Carter at Cardozo, and the Commonality of Communal Failure

The Jimmy Carter debacle may tell us more about the values and principles of our community than we bargained for. Subgroups that believe they have little in common seem to behave – or misbehave – in similar fashion.

By the time Carter appeared at Cardozo Law School to accept an award from the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the event had earned the condemnation of the ZOA, the National Council of Young Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the ADL. These organizations had little choice. Carter, alongside Desmond Tutu, has been among the most damaging public figures to the Jewish State. He gave the “apartheid” calumny a good name; he has been vociferously anti-Israel and flirted with Hamas terrorism. As a paid shill of the Saudis who support him, this is hardly unexpected. The fact that he is a puppet jerked back and forth by his handlers does not, unfortunately, put a dent in the high-profile damage he does to Jewish interests.

This was not merely an issue of Jewish pride dictating that, in today’s world, an Israel-hater is a Jew-hater, and Jewish institutions ought not be seen as supportive of honoring those who hate us. Carter is far more dangerous than that. The global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has become the weapon of choice of the Palestinians. It seeks to do what they cannot do on the battlefield – defeat Israel by turning her into a pariah state, slowly destabilizing her economy and standard of living till the Israeli that have not emigrated will tire of the entire enterprise of sustaining her. BDS needs the support of people who speak with moral authority. Jimmy Carter is one of its greatest assets. Carter’s ability after yesterday’s appearance to claim respectability even in Jewish circles is far more dangerous than anything a few Neturei Karta kooks can ever do in Teheran. Concerning those who strenghthen Carter’s hand, the Torah’s words (Shemos 5:21) state its condemnation with stinging clarity: “You have made our scent abhorrent…to place a sword in their hands to murder us.”

Who was responsible? Certainly not YU President Richard Joel, who did as good a damage control job as could be done. No one believes that university presidents speak freely. We all know that some board of donors determines policy.

Some people argued that there were no degrees of freedom available to Yeshiva. Cardozo is a secular institution, as is Yeshiva College and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As secular institutions, they cannot impose the moral preferences of Jews – and certainly not Torah Jews – on the academic communities of those schools.

This sounded hollow to many. Think of how many Jewish student groups have been told in recent years that they could not host pro-Israel speaker X or Israeli spokesperson Y because of “security issues.” The Cardozo students could have been told that the law school could not adequately provide for the security needs of such an event, forcing the students to seek a different venue, off-campus. No PC lines need to have been crossed, but Carter would not be able to claim that he spoke under the aegis of the YU administration. Moreover, a host of entirely secular schools have intervened against particular speakers they found to be highly objectionable, apparently without consequence. Why did we not see more pushback from the administration against this event?

Let us put this approach aside for the moment. For the sake of argument, let us assume that YU had no choice put to allow the event, because secular institutions must play along with the expectation of absolute freedom of expression. Does this not beg the question? Why must divisions of YU be fastidiously secular? I have taught in two law schools, both Christian. Loyola’s Christianity is all but invisible. Pepperdine’s, however, is very much in evidence – and it is of a right-leaning, evangelical kind of Christian flavor. The school articulates principles of behavior that faculty and students are supposed to uphold. If this compromises Federal funding (I don’t know if this is the case), the church faithful make up the difference, because they are attracted to support their kind of school.

Why doesn’t YU act the way so many church schools do? Conflicts of this sort are not new. (Remember the controversies over gay roommates at Einstein, and a gay club at Cardozo?) There has been adequate time for the people who make the decisions at YU to mull over the price they have paid in the past, and will certainly pay again in the future, for spinning off certain schools as secular institutions. Today they aided and abetted the enemy.

Why have they acted this way? They are good people, certainly not haters of Israel. It is hard to imagine that many of them did not find today’s event contemptible. Yet, they were the ones who should have anticipated that once a school goes the secular route, they lose control over who speaks, and what they say.

