Rabbi Avi Weinstein

On Yale Closing Its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism

In Uncategorized on July 10, 2011 at 9:35 am

I’m not close enough to what happened, nor am I familiar with the players to cast judgement on why the center was closed.  This I do know, however. Liberal to left wing Jews are the most likely to be influenced by the truisms espoused in Ivy League academic settings than others.  Obama is resented more for his academic pedigree than he is for his race among right wingers.  The left, however, is willing to forgive his many missteps because of his ability to parse a correct grammatical sentence.

The center’s enemies overwhelmingly were concerned for Yale being perceived as a haven for Islamophobia, or more crudely, a Zionist front.  As renowned Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt stated when quoted in an article that appeared in Tablet, the center had made itself an easy target for such criticism crossing the line from scholarship to advocacy. Never mind how that line has been blurred in other ethno-gyno-racial-centric disciplines. The university chooses who the victims and the victors are. Perceived victims are given a pass, but perceived victors are judged by more conveniently exacting standards.

It is clear from the article that Jews were very much in the forefront of the closure of the institute in favor of a more benign, less activist replacement.  More and more of them are uncomfortable with the moral dilemmas of a Jewish nation state that wields, and yes, sometimes abuses its power. George Steiner once argued that Jews do better in exile. After the resurgence of anti-semitism in Europe, he softened on this position.

Toynbee said that more should be expected of the Jews because of what they have suffered.  We need to be judged by a harsher standard because victims should have learned something, and so therefore they must adhere to a higher standard. Others get a pass because “they know not what they do”, but Jews have no excuse. Really?

The challenge posed by this backward logic is that more and more Jews have come to believe this as well, and this is a problem that will not go away anytime soon.

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