At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace

Oct. 20 2021

At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.

This year, a few hours before Rosh Hashanah began, Cynthia Yang, a senior administrator at Barnard, sent an email to Orthodox students telling them that they would have to violate the holiday’s restrictions to report any positive coronavirus tests. Soloveichik comments:

Yang’s email is remarkable, and revealing, because it betrays her own opinion of Jewish traditional faith. For Orthodox Jews, the Sabbath laws, like the rest of the Torah, are kept first and foremost because we are commanded to keep them, because we must keep them. But not for Yang; that these “traditions” were anything other than cultural curiosities, easily discarded at her command, seems never to have occurred to her.

Her email further reflects the fact that in an institution purportedly committed to multiculturalism, the faith of Jewish students is unworthy of equal respect. Would Yang have considered composing such a nonchalant note to other ethnic or religious groups on the Barnard and Columbia campuses? The answer is obvious; indeed, it is likely that in this parallel case, Yang’s job would have been in danger. . . . In the age of intersectionality, it is specifically traditional Jews whose difference Yang considered unworthy of celebration and protection.

Yang soon after sent an apology, and an alternative solution was devised for devout students. “But,” Soloveichik writes,

it is impossible to avoid the feeling that, as a reflection of the ethos of the academic elite, Yang’s note provides an ominous omen. Jews encountered a unique embrace in America because of its love of the Hebrew Bible. A society suddenly hostile to biblical faith will become an entirely different America for adherents of Judaism; . . . many of those overseeing the most celebrated schools in America no longer see traditional faith as essential to the pursuit of knowledge and consider biblical belief a curiosity at best—and a menace at worst.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewry, American Religion, Columbia University, Orthodoxy, University

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy