A Call for Neutrality
We recognize and applaud the University's efforts to facilitate and encourage political activism, specifically with regards to the ongoing Iran Deal. Inviting speakers through the Israel club and YUPAC and arranging transportation to various rallies bespeak dedication and care for these important values. However, these events, and some of the language used to promote them, cater to only one side of this issue, thereby damaging the welcoming political environment of our campus, and marginalizing some students and their views. Though Yeshiva University proudly supports the State of Israel, the Iran Deal is a complex, politically charged issue, and the implication that Orthodox Jews and strong advocates for Israel must subscribe to a particular opinion about the Deal is both unfair and wrong.
Most strikingly, some of the wording in a recent, university-wide email from Vice President of University Life Rabbi Kenneth Brander and Dean of RIETS and Undergraduate Torah Studies Rabbi Menachem Penner took an unequivocal political stance:
“We are URGING (capitalization theirs) our semikha talmidim and those in the college thinking about entering semikha, TO JOIN (capitalization theirs) with us, our Roshei Yeshiva, Torah faculty and hundreds of rabbis in a rabbinic rally and lobbying effort in Washington...We must make our voices heard to urge Congress to reject the deal.”
Administrators should not implore students to adopt certain political views. The beautiful atmosphere that this University prides itself on stems from its students’ ability to freely form their own views. Emails from administrators “urging” students towards a specific stance detracts from this freedom, and undermines the free-range discussion integral to the university environment. When addressing the student body on issues like these, university administrators should remain neutral, encouraging students to form opinions of their own and thereby fostering a dynamic center of learning for our university’s diverse population.
We encourage the Administration and the Student Council to remain cognizant of these issues when planning and advertising events. We ask you to exercise foresight and prudence, taking measures to ensure that you do not marginalize students with certain political opinions, and working to contribute only positively towards an environment of flowering debate, informed, nuanced opinions, and passionate activism.