Columbia University, Ike, and good will

Columbia University, Ike, and good will

My family and I have been deeply touched by the education provided us over the years at Columbia University.

I earned my B.A. in religious studies from the university just over 40 years ago, through its undergraduate joint program with the Jewish Theological Seminary. I subsequently pursued graduate studies in educational administration at Columbia’s Teacher’s College. My tenure at Columbia reflected a family tradition: my eldest brother earned his degree from Columbia College as part of the class of 1969. While I was at Columbia, I met my wife, who earned her Columbia bachelor’s degree in ancient studies; Dr. Ora Horn Prouser now is CEO and academic dean at the Academy for Jewish Religion. Ora’s sister is also a Columbia alumna. Two of our children hold graduate degrees from Columbia.

We all have something else in common. We all are utterly dismayed and thoroughly outraged at our alma mater.

This week, Columbia University’s school of social work was to be the venue for a widely publicized teach-in, ostensibly examining the “significance of the October 7th Palestinian Counter-Offensive” [sic].  Sick [sic].

The university had previously declined to permit a panel discussion on antisemitism — deeming such a program too controversial and likely to upset students. While the university ultimately shut down the offensive counter-offensive program, the incident — the very consideration and scheduling of a program so titled — reflects a campus atmosphere rife with anti-Zionism and, so, rife with antisemitism.

“Dismayed” and “outraged” barely scratch the surface.

I am convinced that Columbia University’s most famous president, together with alumni among the Prouser clan, countless classmates, and other friends and supporters of the State of Israel, would also be absolutely scandalized by the lack of moral clarity, the Machiavellian distortions, and the shameless disinformation now passing for academic discourse at the putative seat of higher learning that he once led.

As supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight David Eisenhower led what he called the “Crusade in Europe” for the absolute defeat and eradication of the Nazi regime, with its genocidal campaign against the Jewish people, anathema to Western civilization. Before his election as 34th president of the United States, from 1948 to 1953, Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University.

What would Ike have to say about the Israel Defense Force’s war against Hamas, and its goal of absolute defeat and eradication of that terrorist organization, with its genocidal campaign against the Jewish people, anathema to Western civilization?  We need not guess.

Eisenhower, who took the helm at Columbia less than a month after the Jewish state declared independence, wrote: “Our forces saved the remnants of the Jewish People of Europe for a new life and a new hope in the reborn land of Israel. Along with all men of good will, I salute the young state and wish it well.”

What would Ike have to say about cynically calling the deadliest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust — replete with wholesale murder, rape, beheadings, and the bodily mutilation and burning of Jewish men, women, infants, and elders — a  “Palestinian Counter-Offensive”?  We need not guess.

After viewing a Nazi concentration camp, Eisenhower said: “The things I saw beggar description… I made a visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”

What would Ike have to say about the all but relentless, devastating force unleashed by the Israel Defense Force against Hamas in Gaza? We need not guess.

Eisenhower described his approach to combat: “I do not believe in ‘gradualism’ in fighting a war. I believe in putting in the kind of strength we need to win, and getting it over with as soon as possible.”

Similarly: “Once you decide to use force, you had better make sure you have plenty of it. If you need a battalion to do a job, it’s much better to have the strength of a division.”

What would Ike have to say about the State of Israel’s refusal to allow a terrorist regime and genocidal, despotic government to remain in power on its very border? We need not guess.

On December 9, 1949 — exactly 74 years ago this Shabbat — Eisenhower, while serving as president of Columbia University, said: “If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed, and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.”

IDF spokesmen have described the military campaign against Hamas as aimed at the “denazification” of Gaza.  How would Ike, who presided over the denazification of Europe, respond?  We need not guess.

Writing to Allied forces on the eve of D-Day, June 6, 1944, he conveyed this prayerful message: “Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

Amen. Columbia University? Dismaying. Outrageous.  But…

I like Ike.

Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey in Franklin Lakes.

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