Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

The University of Oklahoma offers an important lesson for us all

Kudos to President David Boren of the University of Oklahoma for taking swift and decisive action against the racist hate speech on campus. The “threatening racist behavior” was unacceptable and closing the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and holding accountable those who made these vile statements is welcome. Boren said these students created a “hostile environment” for student and the university community. He went on to say “I hope the entire nation will join with us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its head in other situations across the country.”

To all the campus presidents who are permitting our Jewish students to be subjected to similar ugliness, I call upon you to heed President Boren’s call. There is no place on the college campus for speech that threatens or intimidates other students. It is antithetical to everything that our great country and every university represent.

Words carry weight and responsibility. It is incumbent upon all college administrations to maintain campuses of some level of decorum and at a minimum civility. It is incumbent upon us to demand this kind of environment for all our young people. We need to continue to do our important work in making the college experience everything it should be for our children.



Klinghoffer Continued

In response to my teacher and friend who posted a comment on my last submission on “The Death of Klinghoffer”

 My quarrel is with the Met not the writer of Klinghoffer.

I am a defender of free speech even when that includes writing something reprehensible. I recall the Nazis marching in Skokie and the right of these evil hate-mongers to spout their bile. My commitment this core constitutional and human value required I defend the right to march in the public space of the town even though the march was designed to promote hate and incite anger due to the venue. But the Met is different.

The Met has selectively and deliberately decided to produce Klinghoffer. This season there are 24 productions, six (6) new and 18 revivals. The names include: Mozart, Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, Donizetti, Wagner, Lehar and Offenbach. Englebert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is also on the schedule for a bit of fun and amusing fare. And then there is John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer.” It is outrageously conspicuous. For an institution of the Met’s esteem, the choices it makes for its productions are important sending a message to the world. The Met sullies her reputation and gives an imprimatur of respectability to this work by producing it without regard to the repercussions.

 I do not usually stand on the side of censorship. And in fact, I am not. I would be deeply offended if some lesser institution, the off-Broadway equivalent of the Met, were to produce Klinghoffer. But I probably would not be adamantly opposed. I am struggling with the fact that I have not actually seen Klinghoffer and yet I have taken a stand against its’ production. I accept the inherent problem with my situation.

 I guess the immediate contrast would be to argue that I would see Richard Strauss’ Salome at the Met. It too has outrageous and highly provocative material. For a substantial amount of time, it was banned- sometimes due to the sexuality involved sometimes due to the depravity involved, sometimes due to a combination of both. Ultimately, Straus’ gravitas forced people to give it the benefit of the doubt. Adams has a few noted pieces in his repertoire and has earned critical acclaim. However, at this stage, I am not prepared to put John Adams and Richard Strauss in the same category.

So I conclude that this is a very bad misstep for the Met. It is inappropriate and unworthy. The subject is vile and contemptible. The production almost seems like a gratuitous attempt to be controversial and relevant. But it is not. It is merely offensive, inappropriate and wrong. I understand that Peter Gelb (the Met) and Abe Foxman (ADL) have been working together to lessen the impact of this production. I probably will need to experience this opera to better understand it, which may alter my opinion. But for now, the Met would have served all of us including itself better were Klinghoffer not part of this season’s lineup.

A Response to my Presbyterian Friend and Minister

Dear Lisa,

 The vote in Detroit cannot evoke little else but great sadness and regret across Jewish America.  We have worked to build bridges and foster relationships with Presbyterians that we thought were based on an abiding mutual respect of the truths embodied in each other’s commitment to our faiths and traditions.  Today however, it is hard to feel something other than betrayal.

 The Jewish people have a deep connection and commitment to the State of Israel.  They are inextricably bound together.  However, there is a great rise of anti-Semitism in the world.  It is becoming blatant in many places and in others it is cloaked in the garb of anti-Zionism or anti-Israel policy.  Anti-Semitism exists in this country too.  We are watching our young people under assault on college campuses across the country, targeted with deliberate and calculated attacks against their identity and intimidation tactics that repress any exchange of ideas other than ideas sanctioned by those that have usurped control of the conversation.

 Many of us are dissatisfied with the actions of the settlements.  Many of us believe it undermines efforts toward the creation of a respect that permits the emergence of a state for the Palestinian people. This however, is far different from actions that are taken as a result of existing hostilities that represent an existential threat to Israel and its citizens.

 The construction of the fence/wall was done in response to a history of violence perpetrated by those willing to inflict damage and destruction on a civilian population within Israel.  As ugly as this harsh concrete barrier may appear, it has in fact all but eliminated bombings and other murderous violence.  The responsibility for peace resides on both sides of this conflict.  The history of violence and the existential threat that continues to be espoused from the Palestinian side can only be willfully ignored.

 Also, within Israel the need to continue to expand civil rights protection undoubtedly exists.  Many of us actively work to promote the broader and fuller equal application of the law to all who live in Israel.  There has been much progress made in this realm, although much more work needs to be done.  We are proud of our active role in promoting and broadening civil rights in Israel.  We are deeply committed to the State.

The existence of the State of Israel has been part of our DNA, an aspiration as a people for two thousand years.  The State was bought on the back of hardship and persecution unlike anything the world had ever seen.  The State of Israel exists and she has a right to do so.  That does not delegitimize the rights of the Palestinian people.  But it unequivocally says that the existence of the State of Israel is undeniable and irrefutable.  The efforts to delegitimize Israel cannot be tolerated or supported.

Unfortunately, the actions taken by the Presbyterians do precisely that.  The BDS movement has declared this a great victory.  Whether that was the intent of the resolution, the effect is a victory for BDS and those ultimately seeking the elimination of Israel.  This happens on the heels of the release of Zionism Unsettled, a book of vitriol and falsehood.  It is a volume that vehemently denounces Israel, Zionism and ultimately the Jewish people.  It is a shameful and terribly hurtful treatise that remains on sale and available.

The acts that can be construed as hurtful, the publications that can be construed as hateful and the complete insensitivity to the history and values of my people makes this vote a horrible breach of faith and trust.  You cannot claim to love me, if you are willing to engage in actions so egregious, deeply hurtful and offensive to me. There are other and more constructive ways to promote change.

I believe that it is a moral obligation to only invest in companies that do not profit from persecution or oppression.  For Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola an interesting and rather broad understanding of persecution and oppression seems to have been applied. I cannot help but wonder whether the same level of scrutiny has been applied to every investment held in the portfolio and a stand against oppression and persecution is consistently applied to the many horrors and traumas suffered by victims of hatred and war across the globe and even here in this country.

 There are many ways to constructively engage in the Middle East.  I understand the Presbyterian community has been so involved in the West Bank and in Israel.  These were areas where we were in agreement, where we could work together where we would not undermine or attack the intrinsic values of the other.  However, the Church has decided to take another course.  It is a divisive course that has done great damage to our relationship.

 I deeply hope for peace in the Middle East.  It is good for everyone in the region and it is good for humanity.  I hope that we can find ways to repair the damage that has been caused by this action.  I know your commitment to the principles of your faith and I hope you can appreciate the effect these actions have.

Thank you for the chance to share this with you.