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Rabbi resigns from Harvard's antisemitism board following school president's 'painfully inadequate testimony'

Rabbi David Wolpe announced he is exiting Harvard's antisemitism board as the university's president continues facing backlash over comments she made at a congressional hearing.

A prominent rabbi announced his resignation from Harvard's antisemitism board after the university's president offered what he described as "painfully inadequate testimony" on Capitol Hill this week.

Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay was among university leaders called to testify in a hearing addressing the growing antisemitism that has taken place on college campuses since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israel. Gay, along with her counterparts at UPenn and MIT, failed to say whether calling for "intifada" or the genocide of Jews is against Harvard's code of conduct. 

Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School, announced his exit from Harvard's antisemitism advisory committee, offering a "Hanukkah message" ahead of the Jewish holiday. 

"As of today I have resigned from the antisemitism advisory committee at Harvard," Wolpe began his message Thursday 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."


Wolpe called Gay a "kind and thoughtful person" and acknowledged that there were other "good people at the institution" but that an "ideology" has gripped many others.

"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," Wolpe said. "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 said combating such ideologies goes far behind his committee and Harvard itself, saying it is "not going to be changed by hiring or firing a single person" or posting on social media. 

"This is the task of educating a generation, and also a vast unlearning," Wolpe said. "Part of the problem is a simple herd mentality – people screaming slogans whose meaning and implication they know nothing of, or not wishing to be disliked by taking an unpopular position. Some of it is the desire to achieve social status by being the sole or greatest victim. Some of it is simple, old-fashioned Jew hatred, that ugly arrow in the quiver of dark hearts for millenia."

He continued, "In this generation, outside of Israel, we are called to be Maccabees of a different order. We do not fight the actual battle but we search for the cruse of oil left behind. Remember the oil was to last one night, but lasted eight - which means there were seven nights of miracle. But 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 — Blessing to you and Hag Urim Sameach."

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Gay responded, "I am grateful for Rabbi Wolpe’s advice, perspective and friendship over the course of the last several weeks. With thoughtfulness and candor, he has deepened my and our community’s understanding of the unacceptable presence of antisemitism here at Harvard. We have more work to do and his contributions will help shape our path forward. Antisemitism has no place in the Harvard community, and I am committed to ensuring no member of our Jewish community faces this hate in any form."


Gay was among the university presidents grilled by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. regarding pro-Palestinian activists chanting "intifada" in demonstrations on campus. 

"You understand that the use of the term intifada in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict is indeed a call for violent armed resistance against the State of Israel, including violence against civilians and the genocide of Jews… And there have been multiple marches at Harvard with students chanting quote ‘There is only one solution, intifada revolution' and quote ‘Globalize the intifada.’ Is that correct?" Stafanik asked. 

"I've heard that thoughtless, reckless and hateful language on our campus, yes," Gay responded before calling it "abhorrent" "hateful speech."


However, when pressed on whether rhetoric calling for "intifada" or the genocide of Jewish people violated Harvard's code of conduct, Gay replied saying it "depends on the context." 

Historically, what’s called the First Intifada was a deadly series of attacks and protests carried out by Palestinians against Israelis during the 1980s. The Second Intifada occurred in the early 2000s as at least 1,000 Israelis were killed by terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians using suicide bombers on buses and shooting civilians in the streets, bars and restaurants in cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Following intense backlash after the hearing, Gay released a statement saying, "There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account."

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