A 1991 Cardozo graduate who practices in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, Seth Goodman Park, said he responded immediately upon hearing about the Carter award presentation. Park wrote to his alma mater that Carter was “undeserving of the honor.” He acknowledged that the former president had achieved some progress in the 1970’s, but since then Carter has been “counterproductive and divisive.” In his letter to Dean Diller, Park also wrote:
I believe that there is no greater living enemy to progress in achieving further peace in the Middle East than Mr. Carter whose work, particularly over the past two decades, to demonize one of the parties to the conflict while coddling and martyring the other has led to hate and misunderstanding. His work is the very antithesis of proper diplomacy.
Another alumnus who was the 2007 executive editor of the Journal of Conflict Resolution, thinks the choice of Carter as an honoree to be an “inappropriate, offensive” one.
“If he was simply left-wing, I could fully support, or at least not object to the decision to honor Mr. Carter, Ari Davis wrote to Dean Diller and President Joel. “However, because his idea of ‘peace’ is the evisceration of Israel as a Jewish state and the elevation of the terrorist organization Hamas, I can not see how Cardozo and YU can support this decision.”
Davis wrote that if he were still executive editor of the Journal he would have objected to the decision to honor Carter, and if that failed to change it, “I would have resigned my position.”
The ire ignited by a Jewish institution honoring Jimmy Carter was not limited to Cardozo graduates, but extended to the broader Jewish community.
David Steinmann, a New York businessman, has been a well-established and respected pro-Israel voice for many years. In a sternly worded letter, Steinmann wrote the two heads of the institutions that giving such an award to Jimmy Carter was an “ill-considered decision,” one which “will bring shame to your doorstep.”
Steinmann characterized Carter as a “driving force behind the now coordinated and concerted efforts by anti-Semites and anti-Israel haters to defame and delegitimize the State of Israel and its Jewish citizens.” In Steinmann’s view, Carter’s characterization of Israel as an Apartheid state alone should be enough “to make President Carter persona non grata amongst Jewish institutions.”
The Jewish Press asked Steinmann why he decided to speak out so forcefully about this choice. He said that he was disappointed that Cardozo, “one of the pre-eminent Jewish institutions in America,” was giving undeserved recognition to Jimmy Carter.
“American Jews who care about Israel, and Jews everywhere, need to be vigilant and outspoken about these kinds of matters,” said Steinmann. He went on to explain why, especially when an issue plays out in a place in which many young Jews are being educated, displaying a stiff neck is essential to the survival of our people. “We will win some and lose some, but in the process of letting our voices be heard we will help to educate the generation which follows ours as well as influence a wider discussion about what Jewish organizations ought to be doing.”
Another Jewish New Yorker incensed by the decision of a Jewish institution to honor Jimmy Carter is Irwin Hochberg, past chairman of the board of the UJA Federation of New York. When Hochberg found out that Cardozo was about to honor Jimmy Carter, he was aghast, calling the decision “unconscionable.”
The emails of support echoed Emmanuel’s own response upon learning about Cardozo’s award to Jimmy Carter. “I simply could not believe that a law school affiliated with Yeshiva University could honor a man who has gone to such great lengths to harm the Jewish people,” Emmanuel told The Jewish Press.
Perhaps the best judge of Carter’s honesty with respect to his public statements about Israel, and his treatment of Israel’s enemies, comes from a former protegé, Kenneth Stein.
Stein met President Carter in 1982, and shortly thereafter Carter asked Stein to become the first executive director of the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Center, based at Emory University. In a lengthy article which appeared in the Middle East Quarterly in 2007, Stein described his relationship with Carter and the many collaborations, trips and publications they worked on during the three years he served as the Carter Center’s executive director, and over the course of the next 20 years, while Stein was the Carter Center’s Middle East Fellow.