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Yeshiva University Professor Denounced For Criticizing Trump’s Jerusalem Decision

A professor at Yeshiva University is being denounced for signing a statement criticizing President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Jess Olson was one of more than 170 Jewish Studies professors across the country who signed a petition earlier this month expressing dismay at Trump’s move. The petition states that the announcement that “appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence.”

Olson told the Commentator, a YU student newspaper, that he was a “Zionist who desires in my deepest core a future of real, permanent peace and prosperity for Israel,” but said that Trump’s move made peace less likely.

“I encountered the petition independently, read its contents, and felt that the issue and the statement was important enough for me to add my signature,” he explained.

Olson’s decision to join the petition was criticized by some in the Jewish community. The Coalition for Jewish Values, a new right-wing Orthodox organization, released a statement calling on YU president Ari Berman to “publicly disavow this repugnant statement, and refer Professor Olson’s endorsement to the appropriate faculty committee for review.”

“Young Jewish adults attend YU to learn the truth about Israel and Jerusalem, not to be treated to the demonization we have faced throughout our history,” the statement continued. “His participation in this declaration thus harms the university’s reputation in the eye of the Jewish community.”

Others in the Orthodox world have also criticized Olson and YU.

The university has not publicly responded to the Coalition for Jewish Values’ letter. But Prof. Aaron Koller, the chair of YU’s department of Jewish Studies, defended Olson.

“I absolutely support Dr. Olson’s right to sign the statement,” Koller emailed the Commentator. “On every campus and in every community, there are—and ought to be—different learned opinions, and certainly this is fundamental to higher education: our students must be exposed to different defensible views, and therefore be encouraged to think through issues deeply in order to reach their own views.”

Correction, 3:15 p.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Jess Olson is the associate director of Yeshiva University’s Center for Israel Studies. In fact, he no longer holds that position.

Contact Aiden Pink at [email protected] or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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