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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Wandering In The Academic Wilderness

Jerold S. Auerbach

Jerold S. Auerbach

Jewish students assuaged their discomfort by internalizing their hurt. One student was astonished to discover “how lonely Jewish students were feeling.” Another confided: “After banging my head against the wall, tiptoeing around, walking on eggshells avoiding stating any of my beliefs so as not to make anyone uncomfortable, to find out the fact that I am religious offends someone else was too much.”

Torn between their Jewish identity and their desire to belong at Wellesley, it was difficult for Jewish students to realize that when Wellesley made them feel uncomfortable, frightened or confused about being Jewish, it meant that something was wrong with Wellesley, not with them.

Looking back, as historians are trained to do, it was not difficult to discern the strong connection between centuries of irrational hatred of Jews and the contemporary eruption of loathing for the Jewish state. Israel had become the despised national embodiment of the long reviled Jew. In its own distinctive way, Wellesley College – if always politely and decorously – reflected the transformation of anti-Semitism into anti-Zionism.

At least I was spared the folly of my own alma mater, Oberlin College, renowned for its liberalism ever since it became the first American college to admit female and African-American students. The school’s Students for a Free Palestine led a campaign to divest from companies “that profit from the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.” Support came from La Alianza Latina, the South Asian Students Association, the Queer Wellness Coalition and the Center for Women and Transgender People. Oberlin, proclaimed one proud student (without discernible irony), “lives up to its progressive history and reputation.”

Progressivism (i.e. liberalism), anti-Semitism, and the delegitimization of Israel had converged. Although I resisted the Wellesley tide, I could not reverse it. One way or another, the college continued to isolate and demean its Jewish students. After forty years of wandering in the Wellesley wilderness, with my bad Jewish manners on public display, it was time to leave.

By now, “Israel Apartheid Week” (observed during the last week of February) has become the annual rite of Jewish loathing and Israel-bashing on American campuses. It is for a new generation of Jewish college students to confront this obscene spectacle that demeans its anti-Semitic perpetrators far more than its targeted Israeli villains.

About the Author: Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of “Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy,” to be published next month by Quid Pro Books.


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5 Responses to “Wandering In The Academic Wilderness”

  1. Progressivism (i.e. liberalism), anti-Semitism, and the delegitimization of Israel have converged

  2. John Jaffe says:

    Outstanding piece, describing painfully and accurately the now legitimized and institutionalized antiSemitism posing as "antiIsrael"
    opinion on many college campuses.

  3. Ltc Howard says:

    Add Brooklyn College, Berkeley, UC Irvine, and many others.

    At one time I used to defend Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jessica Montell, Anat Saragusti ,Alan Eisner, Peter Bienart, etc. as being sincere people. Also, this week , Rabbi Warshal, a prominent rabbi came out in favor of an “open Hillel.”

    I have had much interaction with breaking the silence and with B'tselem. When they accused the IDF of using white phosphorus against civilians, they lied. When they accused IDF snipers of killing a Palestinian woman in cold blood they lied.

    The fact is they are enabling the next Holocaust. Their actions embolden the most extreme elements in the Islamic world who believe it is their sacred religious duty to destroy the Jewish people.

    While, they are quick to provide ammunition for those who hate Israel and they are quick to condemn Pam Geller, they are exceedingly silent at the outrageous attacks made on Israel by the BDS, by breaking the silence, by B'tselem and by European Union funded NGOs.

  4. Ltc Howard says:

    ANOTHER EXAMPLE:"No more Jewish loyalty oaths"
    by Steven J. Zipperstein, Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University, is currently Kronhill senior scholar at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York. A version of this essay was delivered on March 2 ,2014 at a forum on pluralism marking the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco Bay Area Lehrhaus Judaica.

  5. Succinct and to he point. Sadly, this assessment can be applied to the present Administration in its entirety. The State Department has always operated within these parameters.

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Jerold S. Auerbach

During much of the 20th century, elite American colleges and universities carefully policed their admission gates to restrict the entry of Jews. Like its Big Brothers – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – Wellesley College, where I taught history between 1971 and 2010, designed admission policy to perpetuate a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite.

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