Rabbi David Wolpe has announced his resignation from the antisemitism advisory counsel at Harvard, saying that regrettably he realized he would not be able to make “the sort of difference” he had “hoped.” Events on campus coupled with the “painfully inadequate” congressional testimony of Harvard President Claudine Gay made Wolpe’s decision inevitable.
Wolpe’s regret was palpable as he wrote that he belives Gay, under fire after she refused in her testimony to condemn calls for genocide, to be “both a kind and thoughtful person.” Yet in closing he says that what people have witnessed in the past week is that the “toxicity of intellectual slovenliness has been laid bare.”
Gay insisted in her testimony, as did the presidents of two other elite American universities, that in order to condemn the call for the “genocide of Jews” she would have to know the “context.”
Wolpe appears to say it was “intellectual slovenliness” that prevented Gay from giving the right answer — that such speech is reprehensible, impermissible and plainly dangerous. Wolpe instead asserts that Gay (and the others?) were just too caught up in the dry dilemmas of free speech to see the forest for its trees, privileging argument over humanity. Wolpe’s is a far kinder description of how Gay answered the question than has been granted by most of Gay’s critics.
1/3 Resigning, a Hanukkah Message: As of today I have resigned from the antisemitism advisory committee at Harvard. Without rehashing all of the obvious reasons that have been endlessly adumbrated online, and with great respect for the members of the committee, the short…— David Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe) December 7, 2023
Wolpe warned in his resignation that those expecting a single or swift answer to the enduring problems of antisemitism, of “evil” and “hatred,” must steel themselves and understand that real solutions will be the result of a process which may perhaps be a generation in the making.
Listing various forms of antisemitism, Wolpe writes:
Battling that combination of ideologies is the work of more than a committee or a single university. It is not going to be changed by hiring or firing a single person, or posting on X, or yelling at people who don’t post as you wish when you wish, as though posting is the summation of one’s moral character. This is the task of educating a generation, and also a vast unlearning.
3/3 Battling that combination of ideologies is the work of more than a committee or a single university. It is not going to be changed by hiring or firing a single person, or posting on X, or yelling at people who don’t post as you wish when you wish, as though posting is…— David Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe) December 7, 2023
Here is Wolpe explaining why placing the menorah in the window for Hanukkah — to “advertise the miracle” — is not just important this year, but also different this year.
This year the placement of the menorah in the window for passersby to see must also express the resolute notion that “we are not afraid,” he says.
The meaning of Hanukkah this year. pic.twitter.com/VnUz1TtSaC— David Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe) December 7, 2023
Wolpe told the Harvard Crimson: “The problems at Harvard, however considerable they are, are solvable by the resources of Harvard, which are even more considerable. But it’s going to take an enormous amount of will, and intention, and focus, and rethinking to make that happen, and I hope that it does.”