As leaders of the Jewish Students Association of Johns Hopkins, we are troubled by the opening event of the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium series this fall, a panel discussion featuring the organizers of the Women’s March. Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory’s struggle for equal rights for all is an admirable campaign and one that we support.
However, these women also hold some views that we, as Jewish students at Hopkins, find deeply disturbing. The four speakers have a history of anti-Zionist comments and celebration of self-proclaimed anti-Semites. Some of them deride Zionism as inherently oppressive and declare that one cannot be a Zionist while supporting equality in the U.S., directly excluding many members of our community from their fight for equality. Their claims transcend what is considered acceptable discourse. Furthermore, as Jews we are especially troubled by their embrace of leaders such as Louis Farrakhan, an avowed anti-Semite. We believe that praising Hitler and peddling in conspiracy should disqualify someone from being touted as an inspiration.
We respect the principles of free speech and encourage open dialogue, especially at this time of constant campus attacks on free speech. We encourage all students, including those who identify as Jewish, to attend the talk with an open mind and to engage respectfully with speakers.
To refine our ideas, it is necessary to interact with those with whom we do not agree. In his 2016 commencement address, Hopkins President Ronald Daniels encouraged us to “be open to the complexities and contradictions of humankind. And through that broad aperture seek better, more informed and more just decisions for ourselves, for our institutions and for our society.”
College is a time to have our ideas challenged and we encourage students to embrace this opportunity to think thoughtfully about the incredible work these women do as well as the problematic dialogue they have promoted in the past.
Serena Frechter and Aaron Pultman are the president and vice president of the Jewish Students Association of Johns Hopkins, respectively.