The answer, of course, is money – and prestige. Weighing the pros and cons, a group of people decided that they could live with the foreseeable conflicts with Jewish values and interests, if the stakes were high enough.

There is much irony in this. Ask these people what they hate about charedim in Israel. One of the items they will mention is that charedim can be bought by each government. Offer them enough money for their institutions, and they will vote for whatever the ruling coalition asks them to vote. They don’t have strong opinions about the political and social issues that the rest of the electorate agonizes over. Their moral sense – about everything other than the future of Torah institutions – is either absent or for sale. This perception, it is argued (and it is difficult to disagree) makes a mockery of our Torah which is supposed to promote both insight into the hard questions of life, as well as a sense of responsibility for the people as a whole. The rest of Israel sees both of these lacking in charedi politics.

Today we discovered that the same attitude operates just as well in the Modern Orthodox world. It sacrificed ideals for dollars, principle for prestige.

We could summarize the last paragraphs by saying that people who live in cash houses shouldn’t throw stones at charedim!

Either both sets of behavior – the sellout by the YU board, and the tunnel vision of Israeli charedim – are defensible, or neither is. (My leanings are to the latter.)

It could even be argued that the charedi position is the more defensible one. Charedim are so committed to the values of limud Torah, that nothing else seems to count. They will sacrifice other values for a single, quintessential one. The sacrifice at YU is not, it would seem, for an all-important value, but for the well-being of a single institution.

Perhaps there is a difference between those choices. Perhaps there isn’t. Maybe we ought to consult a recognized authority in moral discernment. I wonder what Jimmy Carter would say.

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28 Responses

  1. Ayala Cohen says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I always enjoy reading your articles. Your well-reasoned and thoughtful prose is very much needed in the frum velt.

    Having said that, I had an issue with one point in this article. You wrote: “Think of how many Jewish student groups have been told in recent years that they could not host pro-Israel speaker X or Israeli spokesperson Y because of “security issues.” The Cardozo students could have been told that the law school could not adequately provide for the security needs of such an event, forcing the students to seek a different venue, off-campus. No PC lines need to have been crossed, but Carter would not be able to claim that he spoke under the aegis of the YU administration.”

    That feels like Sheker (untruth). Doesn’t the Torah teach us MeDvar Sheker Tirchak? Just because Jewish student groups have experienced Sheker doesn’t make it right to do the same thing to others by lying about security concerns. Is lying ever justified to prevent a person who promotes the opposite of peace from receiving an award as a peacemaker. I don’t know; I am not a posek halacha. But it smells wrong to me.

    Humbly, a reader and fan of your work.

  2. Yehuda says:

    There may be a perception that chareidim care about nothing other than their Torah mosdos – however, as in most cases of perception, this is incorrect.
    Although chareidi parties have supported all kinds of government, this does not mean that they are apolitical. Far from it! However, the reality is that there are admirable (and reprehensible) qualities on both sides of the political divide and neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on either truth or morality – which should be obvious.
    Then, consider “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam” which surely should weigh in on this argument.
    I wish the writer would have just written an article on the topic at hand (Carter) and left the chareidim out of it. Why did he feel a need to indulge in the bashing so prevalent today? It’s not as if YU is at the top of the roster of chareidi-haters, so that he felt obligated to expose its hypocrisy, if indeed it exists.
    If certain people and sectors really do appreciate the value of Torah study, then I fail to understand why they cannot approve of funding it, just as other mitzvos so keenly promoted by other sectors (specifically, yishuv h’Aretz) are heavily funded by the government. The issue of “We pay taxes so we are entitled to receive government money in return for our projects” is a smokescreen. Really, there should be no such linkage:
    1- Chareidim DO pay taxes in many forms.
    2- Chareidim benefit less from government funding of all kinds of things (cultural, educational etc.) than other sectors and arguably receive LESS percentage-wise for their contribution to the state coffers – this needs to have hard figures to back this up and I don’t think any of the contributors to this site – whether commenters or writers – have the data to make a claim either way, including myself – nonetheless, it is certainly possible that my hypothesis is entirely correct, and people should think hard about it before making the emotional argument that “You are just a bunch of takers.”
    3- There is no logical reason to link tax contribution to government funding. In a democracy, sectors lobby for their interests and any success they have in getting their demands met is part and parcel of the political process. To focus solely on chareidi success in getting (a very limited number of) their demands met is discriminatory.
    In answer to this, some people retort that chareidim should be held to a higher moral standard. Well, do such people really think that chareidim are NOT more moral than the rest of the population? Honestly? I really think anyone who puts forward the claim that chareidim, who work on their middos, constantly strengthen their observance of shemiras halashon etc, has not spent any serious amount of time in the chareidi world, unless they were there solely in order to find fault.

