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Dear Friends,

My friend Avi Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, published a sobering op-ed today about what is happening on American college campuses. The piece, “Moral Idiocy on Campus,” cites some sobering statistics. Among them is the fact that over 50% of college students surveyed believe Israeli policy justifies the Hamas slaughter of 1,400 people and the kidnapping of over 220. 64% see a moral equivalency between Hamas, a terrorist organization whose charter makes clear their commitment to destroying Israel and murdering Jews, and the State of Israel. (Note that the moral equivalency is NOT between Palestinian aspirations and Israel but between Hamas terrorists and democratic Israel.)

Avi goes on to write this,

At Cornell University, one professor was caught on camera lauding the Hamas massacre during an anti-Israel campus rally. “Hamas has shifted the balance of power, Hamas has punctured the illusion of invincibility. That’s what they’ve done,” said Russell Rickford, an associate professor of history at the school. “It was exhilarating. It was energizing.”

The “IT” to which that Cornell University professor was referring was the rape, murder, and dismembering of Israeli civilians.

The “IT” he praised so vehemently was Hamas terrorists shooting party-goers in the back as they ran for their lives.

The “IT” to which he raised a glass was the taking hostage of over 220 Israelis who have now been held captive by Hamas for three weeks.

Thankfully, it appears he has been placed on a “leave of absence.”

This past Rosh Hashanah, I spoke about the limits of the rabbinic teaching: “These and these are the words of the living God.” I said that, while I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, it’s past time we called out those individuals who abuse their freedom by using it to spread hate.

This is what I was talking about.

If any individual, let alone an educator at one of the top universities in the country, should be called out and chastised for his abuse of free speech, it is that professor. (And sadly, many others.) There is a point at which free speech becomes hate speech.

And we now see the ramifications of such an abuse of freedom of speech.

Yesterday at Tulane University, Jewish students were sent to the hospital after being beaten with flagpoles by a Hamas apologist. At George Washington University, “Glory to our Martyrs” was projected in giant letters on a campus wall for all to see. Rutgers University is the site of daily protests with horrible, hateful slogans being screamed at Jewish students.

These are just a few of the campus situations making Jewish students feel increasingly unsafe. It is hard to fathom that, in 2023 in America, Jewish students—OUR JEWISH STUDENTS—are scared to wear symbols of their faith and to gather together.

It is time for us to recognize that free speech is a fundamental part of what makes this country what it is. But when free speech becomes hate speech, as it currently is, a line has been crossed. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence, especially when the consequence lands students in the hospital as it did yesterday. It is time for school administrators and elected officials to speak out loudly and take steps to ensure the emotional and physical safety of ALL students on campus.

You can read Avi’s full piece here.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen