Rabbi David Wolpe, a highly respected Jewish leader from Southern California who is currently a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, resigned Thursday from Harvard’s antisemitism committee in the wake of president Claudine Gay’s testimony.
Gay had announced the formation of the committee just six weeks ago, in the wake of outrage among students, alumni, donors, and the general public about Harvard’s equivocation in the face of the horrific Hamas terror attack against Israel on October 7.
But Gay dug a deeper hole on Tuesday when she appeared with fellow university presidents at a House hearing on antisemitism on campus and declined to say whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate Harvard University’s code of conduct.House Committee on Education & the Workforce
Shortly before she spoke, a Harvard student on Capitol Hill told reporters at Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) weekly press conference that he had tried to contact the antisemitism committee with his concerns but had never received any response.
On Thursday, Wolpe resigned in protest, in three posts on Twitter / X:
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 explanation is that both events on campus and the painfully inadequate testimony reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped. Still, there are several points worth making. I believe Claudine Gay to be both a kind and thoughtful person. Most of the students here wish only to get an education and a job, not prosecute ideological agendas, and there are many, many honorable, thoughtful and good people at the institution. Harvard is still a repository of extraordinary minds and important research.
However, the system at Harvard along with the ideology that grips far too many of the students and faculty, the ideology that works only along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors and therefore intrinsically evil, is itself evil. Ignoring Jewish suffering is evil. Belittling or denying the Jewish experience, including unspeakable atrocities, is a vast and continuing catastrophe. Denying Israel the self-determination as a Jewish nation accorded unthinkingly to others is endemic, and evil.
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 the summation of one’s moral character. This is the task of educating a generation, and also a vast unlearning. Part of the problem is a simple herd mentality – people screaming slogans whose meaning and implication they know nothing of, or not wishing to be disliked by taking an unpopular position. Some of it is the desire to achieve social status by being the sole or greatest victim. Some of it is simple, old fashioned Jew hatred, that ugly arrow in the quiver of dark hearts for millenia.
In this generation, outside of Israel, we are called to be Maccabees of a different order. We do not fight the actual battle but we search for the cruse of oil left behind. Remember the oil was to last one night, but lasted eight – which means there were seven nights of miracle. But of course the first night was the greatest miracle — because the motivation to light the initial candle, to ensure the continuity and vitality of tradition in each generation, that is the supreme miracle. Dispute but also create. Build the institutions you value, don’t merely attack those you denigrate. We are at a moment when the toxicity of intellectual slovenliness has been laid bare for all to see. Time to kindle the first candle. Create that miracle for us and all Israel — Blessing to you and Hag Urim Sameach [Happy Festival of Lights].
Wolpe gave the benediction at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, which nominated President Barack Obama for reelection.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.