    One last comment, on “What can we do to lessen the hatred?” I think the hatred directed towards the chareidi community partly stems from the self-critical attitude chareidim have to themselves. I don’t find any great degree of the soul-searching so common in the chareidi world ANYwhere else. It is not, as some commenters have asserted, a simple case of “They hate us and that’s why they’re doing all this.” Individuals and leaders are doing a great deal of cheshbon hanefesh regarding this current tekufah just as we do in any time of hardship. I don’t see that going on anywhere else.

    I know that I’m going to get fired on for this post. I’ve been disappointed in the past with the nature of the responses to my posts, as the majority of responses either deliberately or unfortunately misunderstood what I wrote. (One example: I wrote that the rise of political Zionism led to a deterioration in the security situation, and one comment responded that the 1929 massacres seem to prove me wrong. Of course 1929 was way AFTER the rise of political Zionism, which was exactly my point.)

    Fellow Jews – please! Remember who you are! We are the people whose devotion to Torah and mitzvos produced great tzaddikim, holy people who could work miracles, holy people whose devotion to their fellow Jews has no parallel, holy people who were recognized as such even by the non-Jews. This doesn’t come from learning the core curriculum or even from serving in the army! This comes from a desire to serve Hashem as purely as possible. And yes, it definitely comes from a great effort made to preserve personal kedushah which obviously includes gender separation and shemiras einayim.
    Yes, of course the majority of chareidim are not great tzaddikim such as the individuals any of you can think of. Yet, we aspire to their heights. Perhaps we have been setting our sights too low. This can be corrected – it must be corrected. Time is running out and being sucked into the vortex of hatred will not solve any problems.

  3. DF says:

    I’m not sure there’s any valid comparison between the Charedi way of life, and one university’s decision to allow one speaker to speak at its law school. However, the first and main part of the article – assuming the point of the article was not merely an attempt to defend charedim – is certainly correct. I highly doubt Fordham or Georgetown law school would ever allow a speaker antithetical to their Jesuit values. Shameful that YU allowed Carter in.

    The good news is that Carter doesnt have any respectability. He is widely reviled as the worst president of, at least, the 20th century, and preaches only to the choir of those already predisposed to his own brand of politics. Nobody is convincing anyone to do something or not do something on the basis of, “Well, Jimmy Carter thinks it’s a good idea.”

  4. Nachum says:

    First of all, any claims that the school couldn’t “handle” the event would be seen through in a second. The same event has hosted Bill Clinton in the past.

    Second, I’m afraid you’re posting without knowing all the legal facts. It’s not the Federal government that’s the issue here so much as the State: Neither Loyola nor Pepperdine are in New York, which has fanatic anti-religious education laws that go back to 19th Century Nativist anti-Catholic politics. That’s the whole reason YU split in 1970, and why they’re so careful to this day. There’s also the question of funding to graduate schools- not that many religious institutions have major medical schools, which get lots of federal money, for example. And the government has ways of making you bend. Do you know how many institutions of higher learning in the US are entirely free of government money? One, I think.

