Monday, April 28, 2008

The Power of a Professor

This message was posted to the Jewish Faculty Roundtable by Judea Pearl. It reminds me of a flyer I post in my classroom: "Mathematics is Not a Spectator Sport." Neither is defending Israel against those trying to destroy it.

"A Simple Re-Action to an Anti-Israel Speech"
Judea Pearl

We have been hearing a lot about anti-Israel speeches, intimidation, isolation and a general sense of discomfort that Jewish students encounter on US campuses. Below is a simple action to counter this atmosphere, boost morale and help improve the posture of Jewish students on campus.

Israel will soon be celebrating its 60th birthday and, chances are, there will be some commemoration of this event on your campus.

My suggestion: *Be There,* say a few words from the stage, and let students know that, contrary to much amplified anti-Israel rhetoric from the reckless Left, there are principled and thoughtful faculty who cultivate pro-Israel sentiments, perhaps not as vocal and fashion-driven as their adversaries, yet calmly committed, rational and commonsensical.

The presence of even one faculty member on the stage will go a long way toward diffusing our students' sense of abandonment.

For a student, *you* represent the soul of the university; not the Hillel director, not the Rabbi, certainly not the Israeli Consul, or the musicians on the stage -- but you. It is you, with your lab coat, your stethoscope, a library book under your arm, or a bunch of graded homework in your briefcase, it is you and your professional dedication who mediates to students the norms of responsible society. Your action will mean a lot to students.

Don't wait for an official invitation; the organizers have probably given up on getting faculty to speak on such occasions, or are simply too busy to think of the importance of your presence. Call them up and offer your participation.

Alternatively, if you are somewhat adventurous, surprise them; be there, hop on the stage and say: "I am Professor XYZ from the department of ZXY. I was in the middle of a crucial experiment (or a book review, or meeting or whatever), but I could not resist being here, with you at this celebration, and to tell you what Israel means to me."

It is dignified, personal and honest.

Now imagine 20 professors on the stage, each approaching the microphone and saying: "I am Professor XYZ, I, too, could not sit idle in my cubical. Israel is in my thought today."

Be there.

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