Alumni accuse institutions of failing to address rising anti-Semitism and being indifferent to Israel's right to self-defense.
In the wake of the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas, alumni of prestigious universities in the U.S. and Canada are leveraging their financial contributions to demand a more balanced or pro-Israel stance from their alma maters.
During these critical times when global anti-Semitism is rising and calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people persist, there is a moral imperative to stand unequivocally with Israel—the only democracy in the Middle East and the Jewish homeland. Some universities, however, appear to neglect this obligation, offering ambiguous or even biased statements regarding Israel’s right to self-defense.
HOW HARVARD AND PENN RESPONDED TO THE HOSTILITIES
Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have come under scrutiny for their inadequate responses to the conflict. Both schools issued statements that disappointed many of their alumni.
Harvard's president, Lawrence Bacow, called for "a peaceful resolution that affirms the human dignity of all parties," without directly acknowledging or condemning Hamas' acts of terror against Israel. Some alumni found this approach lackluster and hypocritical, particularly given the administration's vocal stances against other forms of discrimination and hate crimes.
Among the dissatisfied is Charles Jacobs, a Harvard graduate and president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance. He asserts that Harvard must explicitly condemn anti-Semitism and affirm Israel's right to self-defense to merit his continued financial support.
Similarly, Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, issued an email that was seen as too neutral and failed to acknowledge Israel’s right to protect its citizens. Notable alumni, like Howard Lutnick, chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, have voiced their disappointment and intent to withhold donations until the university adopts a pro-Israel stance.
The question of how universities should address the Israel-Hamas hostilities transcends politics—it's deeply rooted in Jewish identity and values. Israel is not just a political entity but the realization of a biblical promise and a refuge for Jews worldwide.
That said, Jewish tradition also calls for compassion and the sanctity of all human life. As Jews, we strive for a world of peace and universal redemption, guided by the teachings of luminaries like the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
The recent hostilities have highlighted existing fractures in academia regarding the State of Israel. While some donors aim to influence their alma maters to adopt a more balanced or pro-Israel stance, the underlying issue is profoundly moral and spiritual. As members of the Jewish community, we have a unique obligation to not only support Israel but to foster peace and educate others about the complex realities of the Jewish state. In doing so, we inch closer to a world where "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).