    Look, I think YU should fight these laws all the way to the Supreme Court if they have to. (They’d probably lose, because the country has gone mad.) But for some reason they don’t, maybe because they don’t have the might of a major Christian Church behind them. But they’re definitely acting very rationally and doing as much as they can, and I think they were due a bit more consideration before you penned this- you could have called someone at YU or in their legal department, consulted a lawyer that knows New York, etc.

  5. Chaim Saiman says:

    Go ahead and criticize YU, and the issue of whether YU should have “secular” divisions is a legitimate and important question. But the analogy to the charedim does not hold. You are comparing a one time act initiated by a group of law students and wherein the institutional leadership voiced its discomfort to a the charedim’s central political ideology that has been consistently articulated and implemented by its communal leadership for the past 40+ years.

    [YA – Point well taken, but it does not detract from mine. I was not criticizing “YU” as an institution or a hashkafa. Neither was I aiming at whitewashing charedi policies on funding its institutions. I merely pointed out the irony in that charedim are so roundly criticized for putting funding ahead of other factors, while in fact no group has a monopoly on putting funding (and/or prestige) ahead of principle. The vast majority of YU grads that I know were deeply disappointed that the administration did not find a way out of this dilemma. With few exceptions, they are not severing their relationship with YU. They would like to see the administration adopt a policy that will give it the ability to vet appearances by outsiders, and occasionally employ it.]

  6. Bob Miller says:

    If students at some other university decided to honor the antisemitic liar Jimmy Carter, that, too, would be objectionable. That, too, would be a sign of deficient education.

    The question particular to YU is: should all its component schools and departments have any specifically Jewish mission, or should some be exempt? If so, are the exempt schools and departments entitled to any special support whatsoever from Jews, beyond what Jews would give to a comparable non-Jewish entity?

  7. Ben Ploni says:

    2 points –

    Not sure what you meant that students have been told in recent years that they could not host pro-Israel speaker X or Israeli spokesperson Y because of “security issues.” Has this happended in Cardozo? As an alum there, I do not recall ever being told or hearing about a group not being permitted to bring in a speaker.

    Also, not sure if you did this on purpose, but nice reference to Desmond Tutu. This same journal bestowed the same award on him about 10 years ago. One key difference though. Last night after all of the press and bluster, there was nary a protest or protester to be seen at Cardozo. When Tutu came, it was very different and actually a little embarassing for Cardozo. . .

    [YA – Other schools. Not Cardozo]

  8. Daniel says:

    So I’ve been waiting for you to weigh in on this. But I was more looking for a piece about the wisdom of our reaction.

    We know Carter is a kook, and most conservatives agree. But he is a former president and is considered well within the mainstream. And because of that, most people who read about this in the NYT or on Above the Law think we’re crazy.

  9. lacosta says:

    sometimes ‘vayidom aharon’ is the only good response to criticism….

    as to jimmy carter’s prestige [ see DF’s remarks], remember that outside the US , most of the world’s countries agree that israel is an apartheid state.
    it is only the christian right keeping the US , who bottom-line could squeeze Israel into line , if not for pblic pressure. but as RYA knows , most people under 30, and one would have to include non-O jews in that group , are either non-zionist , pro-palestinian , or anti-israel… americans should get used to BDS
    discussions as it will be the coming wave…

  10. dr. bill says:

    your analogy is, as you at least hypothesize, debatable. i find it odd, but that is not my focus. i suspect that YU’s board sees more than just prestige and money; they might feel both jewish pride and programming are enabled by various schools in a university. one can certainly debate the halakhic status of such jewish values, as one can debate the halakhic permissability of community wide limmud hatorah only. but to assume it is only prestige and money that motivates the board, misjudges the values of others as well as the memory of giants who strove to bring it about.

