Remedial education for Harvard on antisemitism

Posted on January 29, 2024 In Op-ed

It seems that Harvard University’s leaders require remedial education in responding to Jew-hatred. So, let’s begin.

Last month, I sat in the hearing in which the president of Harvard, Claudine Gay, failed to clearly condemn those on her campus calling for the genocide of Jews.

It was a simple question posed to the leader of the nation’s most prestigious Ivy League school. As we all saw, Gay’s failure to answer provoked a firestorm, leading to her resignation.

Down the row from my seat in the hearing room, and right behind president Gay, sat Alan Garber, who was named interim president of Harvard following Gay’s resignation. Harvard alumni such as myself were hopeful Garber would restore the religious freedom we were accustomed to when we walked across Harvard Yard wearing a yarmulka without concern.

However, Garber hasn’t learned a lesson from his predecessor’s fate. Indeed, Harvard University is once again failing to respond to the challenge of antisemitism on its campus adequately.

The college will host a summer program briefing students on “settler colonialism” at a Palestinian university that called for “glory to martyrs.” Posters of Israeli hostages are still being vandalized. And interim-president Garber has just announced a new task force to fight antisemitism and appointed as its head a professor who signed an open letter in August condemning the Israeli government for “ethnically cleansing territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population.”

It’s time to begin with the basics

It seems that Harvard University’s leaders require remedial education in responding to Jew hatred. So, let’s begin.

A is for action. We are past the window of forming investigative task forces that sit and discuss the nuances of Jewish peoplehood and modern Zionism. Students are being harassed in food halls and locked in libraries.

It’s time for action. Columbia suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) for violating campus event policies. Brandeis banned SJP over social media posts that defended Hamas. Harvard should follow suit.

B is for business, not as usual. The way the Gay administration handled antisemitism was ineffective. There’s no use in continuing along the same path. Acting-president Garber must address these issues with stricter penalties for those perpetuating antisemitic behavior and increased security resources for Jewish students on campus.

C is for consistency. If Harvard continues to have policies designed to protect different segments of its student body from harassment on the basis of their race, gender ,or ethnicity, those same policies need to be applied to Jewish students who are targeted on the basis of their religion. Inclusion needs to be inclusive.

D is for definition. Harvard should endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which underscores that antisemitism includes denying Jewish self-determination to their ancestral homeland of Israel. This would settle the “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” debate once and for all and see to it that Israel is not used as a veil for antisemitism.

E is for example. Harvard gets outsized attention in this debate because they have built a brand name as the leading example of American educational excellence. Harvard must act to get this right, or it will continue to be an example of a failing entity.

We could go on through the alphabet, but the time for this first lesson is up.

The free and safe Harvard where I and many others have studied can be restored. But only if interim-president Garber, the members of the Harvard Corporation, and the university leadership learn lessons from their failures and successfully pass the test of the moment.

Can America’s leading university identify antisemitism and act to protect its Jewish students?

Source: The Jerusalem Post