92Y Cancels Spinoza Talk, Cites BDS


By Darren Pendleman

Published March 08, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza has been disinvited by the 92nd St Y. from giving his talk “Why I am a Heretic and Abjure Traditional Judaism.” According to event organizers the lecture has been cancelled because he has, in the past, failed to disown the BDS movement.

This isn’t the first time Spinoza has courted controversy. The Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam expelled the philosopher in the 17th century. Mindy Katz, director of programming, noted that that expulsion: “We take that very seriously, when Amsterdam rabbis raise a red flag,” she said. “They know heresy.”

Katz also denied that health concerns were a factor. “Any time you have a speaker that’s been dead for over three centuries, you worry a little, of course,” she said. “But we were confident that Barry was up to it. What became apparent was that the talk was going to be overshadowed by politics: Our donors voiced their disappointment with the choice and we listened.”

Some 92nd St Y members felt differently. Amanda Friedlander of Manhattan said she was curious to hear what Spinoza had to say. “I feel bad for him. I feel bad for his mother. A philosopher! What kind of job is that? If he was as smart as they say, why not a doctor? Making choices like that, I wanted to hear what he had to say for himself.”

When challenged with the viewpoint that Spinoza’s thought was a serious contribution to the intellectual developments of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Ms. Friedlander said, “Meh. A cardiologist — that would have been impressive.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.