There is a truth that patterns emerge if you bother to look. Whether it is the cycles of the seasons, the migration of animals, or the repeated behavior of individuals and institutions, we can see patterns of the past repeated in the present and therefore predicted in the future.
A repetitive pattern can be seen in the recent Harvard debacle. Like many universities, Harvard has a history of institutionalized Jew-hatred. From inviting Ernst Hanfstangl, Hitler's foreign press chief to speak at Harvard in 1934 to still maintaining the Harvard Alfred Krupp Fellowship (Krupp was a Nazi industrialist who was convicted for crimes against humanity), Harvard has a sordid and lengthy history of Jew-hatred.
As we saw in the now famous Congressional testimony, they are not alone, as the Presidents of MIT and UPenn joined in Harvard President Gay's inability to condemn Jew-hatred, which has been prevalent in the halls of academia for generations. That hatred is now more visible as it has been peaking with the current calls for Jewish genocide on college campuses nationwide. We have all been disgusted by these Jew-hating demonstrations led by fanatical extremists who probably are ignorant of the values of Hamas, the myth of “Palestine”, and the fact that their personal values would in many cases ensure their own deaths if there was an Islamic authoritarian theocracy such as what Hamas seeks to establish.
In the past, after a university's Jew-hatred is exposed, there has been a public act of contrition before the institutionalized hatred of Jews is integrated back into the school's practices. In 1934, it was Harvard very publicly not accepting a $1000 donation from Hanfstangl. Today, the act of contrition is to hire a Jew, Alan Garber, the current Harvard provost and a professor of economics, public policy, and related topics, as the interim president of the university.
This is a very public act of contrition that is analogous to a bigot saying that he knows lots of people who are black. While it would be fabulous if Garber fought against the institutionalized Jew-hatred at Harvard, that is probably overly optimistic. A graduate of Harvard, Garber has been integrated into the university community since completing his undergraduate degree in 1979 and continuing with his graduate work there and subsequent professorship. As Provost, he has been in charge of academic policies.
When the horrors of October 7 happened, Garber said in a November interview that Harvard did not respond correctly. He also did not use his position as Provost at the time to push the issue and pressure Harvard to publicly condemn Hamas, something he could have easily done, but that would have taken courage.
As the new interim President, we can look at a few things to see if this is the hiring of a token Jew as a public relations stunt to keep Jewish donors to Harvard from leaving because of former President Gay's Jew-hatred or if Harvard really does want to stop the prevalent Jew-hatred on campus.
We can see how Garber reacts to the pro-Hamas groups on campus and whether he condemns their hate and enforces the conduct code of Harvard. We can watch and see if he makes any changes to the policy revealed by the Harvard Jewish Alumni Association data that showed that Harvard's goal is to reduce the Jewish student population to 1-2% (it was 20-25% in the 1990s and 2000s, and is currently 5-7%). Will Garber finally remove the Krupp Fellowship to the University or continue to have the name of a convicted Nazi war criminal tied to Harvard.
Will he be the token Jew who remains quiet and allows the patterns of Jew-hatred to continue at Harvard? Or will he lead Harvard and as a result other universities around the country into taking a stand against Jew-hatred, a stand against the genocidal goals of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and a stand for Israel, the only democracy in the region?
And as important as anything, what does Garber’s hiring say about Harvard’s inherent prejudices that it feels compelled to hire Garber because he is Jewish? Isn’t this one of the ultimate expressions of racism and bigotry? To hire anyone for any job because of their religion or race is one of the supreme acts of racism and prejudice.
As a Rabbi, I would much prefer Harvard to have chosen an interim President like Larry Elder, Sebastian Gorka, Dinesh D’Souza, or Marco Rubio than Alan Garber. Although none of those men are Jewish, I trust that their values would make Harvard a safer place not just for Jews but for all students. Especially given his lifelong association with Harvard, I have little faith that Garber will do anything other than be a public relations placeholder.
I pray that I am wrong and that Harvard and other colleges around the country stop the Jew-hatred on campuses. I hope that under the leadership of Alan Garber, the institutionalized Jew-hatred at universities like Harvard and beyond is stopped; and that people are judged based on their merits, not their religion.
But I also know the power of patterns.
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