  11. joel rich says:

    DF- from Wikipedia
    “Georgetown has drawn criticism from religious groups such as the Cardinal Newman Society for hosting speeches from prominent pro-choice politicians, including John Kerry and Barack Obama,[36][37] and from Washington’s Archbishop, Donald Wuerl, for inviting Kathleen Sebelius to be a commencement speaker.[38] The university does host the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life every January to discuss the pro-life movement.[39]

    Between 1996 and 1999, crucifixes were added to many classroom walls, attracting national attention.[40] Before 1996, crucifixes had hung only in hospital rooms and historic classrooms.[41] Some of these crucifixes are historic works of art, and are noted as such.[42] According to Imam Yahya Hendi, the school’s on-campus Muslim cleric, pressure to remove the crucifixes comes from within the Catholic community, while he and other campus faith leaders have defended their placement.[43] The Intercultural Center is an exception to this controversy, rotating displays of various faith and culture symbols in the lobby.[44]

    BTW IMHO the Carter thing is not the issue, the issue is how you view engagement with secular studies. Prohibited?, then there’s nothing to discuss. After the fact? then just go to Brooklyn College or Hopkins and let them and the individual student find a modus vivendi. Integral to Yiddishkeit? then wrestle with do you need graduate schools and what trade offs in micro halacha are made for meta issues (similar to whether you allow adoption in the face of yichud issues)


  12. Joe says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I think you’re underestimating what damage would be done if Cardozo dis-invited a president of the United States. They should never have given him the honor, but once it was offered, there wasn’t a good way back.

    [YA – I’m not sure either whether they could have nixed the invitation. My point was that there would have been more leeway to avert the appearance if the separation of core Torah values from some YU affiliates were not so complete. As far as damage, I’m not sure you are correct. Our community has been pretty upfront with sitting Presidents about the things that are important to us. Repudiating a past president with no real standing is not a Federal crime.]

  13. Reb Yid says:

    How short our memories all are.

    Pro-choice Barack Obama was the commencement speaker at Notre Dame in 2009. Last year at Georgetown, pro-choice Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the commencement speaker–because she was selected by M.A. candidates at Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute.

  14. E. Fink says:

    Why doesn’t YU act the way so many church schools do?

    Why should they? 90% of the school is not orthodox. I don’t understand why anyone thinks the university should impose its views on its students? Love him or hate him, getting a US President to your school is an amazing accomplishment and can easily outweigh the concerns of a frum administration in the eyes of secular law students. Which secular college grads are going to go to a law school that tells you what to think? And that you must have the same opinions as the school? I can’t believe you’re making this argument.

    What about Pepperdine? There are MILLIONS of Evangelicals who will go to an Evangelical law school. All jokes about Jewish lawyers aside, Cardozo needs to be a secular institution simply to survive.

    [YA – 1) A colleague who teaches at a Christian law school – and is a YU grad himself – put it best. He said that he is jealous of the Christians because they have laws schools they can call their own, while frum Jews do not. 2) Not only is it on the list of top 25, it is well within the top ten]

    Much ado about nothing.

    And is that really the complaint about charedim? That they can be bought? It probably wouldn’t even make a Top 25 list.

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Your statement, “The Cardozo students could have been told that the law school could not adequately provide for the security needs of such an event, forcing the students to seek a different venue, off-campus. ” is incorrect because President Carter has lifetime Secret Service protection. Any such statement would be immediately identified as a lie.

    [YA No more of a lie than when it was successfully used by other schools. What would the consequences of lying be? Student grievances? Sure, you can’t do this every day – but you can get away with it occasionally.]

    “Remember the controversies over gay roommates at Einstein”

    Yeshiva University fought this in the courts, and lost.

    [YA – This should indeed be remembered to their credit.]

    Interestingly, the decision was handed down July 2, 2001, my first day as an Einstein faculty member.

    “for spinning off certain schools as secular institutions. Today they aided and abetted the enemy.”

    First of all, the University did not invite Carter, a student group did. The “they” is the students, not the institution.

    [YA That will NOT deter our enemies from distorting the facts, and using the appearance to their advantage.]

