I don’t usually comment on this blog about religious controversies among my fellow modern orthodox Jews. As in other religions, and in society at large, women’s roles are changing rapidly, and, periodically, the question of women wearing tefillin (leather boxes containing verses from scripture) during morning prayers, traditionally a male custom, pops up.
But the same school has now banned Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, one of the leading historians of Israel/Palestine, and the scion of a distinguished Palestinian family from Jerusalem, from speaking to a student club, who invited him. No doubt the school is fearful of alienating its donor base. No explanation has been given so far.
It’s not as if Prof. Khalidi doesn’t have a Ramaz connection. Ramaz alumnus, Prof. Jonathan Gribetz, wrote his doctoral thesis under Khaladi a few years ago. Prof. Gribetz’s wife, Prof. Sarah Kattan Gribetz of Princeton, recently gave a seminar on The Portrayal of the Other in Rabbinic Literature at Ramaz.
For an orthodox school the administration at Ramaz is relatively liberal on women’s issues and sensitive to the Jewish portrayal of the Other in rabbinic literature. But when it come their students hearing the Palestinian Other, they apparently are not so liberal. Not surprisingly, the religion of the State of Israel means more than the religion of the People Israel in modern orthodox day schools, even the liberal ones. And listening to a distinguished historian whose families were taught into refugees by the state that Ramaz students are taught to believe is the “beginning of redemption” is too much for a religious zionist school.
The good news is that when you teach students tolerance, when you provide a crack in the wall of intolerance, that’s where the light comes in. Ramaz students have signed a petition calling upon the administration to let the club hear Prof. Khalidi.
They will win in the end. These are changing times for modern orthodox Jews.