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SEEING CRIMSON

Rabbi David Wolpe resigns from Harvard’s antisemitism committee

Wolpe: ‘We are at a moment when the toxicity of intellectual slovenliness has been laid bare for all to see’

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Rabbi David Wolpe attend the 2013 UCLA Neurosurgery Visionary Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on October 24, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rabbi David Wolpe, the Anti-Defamation League’s rabbinic fellow, announced on Thursday that he will step down from the antisemitism advisory committee at Harvard University amid an investigation into allegations of antisemitism at Harvard and other Ivy League universities.

Wolpe said his resignation is due to the role not allowing him to make the difference the school needs, which he realized after Harvard President Claudine Gay made widely criticized statements about her university’s handling of antisemitism as she appeared before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce earlier this week.  

“As of today I have resigned from the antisemitism advisory committee at Harvard,” Wolpe wrote on X.

“Without rehashing all of the obvious reasons that have been endlessly adumbrated online, and with great respect for the members of the committee, the short explanation is that both events on campus and the painfully inadequate testimony reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped,” he wrote.  

“Still, there are several points worth making. I believe Claudine Gay to be both a kind and thoughtful person.  Most of the students here wish only to get an education and a job, not prosecute ideological agendas, and there are many, many honorable, thoughtful and good people at the institution.  Harvard is still a repository of extraordinary minds and important research.”  

He continued, “However, the system at Harvard along with the ideology that grips far too many of the students and faculty, the ideology that works only along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors and therefore intrinsically evil, is itself evil. Ignoring Jewish suffering is evil.  Belittling or denying the Jewish experience, including unspeakable atrocities, is a vast and continuing catastrophe.  Denying Israel the self-determination as a Jewish nation accorded unthinkingly to others is endemic, and evil.” 

Wolpe’s resignation came just hours before the start of Hanukkah, a story he invoked in his message. 

“In this generation, outside of Israel, we are called to be Maccabees of a different order,” he wrote. “We do not fight the actual battle but we search for the cruse of oil left behind… of course the first night was the greatest miracle — because the motivation to light the initial candle, to ensure the continuity and vitality of tradition in each generation, that is the supreme miracle.  Dispute but also create. Build the institutions you value, don’t merely attack those you denigrate.  We are at a moment when the toxicity of intellectual slovenliness has been laid bare for all to see. Time to kindle the first candle.  Create that miracle for us and all Israel.” 

For many years, Wolpe headed Sinai Temple, the largest Conservative congregation in Los Angeles, until he retired in June. He started a visiting scholar position at Harvard Divinity School in Boston upon leaving Sinai Temple, while also joining the ADL in May. 

Wolpe was one of eight members on Harvard’s antisemitism advisory committee, which was formed at the end of October as the school faced fierce criticism over its response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Gay appeared before the House Committee on Tuesday to crack down on the backlash against the university, but her testimony only fueled the controversy. 

When asked if a call for genocide of Jewish people would be considered harassment at Harvard, Gay said such a call could violate the school’s policies “depending on the context.” The hearing, at which MIT President Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill also testified, ended with members of Congress demanding Gay’s resignation. The leadership of Harvard Hillel called her remarks “profoundly shocking” and said it doesn’t trust her to protect Jewish students.

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