Friday, April 19, 2024

Ignorant Jews and their 'Judaism'

Dr. Nemat Shafik testifying at yesterday's congressional hearing (Forward)
Emily Tamkim is a case study in ignorance about both academic freedom - and especially Judaism. She should be embarrassed by her comments on both issues

In her opinion piece in the Forward, Tamkin first quoted Nara Milanich, a professor of history at Barnard College who said the following: 

“I think President (Dr. Nemat) Shafik had an opportunity to stand up for the values of academic freedom, free speech and the value of the university to research, teach, and engage on difficult issues,” Milanich wrote. “She chose not to do so.” 

Really? Calling for the genocide of the Jewish people is a protected right of free speech?! And praising the mass murder of 1200 Jews by a group whose published goal is the extermination of the Jewish people is  right granted by academic Freedom?!  Praising or advocating mass murder of an entire people is OK with her?! 

How would she feel about Jewish protestors calling for the extermination of the Palestinian people? Or a Jewish professor who said that Baruch Goldstein's slaughter of innocent Palestinians was amazing? I highly doubt that she would say that he has that right. He would probably be fired in a heartbeat. Tenured or not.  

Free speech cannot include calling for genocide. And academic freedom cannot include praising mass murderers.  It should be no different than yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater and calling it free speech. Academic freedom – like free speech stops when it results in - or incites harm to others.

Furthermore her criticism of the committee members that questioned President Shafik about her schools antisemitism having their own antisemitic baggage is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether there is currently any antisemitism on her campus today. Evil is still evil no matter who points it out.

What bothered me even more is her view about Israel’s relevance to the Jewish people. Which was indicated by the following excerpt from her column: 

Law professor David Schizer, co-chair of Columbia’s task force on antisemitism, testified alongside Shafik, and stated that Israel “is a core part of Jewish identity.” “That is false,” Sheldon Pollock, an emeritus professor of South Asian studies at Columbia, wrote me in an email. “Many Jews are indifferent to Zionism, or are non-Zionists, or are anti-Zionists, something abundantly attested to in the history of Jewish nationalism over the last 150 years.” Schizer’s misconception, Pollock continued, was a prime example of the acute confusion about antisemitism itself, which, ostensibly, is what the hearing was about. 

To quote someone (Jewish or not)  whose knowledge of Judaism is about the same as my Mexican neighbor is both deceptive and wrong. All one has to do to realize how important Israel is to Jewish identity is to open the bible. It’s all there in black and white.

That there are Jews who are ignorant of the bible and their own Jewish heritage and probably never even cracked open the bible, our foundational document, makes them clueless about what actually is important to the Jewish people.  

Any Jew who says Israel is not important to them would probably say that Shabbos and Kashrus is not important to them. Sadly, I wouldn’t even be surprised if their very Jewish identity isn’t important to them. That has unfortunately been borne out by the massive decline in Jewish identity by secular Jews  and their high rate of intermarriage. The younger they are, the more that seems to be true.

I’m sure there are exceptions. But I’m pretty sure that the kind of Jews that are anti Israel are drawn from that crowd. Where Torah is either ignored if not downright disparaged

To be absolutely clear, this is not to say that any criticism of Israel is illegitimate. The Agudah criticizes Israel all the time. Not because Israel isn’t a part of their Jewish identity. But because they are opposed to  some of Israel’s polices as it affects their religious beliefs and practices.

I am so sick of ignorant Jews like Tampkin explaining Judaism to the world. If she really wants to do that, she ought to take a few years off and get an authentic Jewish education. She could use one.