David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Going to College to Get Stupid

On the UCLA campus, an immigrant professor was proudly protesting “Zionism” and chanting against the State of Israel for allegedly committing genocide.

The encamped students on the quad were buoyed to have professorial support joining their choir of “From the River to the Sea,” an ironic chant that claims one group is committing genocide so we will kill off all of them to cease it. Kind of like someone murdering a gynecologist because she performs abortions. Non sensical and non factual.

Then one lone UCLA student showed the temerity and courage to don an Israeli flag and challenge this professor. He said to her, “How can you claim the Palestinians are the victims of genocide when their population has increased steadily since 1948. Do you even know what genocide means?”

The professor spouted off some definition of genocide and its Greek origins, but the student did not relent. Then, quickly the professor turns to the crowds around her and says, “Who can help me with this answer?”

This is demonstrative to me of what is happening all over college campuses today. Students and professors are carving out their Vietnam or Kent State or Tiananmen Square moment because every generation of college students believe they deserve something to protest. And, hey, the Jews and their single State seem like an evergreen target. Zionism seems like a good word to rally against, even if we do not know what it means.

At NYU two nights ago, an undergraduate student was asked by a reporter what they are protesting. She yelped, “Palestine and Israel. We are stopping the University from continuing.”

The reporter asked what the University was continuing. She stammered, hemmed and hawed, but admitted she had no idea. She phoned a friend in the crowd for an answer, and she was no help. She then sheepishly acknowledged they should be better informed. Yet, it did not stop their protest, their chants and their Palestinian flag waving.

My instincts are to flood articles like this with facts and figures, UN declarations, a history of peace offerings and more. Violence and terror statistics, definitions of Intifada and showing which river and sea is of no avail to a group more hell bent on marching then reading. Then speaking in place of hearing. Of knowing in place of learning.

These progressive students and teachers are naïve to the notion that they are inherently supporting a group that is so vehemently anti-homosexuality that they celebrate public hangings of gay people. That women are denied rights like voting and driving. That by standing with Hamas, they sanction beheading Thai workers and murdering babies while kidnapping toddlers and committing brutal rape. The very causes we and they advanced are what they are trying to destroy as this moments’ cause célèbre.

In other words, all that they have protested in the past is being jettisoned for vilification of the Jews and support of Palestine. A group and place most could not tell you three things about or find on a map.

I heard from a noted Jewish professor at a prestigious college who conducted a recent survey of where more than 60% of non-Jewish students believed Tel Aviv was in the West Bank of Israel. They came to this conclusion not as some high-end political device to show all of Israel should be relinquished to the Palestinians. Rather, they thought Tel Aviv being one of the most western cities in Israel must be in the “West Bank.”

These are rebels looking for any cause. These are ill informed, useful idiots for the Mullahs and the jihadists.

I have one child in college and another starting soon. Of course, I want them to earn a degree and to achieve in school. But I want more than that. I want them to have fun. I want them to party and have school spirit at sport events. I want them to be curious. I want them to make life-long friends and learn about what makes a solid foundation of friendship. I want them to be part of a college that puts as much emphasis on morality and ethics as it does research. I want my children to meet like-minded people and different people and to have spirited and respectful dialogue. I want them to be open to learning new things and hearing different opinions. I want them to grow and mature and hone in on their moral compass and to realize the power of knowledge and truth.

Most of all, I want them to be in a place where they are safe. Where they are not worried that being Jewish (or any religion or belief that is peaceful) could inhibit them from walking the campus freely or eating in the dining hall.

Right now, my kid’s school is one of dozens that are virtual only for fear of safety.

Their loneliness on campus is causing them and me physical pain. The situation is coming from many of the students, the faculty AND the administration. The inmates are running the asylum. The guards and wardens are complicit.

Is this the same movie with a new cast?

At Stonewall, Selma, Philadelphia Mississippi, and the Walmart lunch counter, after George Floyd and Matthew Shepard, Jews have proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed, downtrodden and those treated unfairly.

I am foolishly shocked and pained that again, here at this moment, the very people who applauded our support back then are on the other side of the line chanting for our death. All because they spend a lot of time and money for a degree with very little education.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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