Hate at Rutgers

Hate at Rutgers

This week’s cover story is unnerving even for me, and I wrote it.

It’s about antisemitism at Rutgers, told through the vantage point of Lisa Harris Glass, the new executive director of Hillel there.

I have known Lisa for years, and I know how hard it is to unnerve her. She combines a deep love of the Jewish people and a commitment to them — to her people, that is, to us — with a level-headed pragmatism that can barrel through doubters and haters. She’s gifted at reading both budgets and people. It’s a rare combination of skills.

So when Lisa says that what she’s seeing reminds her of what she’s read about German Jews in the late 1930s, we should pay attention.

That doesn’t mean that we should panic. There are many differences between then and now. We don’t live in an authoritarian-happy culture, as the Germans did (although political developments going on around us now might make that a not entirely true statement). We are represented at all levels of government here as we were not there. When we, say, march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest antisemitism, as many of us did in January 2020, the police officers are there not to harass but to protect us. Our culture and our political civilization are crafted to ensure minority rights and freedom from religious coercion.

But what’s going on Rutgers is pure antisemitism, slime oozing from the sewers. And it’s not just Rutgers. If it were, if the problem were that specific, it could be handled relatively easily. But it’s not. It’s happening at universities across the country.

Notably, the antisemitism we’re seeing now comes from both the left and the right. It’s mainly from the left at universities, where often badly understood theories of liberation appeal to young people who have more enthusiasm than knowledge or experience. Part of being a young grown-up is experimenting with ideas what would have horrified you when you were younger and if you’re lucky will horrify you again when you’re older. When naivete meets cynicism, heartbreak and mess often follow.

We shouldn’t overlook antisemitism from the right either. The far-right, with its ethnonationalism and ideas of white supremacy, often is the most fetid breeding ground for antisemitism, racism, and other forms of hatred.

Nice, right? Horrors to the left of us, horrors to the right. So I guess we keep moving forward, paying attention, fighting back, and not giving up hope that this goldene medina that drew our forebears here somehow will shine again.


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