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Kenneth Ryesky
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Don’t make me say ‘Three!’

Columbia University needs to restore order on campus; perhaps it should borrow my way of convincing my grandchildren to do the right thing
An anti-Israel protester on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz / AFP).
An anti-Israel protester on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz / AFP).

My wife and I did the Pesach seder up north with our son and his family. Aside from hearing the loud explosions and military aircraft overhead, we had a very enjoyable time; it was especially enjoyable because various scheduling issues and diversions had previously precluded face time with the grandchildren for more than three months.

Unlike so many grandparents, my wife and I do not view spoiling our grandchildren to be our purpose in life. Our son and daughter-in-law have instituted an appropriate disciplinary regime upon our grandchildren (which has been adjusted to suit the expanded living quarters to which the household has recently relocated), and our grandchildren know that we will not give them permission to do anything their parents would not countenance.

While I was watching the grandkids to keep them (and myself) out of the way during preparations for the Seder, it was necessary to prevent them from continuing certain behaviors. I sought to rationally explain to them why they needed to desist from digging up the dirt and scattering it onto the rear patio. In order to secure the cooperation of my 4-year-old grandson, I had to resort to the “count of three” warning: “Shalom Meir, I need you to come here now! …Count of Three! …One!” And before I said “Two,” Shalom Meir immediately came to me and gave me his undivided attention. After explaining that the dirt they were throwing onto the patio would inevitably be tracked into the house that their parents and grandmother were in the process of cleaning up, my grandson and his 3-year-old sister not only halted their excavation project, but began to sweep up the dirt from the patio.

My grandchildren know to expect undesirable consequences if I (or their parents) were to reach “Three,” they know we mean what we say when we start the count of three. Some years ago, when our son was not too much older than his children now are, the parent of one of his playmates had similarly threatened her child with a three-count ultimatum when the two were visiting us in our sukkah for lunch:

“Sit down for lunch now! One! … Two! …Two-and-a-Half! …I don’t want to say ‘Three’! …Two-and-three-quarters! …Don’t make me say ‘Three’…”

After a few minutes, the pouting child finally was prevailed upon to sit down for lunch.

* * *

Ever since the atrocities of 7 October 2023, a goodly portion of the news media coverage has focused upon rogue anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events on America’s college campuses. A prior blogposting on these pages, whose concluding paragraph reads, “The situation in America and elsewhere in the diaspora, then, is in many respects potentially at least as dangerous as in Germany during the 1930s. And it all centers upon the university campus” elicited criticism from some that I was being overly alarmist. I take no joy in the stark vindication now given to me by the current news headlines; the gravity of the situation and its parallels to that of Nazi Germany are now plainly recognized by Jews and non-Jews alike.

* * *

There is much to be said for cultural diversity. Large businesses that have diverse workforces can interact effectively with a diverse customer base. Diverse organizations are more amenable to crafting creative solutions to problems from “thinking outside of the box.” And children who grow up in culturally diverse environments can better internalize the fact that not everyone thinks the same way that they do, and are thus better postured for success in the world at large.

Unfortunately, the concept of cultural diversity, which is good in theory, has been misappropriated under the label of “Diversity, Equality, & Inclusion” (DEI), and in the process corrupted and misdirected to effectively become a system of excluding and oppressing Jews. And DEI is not confined to the commercial world; it has metastasized into the higher educational institutions as increasing numbers of Jews become increasingly disillusioned about its true nature.

* * *

Employers and educational institutions that consistently follow their own policies in disciplining their employees or students not only foster more orderly environments within their organizations, but also receive stronger backing from the courts for the disciplines they impose.

Like the parent of my son’s playmate, who was not prepared to impose consequences upon her child for noncompliance, Columbia University has lost much credibility by extending the deadline it imposed upon the unruly protestors on its campus to cease and desist from its improper occupation of campus property; Columbia had already significantly compromised its credibility by allowing a student it had suspended to remain on campus and continue to inflame the very tensions Columbia has purported to address.

And there is but faint hope that Columbia will successfully restore order to its campus any time soon because it maintains a strong and robust DEI program.

As Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev posted on these blog pages a few days ago, “Only when protesters from across the spectrum understand their speech rights are being protected within firm boundaries of public order and mutual respect can academic communities move beyond the current polemic.”

Mathematically speaking, the administrators of Columbia University (and other higher education institutions) must realize that the integer that immediately follows 2 is 3, and not 2½; only then can the current disorder on America’s college campuses begin to be effectively addressed. Columbia needs to say “THREE!” and follow it up with meaningful and visible consequences.

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth lived on Long Island and made Aliyah to Israel. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer in the USA (including as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service), a college professor and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. He's also a writer and a traveler.
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