Recently, I was asked to sign a petition of Jewish Studies scholars supporting of Obama. Since I am a Jewish Studies scholar, since I sign petitions, and since I support Obama, I should have agreed, right? Especially when I had just co-hosted a fundraiser for Obama (featuring Michael Chabon, Nathan Englander, and Ayelet Waldman), and I had solicited and received money from the person who asked me to sign the petition.
For those of you are interested in this petition – and the signatories -- you can read about it here.
I have signed petitions in the past calling for international intervention in Israel/Palestine, for Israel to recognize its responsibility of the Nakbah, and in support of IDF refuseniks – all using my real name and academic affiliation. But, frankly, I don't think that my being a Jewish Studies professor, or my scholarly expertise, bears much on my support of Obama. I am a liberal Democrat; ergo I support Obama. Lots of folks in the Academy are liberal Democrats. My Judaism and Jewish identity is also involved – but not qua Jewish Studies professor. So I was curious to see what all this had to do with the Jewish Studies guild.
And here is the line"
As scholars of Jewish Studies, we are concerned that distortions of Senator Obama's record and biography have caused undue anxiety among American Jews about what an Obama presidency would mean for Israel and the Jewish community.
What does the reisha (beginning) have to do with the seifa (end)? I don't feel especially concerned about this matter "as a scholar of Jewish Studies." Any decent person should be concerned about distortions. But there are quite a few rightwing Jewish Studies scholars who may be unhappy about Obama for what they consider to be good reasons. And, I know that some of the signatories – Danny Boyarin, for example – will share my real concerns about President Obama's policies towards the Israelis and Palestinians. It will be harder to oppose the policies of a misguided American liberal Democratic president than a Republican one.
Look, this is not big deal, and if I weren't so busy with other matters, I would blog about something more important. If liberal Jews in my guild want to publish a petition in support of their candidate, they can go ahead and do it. But I do not see the connection between that guild and that support. And call me old fashioned, but I would prefer that the Jewish Studies business be left out. When I say on my blog that I am a Jewish Studies professor, that is for identification purposes only.