? Wow, that took a long time. You know there's coming a day in the not too distant future when white's will no longer be the dominate race in America. You better hope we are treated better than we have treated others throughout our history. I'm sure you don't speak your mind to peoples faces though anyway, mr keyboard ranger.
Let's also apologize to the Native Americans for basically wiping them out. This happened years ago. Just get over it, people. There has been enough that has happened ever since.
Yes, but this was dental school!!!!!
yes well their is nothing wrong with apologizing at least once. most of these guys are still alive and they deserved the apology. Native Amerians have had their apologies and then some but in that case, it will never be enough. A simple apology can't make up for what happend to the native americans, just like it wouldn't be enough to make up for the holocaust. Your comparison is a farce. I'd say it's like comparing apples to oranges, but it's really more like comparing apples to monkey feces...
Get over it? Are you serious? How many times has your lifelong dream been trampled for no reason other than your religion. Grow up!
we do apolgize for native americans, they get government programs in my city and are alllowed to run casino's, why are you trying to put jews, native americans and blacks from having there stories told, you don't understand that history teaching help shape the future..
Racism still exists and is practiced by all races. Actually moving to north after living in south and as a minority (real Semite) I would take the racism you get in south over racism in north any day. In south they are racist sure, but in north the racism is mask behind a smiley face. Sure it’s easier to point out racism in south but racism in north tends to do more damage since you don’t see it coming.
The story you should take from this is, with hard work, even the biggest racist on the face of planet can’t stop you. Well at least I am hoping for that since I have recently went through a similar story and discrimination.
And my last two cents on this; The irony is Jews have become one of the most racist groups in the United States even after going through WWII. You don't believe me see how many comments are about how great Jews are compared to others
Indignation and outrage is ENVY in disguise
I like one of einstens reasons for not believing in God. He couldn't believe in a god that had a "chosen people". that just didn't make sense to him. Many of us have delusions of grandeur, not just jews. Ask most southern americans if they think they are better than other people in other countries just because they are american and you'd be surprised at how many would answer yes.
The Jews are some of the wealthiest people in the world. They no longer face discrimination. Instead, they discriminate against their Muslim neighbors and commit genocide every day for decades without anyone muttering a word. Lets apologize to people who actually deserve an apology. Like the Native Americans or African Americans.
"They commit genocide every day against their Muslim neighbors" In 1948, the combined Muslim population in Israel,
Gaza and the West Bank was about one million. If they were committing genocide, there wouldn't be a single one left. Today, they number about five million. Could you explain this?
wealthiest? you just sound like a jeolous person, if they make money as individual people that has nothing to do with this story... think about that...
Grow up – if you think anti semitism has been eraticated think again. Just read your paper – there are those today who would gladly kill me just for my religion. You obviously have never experienced a moment of bias or bigatry in your small little life – you should thank your lucky stars.
Americans are sick of dual-citizens and the illegal aliens they bring to the USA.
Justice is never too late. I commend Mr. Brickman for unearthing truth.
Why is this "top story" material?
maybe cnn will let you decide what is a top story....i don't think so... because your nothing
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.