Modern Orthodoxy Has A College Problem

Rabbi Dov Fischer

Jewish Press

Thu Nov 28 2019

...I went to Columbia in the 1970s. I can’t remember a speaker ever being shouted off campus – let lone barred. (The one possible exception were two or three proposed visiting scholars from the Soviet Union – America’s arch enemy at the time – who were denied participation in Columbia’s international exchange programs until the Soviet Union agreed to free Prof. Vitali Rubin, a Jewish scholar of Chinese literature, whom Columbia had invited but the Soviets had restrained from coming. In time, the Soviets relented, and the exchanges resumed.)

Both right-wingers and left-wingers visited Columbia. The faculty included Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was perceived to be an anti-communist, and the nation’s most rabid anti-Zionist at the time, Prof. Edward Said. On one occasion, College Dean Peter Pouncey invited Said and me to have coffee and cookies together with him. (I was a well-known Jewish student activist then.) After our chat, Said and I departed with a mutual smile, knowing that he wanted to destroy Israel and I wanted Jews to annex all of Judea and Samaria (and both of us agreeing that Pouncey was as sweet but utterly clueless as they come).

That was the culture then. It not only was safe to be a Zionist at Columbia; Zionists stood tall, unintimidated. We got former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban invited as a visiting scholar for a year. We got the campus to cancel its Food Services contract with Pepsi-Cola and to replace it with Coke because, in those days, Pepsi did commerce in the Soviet Union and Gaza but not Israel....

Modern Orthodoxy Has A College Problem

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