Yeshiva Alumni Angry Over Award for Jimmy Carter — Not Hershel Schachter

Stance on Israel Draws Heat, Not Sex Abuse Controversy

Former President Jimmy Carter has irked Yeshiva alumni with his criticism of Israel. But an honor for Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who used a racial slur to describe blacks, hasn’t drawn nearly the same controversy.
Former President Jimmy Carter has irked Yeshiva alumni with his criticism of Israel. But an honor for Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who used a racial slur to describe blacks, hasn’t drawn nearly the same controversy.

By Paul Berger

Published April 14, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
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Emmanuel launched a new group, the Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni, and a simple website, Shame on Cardozo, on April 6. Within three days, galvanized by media attention — including in the Forward — more than 5,000 people had visited the site, including about 1,300 people who took an online poll about whether Carter should be honored (87% were against).

Emmanuel said that over just a few days, dozens of irate alumni copied him on emails to Y.U. administrators, vowing that they would cease contributing to the institution.

One alum threatened to stage an act of civil disobedience by physically blocking Carter from entering Cardozo. Political commentator Alan Dershowitz weighed in, telling Haaretz that Carter “never met a terrorist he didn’t like” and that he was “unworthy” of the award. The National Council of Young Israel demanded that Y.U. rescind its invitation to Carter.

On April 8, Y.U. President Richard Joel was forced to issue a statement distancing the institution from the award, which he stressed was given by a “student-run” publication. Joel underscored that he strongly disagreed with “many of President Carter’s statements and actions” in regard to the Middle East.

Rabbi Yosef Blau, who has been a spiritual adviser at RIETS for almost 40 years, said it had not gone unnoticed that Carter’s award appeared to have generated “more concern” than the issues of alleged abuse at Y.U. itself and Schachter’s recent controversial remarks. Blau pointed out that Cardozo is a professional graduate school, wholly secular in nature, though affiliated with Y.U. Its alumni, he said, have very different concerns than those who graduate from RIETS and from Yeshiva College, the university’s undergraduate school. Indeed, anti-Carter activist Emmanuel, who graduated from Cardozo’s Masters of Laws program, said he was unaware of the child sex abuse controversy at Y.U. and of the firestorm over Schachter’s comments.

But Emmanuel said that comparing the two issues is unfair.

The primary reason his campaign attracted so much attention so quickly, Emmanuel explained, is that he is heavily involved in Israel advocacy and has good contacts for quickly disseminating information to the correct people.

“I don’t think you’re giving enough credit to who we know and how we get this out,” Emmanuel said. “This wasn’t a fluke.”

Contact Paul Berger at berger@ forward.com or on Twitter, @pdberger.


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