    Second, it is not possible to run a medical school according to rabbinic directives. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine is a secular medical school that does some good research, and provides a frum-friendly place for Orthodox Jewish students to become MDs and PhDs (although there are now vanishingly few Orthodox Jews getting PhDs these days). The cafeteria is kosher, there are never any classes on Shabat or holidays, and there is a strong on-campus Orthodox student community with a nice new synagogue and an outstanding young rabbi. But rabbis can’t interfere with either research or teaching.

    Should Orthodox Jewish students be forced to go to a medical school where they have exams on Yomim Tovim? Should YU have divested of its residential housing after the *Levin* decision, destroying its student community? An isolationist charedi could smugly say, “yes”, but what doctor would he see when he is sick? Certainly not a frum Jew!

    [YA I can’t say whether the price is worth paying, or even whether the gain today resembles what it was when people were concerned about admissions of frum applicants to medical schools. That pressure has subsided. And lots of those applicants are accommodated quite well in many other schools, including reasonable accommodation of their shmiras Shabbos. I will defer to you as the professional in this matter. From the perspective of a complete layperson, your last point is the easiest to grasp. Personally, I do not need to go to frum physicians – although most of mine happen to be! (None of them AECM grads, though.) I would not be able to make heads or tails of many complex halachic issues without the insight of AECM trained physicians who also have a yad in halacha.]

  16. Charlie Hall says:

    “He is widely reviled as the worst president of, at least, the 20th century”

    Not even close. Read about Warren Harding some time. And both Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford were far worse as far as Israel is concerned. Carter’s anti-Semitism didn’t appear until after he left office.

  17. Charlie Hall says:

    “the commencement speaker”

    Dr. Howard Dean was the commencement speaker for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2003. It was his 25th reunion — he is probably the most famous person ever to earn a degree from Yeshiva University as far as the general public is concerned.

  18. Ss says:

    If you do a web search, you will find that the Journal is student run. How do you know that the YU Board or the Cardozo Board for that matter, or YU donors, decided to honor Carter or influenced that decision? While I wholeheartedly agree that the choice was terrible to say the least, how are you sure that it was influenced by monetary considerations?

    [YA – I didn’t mean the decision to honor Carter. I have no information about the attitude of the Board. I meant the decision to turn some of the YU affiliates into completely secular institutions, without retaining a strong mission statement embrace of traditional Torah values. The latter would not stop every affront to what we cherish, but would allow some leeway from time to time to bar events that are entirely out of bounds – like a Carter visit. Again, some Christian schools don’t shy away from standing by core principles.]

  19. Raymond says:

    A late, great Rabbi often spoke about how difficult it may be to remove the Jew from the ghetto, what is even more challenging is trying to remove the ghetto from the Jew. I think that it what happened in this case involving Yeshiva University and the notorious antisemite Jimmy Carter. Too many Jews somehow feel guilty for their existence, and put far too much value in pleasing the gentile world. This case is simply a more extreme and visible example of what continues to be so pervasive among too many Jews.

  20. Joseph says:

    The Torah shows us at least two instances from which we learn that it is permitted to deviate from absolute truth for the sake of peace. The Midrash adds the regular practice of Aharon, the pursuer and lover of peace, who would lie in order to bring parties of conflicts back together.

    In this instance, lying so as to prevent damage to the Jewish People and to the reputation of a valuable institution seems an acceptable course of action.

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    Even though the logistics of me attending Cardozo and of getting a job upon graduating from there are next to impossible, on a lark, I applied to Cardozo for the fall. My application is still under review but if I am admitted, I plan to write a letter of non-acceptance and your article certainly has given me fodder for my canon!

  21. Bob Miller says:

    Reb Yid’s comment illustrates that two Catholic universities have strayed from their own ideals into liberalism. This is not the best model for YU.

