From:                              Jewish Federation New Bedford [amir@jewishnewbedford.org]

Sent:                               Friday, January 03, 2014 8:39 PM

To:                                   office@jewishnewbedford.org

Subject:                          The Bulletin - A Community Update for January 3rd, 2014

The Bulletin - A Community Update for January 3rd, 2014

 

Happy 2014!

 

I want to thank everyone who made a contribution by December 31st.  With YOUR terrific support, OUR Jewish Federation can achieve its goal of fostering a vibrant, collaborative Jewish community. 

 

 

One Theme for This First Bulletin of 2014

Two issues were central to conversations in Jewish “life” these past few weeks.  Both happen to be in the area of academia.

The first issue is the expansion of efforts by the “boycott and divestment of Israel” community into the area of academic boycotts.

The interesting development was the vote by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli universities.  The vote backfired badly for the ASA and as of today more than 100 universities have distanced themselves from the decision. It is encouraging to see that the prevailing stance on the role of academic work remains one of interaction between peoples uninfluenced by ethnic, religious or political views. 

In our backyard at UMASS Dartmouth the following statement was issued by Chancellor Grossman earlier today:


I feel compelled to address the recent and troubling vote by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions. This action, punishing one nation's intellectual community to advance a geopolitical agenda, is an assault on the academic freedom that we so cherish. At a time when our planet faces a host of perilous and complex threats, we must do everything possible to protect and nurture, rather than obstruct, the flow of ideas.
 
 As the American Association of Universities Executive Committee stated in reference to the ASA boycott: "Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts."

For more reading on the subject, there is this article from JTA, as well as an opinion from Huff Post which, for the purpose of balance, presents the other view.  This debate will no doubt continue as will the “soft boycott” of Israeli universities that has been going on (quietly) for many years.

The second story of interest features the decision by Swarthmore College Hillel to declare itself an Open Hillel.  Rejecting Hillel International Guidelines for Campus Israel Activity, Swarthmore Hillel chose to invite an anti-Zionist speaker to an event.  This debate is one that some try to categorize as one of free speech.  It is not.  That Hillel has the right to provide guidelines along with its millions of dollars in funding there is no doubt.  At the same time, the very nature of student life, filled with debate and learning, may just be reason enough for open conversation and even future adjustments to Hillel policy.

Interesting points of view were presented by Elisheva Goldberg in The Daily Beast as well as Leo Rennert in American Thinker.

I also recommend reading Andrew Silow Carroll on this debate.

[Full disclosure:  Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor of New Jersey Jewish News, a publication where I was once the publisher.  He is also the inaugural winner of the David Twersky Award for Jewish Journalism, an award I created.  And while on the topic of disclosure, please note that the links I share do not represent my personal opinions.  I try to bring topical conversations to your attention while providing a balanced point of view.]

Shabbat Shalom,

Amir

The Bulletin is a weekly email from Amir Cohen, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford.  I welcome your feedback at amir@jewishnewbedford.org