From Rabbi John Moscowitz in Toronto
Published in the JEWISH JOURNAL | November 29, 2018
I write you as a Pitzer graduate (1975) and as a Jew. I do so in sadness and disappointment— in response to the Pitzer faculty voting to cut off the college’s program in Haifa.
My two most important teachers at Pitzer were Lucian Marquis and Tom Hayden. I was close to both, not just while in Claremont, but to the end of each of their lives. I would speak with each about my love of Israel, including with Tom as he was dying two years ago.
Interestingly, Tom, the Irish Catholic radical, was a good deal more knowledgeable about Israel than Lucian, the German Jewish refugee.
That said, no professor was more memorable and influential than Lucian— in part because he provided his students a window into the fascism from which he fled. He cautioned us, his wide-eyed and idealistic American students, that fascism was possible anywhere. We were clueless but curious. Lucian made us both less clueless and more curious—smarter, in fact. Come to think of it, so did Tom.
Tom Hayden, much like Lucian Marquis, would become allergic to the kind of herd-like mentality that consumed Lucian’s mid-century Germany. It was one of the reasons the hard left eventually bore Hayden much ill will.
In any case, I strongly suspect both men, were they alive today, would share my deep disappointment. Both saw Pitzer as different from other colleges and universities: more free of dogma; more wedded to fairness; more inclined toward principle. Not perfect, but worthy of significant esteem. I learned the virtue of independent thinking from these two men. I’ve been grateful ever since.
This was the Pitzer that Lucian and Tom knew— indeed, the college I experienced and have since been proud to include on my resume.
No longer. The Pitzer faculty’s Haifa vote is illiberal— and betrays a knee-jerk animosity towards Israel as ignorant as it is disguised as principled. This is the kind of animus that often proves infectious, even dangerous, as it can turn individuals into crowds. It’s hardly what the Pitzer College I once knew was about.
I suspect you don’t share the Faculty’s views on the Haifa program. Even more, I’m gratified that your students (the official student council, in any case) are prepared to buck their teachers.
Nonetheless, the vote badly tarnishes the college— and leaves a foul wind in its wake that won’t easily dissipate.
Rabbi John Moscowitz, ‘75