  22. Mr. Cohen says:

    Former USA President Jimmy Carter helped to get rid of the Shah of Iran, which led directly to the current Islamic terrorist government in Iran.
    He totally failed to end the Iranian hostage crisis, which ended the same day as his term as USA President.

    Jimmy Carter loved Arab nations and hated Israel; he had nothing but praise for Arabs, and nothing but rebuke for Israel.
    Jimmy Carter often publicly rebuked Israel for being “intransigent,” a word which he applied exclusively to Israel
    and never to Arabs and never to anyone else.

    Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State was the first ever holder of that office to meet with Yassir Arafat of the terrorist PLO.

    I distinctly remember that Jimmy Carter smiled warmly when he looked at Egyptian President Anwar Sadat,
    but when he looked at Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel, the expression on Jimmy Carter’s face
    was a scowl, and seemed to imply that Menachem Begin was worthy of rebuke and contempt.

    Jimmy Carter blamed his failed re-election attempt on the Jews, even though 85% of Jews voted for him;
    in Jimmy Carter’s mind, anything less than 100% of Jews voting for him was unacceptable, and he publicly
    vowed revenge against Israel to punish Jews for their “betrayal.”

  23. David F. says:

    This incident is a stain on YU that will not easily be erased. If their vaunted “principles” allowed them to bring in an outspoken anti-semite to speak and be honored, these principles are well out of step with Torah principles and cannot be justified. So much for meshing Torah and the modern world seamlessly. Nothing seamless about this one and YU is the flagship of the MO world.

    Until recently, one of the main complaints the MO world had toward Charedim was that they don’t sufficiently support the state or care about Zionism. Well, if they truly cared about the State and were so concerned about sharing the burden, the first they could have done was not make the burden any more difficult. Honoring Jimmy Carter only makes it more difficult as Rabbi Adlerstein pointed out.

    There’s just no way to spin this one and still come out looking good. For shame!

  24. Reb Yid says:

    I see that Rand Paul just spoke at Howard University’s Business School, despite Paul’s less than stellar civil rights record.

  25. QCK says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, you wrote:

    “The answer, of course, is money – and prestige. Weighing the pros and cons, a group of people decided that they could live with the foreseeable conflicts with Jewish values and interests, if the stakes were high enough.”

    I find this assumption – as well as its connection to problems in other Jewish communities – off the mark. Why assume this isn’t a matter of principle? Why pretend that freedom of speech is not a value of the school? Why assume the worst when President Joel’s own statement (“Yeshiva University both celebrates and takes seriously its obligation as a university to thrive as a free marketplace of ideas”; indicates otherwise?

    “Some people argued” that YU could have cited security concerns to disassociate themselves from the event. Thankfully, everyone (the general, non-Jewish public included) knows that there were no security concerns. “Some people argued” that in any event, this is a lie that YU could have gotten away with (please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you might be one of these people). As a YU graduate, I’m proud of the fact that they had the integrity to avoid that route. I’m also proud that the culture there is such that physical violence towards Carter is seen as a complete non-option, which would have made such a lie incredibly obvious. (Statements from a few alumni to block his entrance would barely qualify as violence, and ultimately they were nothing but empty threats.)

    If anything, YU’s principled (i.e. not money-driven) refusal to employ such bully-tactics is precisely what separates them from certain groups of Jews who have no problem doing so. I see this unfortunate incident as proof for the exact opposite of what you contend it represents. Perhaps the more influential voices of YU have come to see that bully tactics are the worst way to win (and in the long run, lose) an argument – again, why assume that this incident proves greed, and not principle?

    [YA – You may of course be correct. But I hope not. “Free speech” is a value I cherish as an American, and would not like to live in any country that did not guarantee it. But it is not a Torah value. Speech is anything but free in a halachic system. The Chofetz Chaim begins his eponymous work with a list of over 40 mitzvos and transgressions that limit speech, the vast majority of which are protected by the US Constitution. I hope that no group within YU has determined that the value of free speech is more important than our communal interests.]

