Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tale of Two Campuses

Once again, it is that time of year. Three of my children are graduating from school in the coming weeks, as are thousands of other young people who are proudly reflecting on the accomplishments of years of formal schooling.

Who is speaking at your school's graduation? If Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to America were available, would you invite him?

Interestingly, two institutions of higher learning with Jewish roots - Brandeis University and Yeshiva University - both invited Ambassador Oren to speak. At Brandeis University his announced appearance on campus was greeted with petitions and editorials protesting the invitation, led, to a large extent, by Jewish students on campus.

At Yeshiva University, the student body appears to have been pleased with having the opportunity for a distinguished representative of the State of Israel address them at their commencement.

Why do two groups of students who are largely products of the same cultural environment have such radically different reactions to the Israeli ambassador?

Let's try multiple choice:

  1. Brandeis students are more sensitive to social justice issues
  2. YU students have stronger personal connections with Israel
  3. Orthodox Jews always support Israel
  4. All (or none) of the above


Would you invite Ambassador Oren to your school's graduation?

Would your children protest?

Why (not)?


  1. Read Dr. Steven Cohen's "Beyond Distancing" which concludes that there is a growing rift between American youth and Israel -
    So the Brandeis students are typical. The question is why the YU kids are different.

  2. For Danny Gordis' article and thoughts on this go to He presents an interesting perspective on the "why" Brandeis students reacted the way they did???

  3. I actually discussed "Beyond Distancing" with Steve Cohen, and he told me that he had to pull the Orthodox respondents from his data because their commitment to Israel skewed the results. So "C" (in the multiple choice exercise above) might be a legitimate answer.