Harvard is Risking Moral Bankruptcy and Opposes Human Rights

Harvard is richly endowed with assets exceeding $50 billion. Nevertheless, it is in serious risk of bankruptcy. A moral bankruptcy. Will it wake up?

Photo Credit: Jay Yuan/Shutterstock

Harvard University’s coat of arms, essentially its logo, depicts three open books with the Latin word “veritas” (Latin for “truth”) written across them. Yale University, its chief competitor, also has an interesting coat of arms: an open book with the Hebrew words “Urim v’Thummim” inscribed upon it. Yale scholars have interpreted these words as “light and truth.”

What remains of the pursuit of “truth” on these campuses today?

Jewish students at Harvard are forced to conceal their Jewishness: They are harassed, insulted, and spit upon, and there have been reports of physical attacks on Jewish students on the campus pathways; the identity of the attackers remains unclear. On the steps of Harvard’s iconic Widener Library, a temple of knowledge and American culture, placards were hoisted emblazoned with the slogan: “Intifada, intifada, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This is a clear and unequivocal call for the annihilation of the State of Israel – all of it. The issue is not “occupation” or “human rights,” but a fundamental opposition to the right of Jews to have a national home.

And what is the response of the president of the world’s most venerable university to this blatant antisemitism? “Harvard is committed to preserving freedom of expression.”

After some criticism, the president attempted to balance her response somewhat with tepid, unsatisfactory rhetoric.

Harvard silences truth more than anyone

This is disgraceful hypocrisy. In the United States, there is a ranking of the preservation of freedom of expression in colleges. Harvard, which is ranked first academically, is, shamefully, in 254th place among American universities in terms of freedom of expression on campus. Unrelated to us, the Jews, Harvard has long betrayed its commitment to “truth” by suppressing voices considered politically incorrect more than almost any other US campus. This is no coincidence; Harvard excels in everything.

However, when 34 student organizations placed all blame for the Hamas massacre squarely on the shoulders of the State of Israel, the university administration decided to sanctify freedom of speech at the expense of the truth. Can a worse “double standard” be imagined?

I EARNED my advanced degrees at Harvard, as did my wife and others in the family. There, on that amazing campus, my wife and I first met, and there our first daughter was born.

I remember different times: My wife and her friends built a glorious Sukkah in the center of the campus, and everyone, Jews and non-Jews, flocked to it. At their request, the university agreed that its commencement ceremonies, the most momentous day in the lives of many, would not take place on the Shavuot holiday so that observant Jews could attend. On Yom Kippur, due to the great demand of Jewish students to participate in prayer services, the campus synagogue, Beit Hillel, was too cramped to accommodate them all. So, a spacious lecture hall at the Law School hosted the Conservative community’s service, and Memorial Church in the center of Harvard Yard – how strange for us Israelis – hosted the Reform service. The church became a synagogue for a day. Today, Jewish students hide their identity: kippot, mezuzot, and Stars of David have become dangerous in Boston 2023.

During my tenure as dean of a Faculty of Law in Israel, I awarded subsistence scholarships to dozens of outstanding Israeli students to pursue their master’s and doctorate degrees in law at elite universities in the United States. Many of them are now serving as professors in Israeli universities. At the time, I believed that alongside the excellent professional education these students would receive, they would also be exposed to, and internalize, the commitment to liberal values and the discourse of human rights. As a Religious Zionist yeshiva student who was beneficially influenced by the education I received at Harvard, I wanted to enable others, promising young women and men, to have similar opportunities. I thought that those who grew up between Israel’s Yarkon and Kishon Rivers should also be exposed (not only, of course) to the world between Boston’s Charles River and the Hudson River in New York.

And today? It seems that Harvard, along with a significant number of campuses on both the East and West Coasts, no longer extols human rights (unless you are deemed by the trend setters to belong to an “oppressed group”). Harvard’s face wears a thick layer of makeup: It has a special office dedicated to promoting “equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging” on campus. But if you are Jewish, as it turns out, you don’t “belong.”

I DREAD to think about the nature of American leadership in the next generation. Barack Obama was president and editor of the Harvard Law Review, the best of its kind in the world. From there he went on to become president of the United States and leader of the free world. The current editor of that same Law Review was seen last week, together with a group of students, blocking the path of a student on campus, forcibly waving a keffiyeh in his face while taunting him with insulting and racist chants, just because he is Jewish. It appears that antisemitism is no longer the exclusive domain of ignorant rednecks in the back rows. Harvard University, as an institution, is very far from antisemitic, but the cowardly conduct of its current leadership may very well normalize it.

Harvard is richly endowed with assets exceeding 50 billion dollars (2.5 times the annual education budget of the State of Israel). Nevertheless, it is in serious risk of bankruptcy. A moral bankruptcy. Will it wake up?