  26. DF says:

    Actually, Rand Paul’s record on civil rights is 100% “stellar.” Opposing the groutesqe extortion game that special interest groups and trial lawyers have turned the ADA, ADEA, FMLA, (etc, etc) into does not make one an opponent of “civil rights.” It makes one a patriot.

    But I digress. It is true, as Charlie Hall notes, that both Einsein and Cardozo, and probably all YU-grad schools, have some form of anti-halachic dictates they must comply with in order to remain viable. But the question is one of degrees. Some things are easier to avoid than others. Finding means to avoid Jimmy Carter [yes, worse than Warren Harding] is fairly easy to do. YU should have found a way. No, this doesnt mean YU is morally bankrupt, it is comparatively low on the list of mortal sins, and I’ve already said I dont think it can be compared to the charedi world of pay for play. But did YU do right here? No. Is it something they should be ashamed of? Yes.

  27. Reb Yid says:

    Google “Rand Paul” and “Civil Rights Act of 1964”. I rest my case.

    Carter helped to end the state of war between Israel and Egypt, is an ex-President and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Whatever his shortcomings, I guess to be called a kosher Zionist nowadays means to diss the Camp David Accords whenever one can. For YU to have dissed him after the invitation was already extended would frankly have been a chillul hashem and given Orthodox Jews of all stripes a very bad name.

  28. chana says:

    I’m sorry, but I think it is extremely unfair to state so definitively that this is about “money and prestige”. Prestige? Please! Will Cardozo, and the rest of the “University” component of YU be viewed as more prestigious by the outside world after Carter’s appearance? Certainly- but YU knows all too well that in the “Yeshiva” part of YU-which is the part that actually matters when it comes to the long term survival of the institution- this will not earn them any street cred at all, rather, the opposite. If you listen to a single speech ever delivered by President Joel, it is clearly the YESHIVA that matters to YU in the long run. If the YESHIVA collapses, YU would implode-regardless of Einstein or Cordozo?’s prestige. And what money? Have you looked at YU’s donors lately? The majority are all UBER pro-Israel! If anything, donors will STOP donating after this. It is unfair to present in such an authoritative way that YU simply sold its soul for money and prestige.

    This is clearly an issue of academic freedom-in which YU (Board or no Board-I haven’t the faintest) had to weigh carefully the pros and cons of asserting themselves in censoring the voice of Cardozo’s student body. YU has definitely enforced limitations on academic freedom before, (at its undergrad programs “the censorship committee” is very much alive). Academic freedom is an extremely nuanced issue, and I think that if Carter’s views were less mainstream (it’s totally accepted nowadays to characterize Hamas as having an extreme and a moderate wing)and he could be rejected on the grounds that he supports/legitimizes terrorism (which, I think, would be acceptable grounds for any university not to host an honoree) I’m absolutely sure that YU would have reneged on their invitation.

    What would you have YU reject Carter on the basis of (since the above grounds are not viable)? Disagreeing with YU’s political stance re: the state of Israel? Please! What self respecting professor would work at an institution with such clear political biases?! This would absolutely ruin YU’s credibility as an institution-graduate and undergraduate alike. And what does this have to do with money or prestige? Nothing-rather the basic question of the integrity of any university which censors in the broad strokes you seem to be encouraging.

    If you were to say that YU compromised it’s integrity in an effort to maintain it’s integrity, I might agree with you-but there is no evidence that money or prestige entered their calculation at all. I don’t consider integrity synonymous with prestige.

    Lastly, I really don’t understand how this situation is at all analogous to the social phenomenon of Chareidim being “bought by the gov’t”, as you put it. Clearly, unlike the majority of the Charedim, who appear to simply follow their leaders re: voting for the gov’t that suits the Chareidi infrastructure best, YU is not a unanimous body on this (and pretty much any other) issue. Like at any other institution, there’s plenty of groupthink, but there are also plenty of people who think for themselves.

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