Note: Today’s newsletter has a somewhat Jewish focus.
A pluralistic, liberal democracy requires freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and tolerance of difference. Liberal principles and Jewish tradition both embrace discourse, debate, and disagreement. Judaism even encourages passionate argument –– “for the sake of heaven” (machloket l’shem shamayim). This kind of argumentation requires humanizing ideological opponents. Interlocutors are considered partners in a search for truth. The suppression of dissent, in contrast, violates liberal principles and core Jewish values. Critical Race Theory (CRT), at least as currently implemented (in schools, workplaces, and many other social justice efforts) rejects liberal principles and Jewish values in favor of suppressing dissent.
“Critical Race Theory and the ‘Hyper-White’ Jew,” my essay in Sapir, a new journal of Jewish conversation, explores this problem and highlights the antisemitism inherent in CRT. As I write in the essay, at a time when the moral imperative is to “be less white,” there is no identity more pernicious than that of a once powerless minority group that, rather than joining the struggle to dismantle whiteness, opted into it. This is how the CRT paradigm conceptualizes most Jews.
The inaugural volume of Sapir, the first of four, is about social justice. Several thinkers from different fields and perspectives offer nuanced views about the dilemmas of social justice and how they intersect with Judaism, Jewish concerns, and Jews as people. You can find all the essays at this link.
A “Jewish Harper’s Letter”
“By late afternoon on Wednesday more than 200 notable thinkers, intellectuals and activists from the American Jewish community expressed their support for freedom of expression and the condemnation of alleged ‘suppression of dissent’ among Jews.
They did so by signing what's been dubbed the ‘Jewish Harper's Letter,’ a document organized by the newly formed Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, which addresses the growing threat to the liberal principle of free expression of ideas.”
The aforementioned letter can be found here and all Jews are invited to sign it. (Hopefully by the time you read this newsletter, there will be a place for non-Jewish friends who support the message of the letter to sign it, too.) David Bernstein, the founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, was among the handful of thinkers who crafted the letter, as was New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who once wrote that “every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea” (in his opinion essay The Dying Art of Disagreement).
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt was among the early signers of the letter, and tweeted that he “signed the letter ‘because Jews have long understood that truth is hard to find, and you need spirited debate, within a community of respect, to get closer to it.’”
Jon and I have both spoken about “machloket l’shem shamayim” –– arguing for the sake of heaven. (My articles about the concept can be found here and here. They are based on the Jewish Baccalaureate keynote I presented at the U.S Air Force Academy in May of 2017.)
Below is a video of a talk that Jon Haidt gave titled The Jewish Art of Constructive Disagreement.
ZOOM EVENTS FOR PAID SUBSCRIBERS:
Monday, May 24 at 1:00pm Eastern
Wondering about free speech on the internet? Have questions about the limits of protected speech? Join a Q&A with Nadine Strossen, immediate past president of the ACLU and author of HATE: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship.
Monday, May 31 at 12:00pm Eastern
Q&A with award-winning translator & University of Chicago Classics professor Shadi Bartsch, who will talk about her new translation of The Aeneid, and what the classics can teach us about ourselves in our hyper-polarized and impersonally connected internet age.
Still to be scheduled:
Bret Stephens on The Dying Art of Disagreement
JUST ADDED: Alan Dershowitz on the Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
COMING UP ON CLUBHOUSE FOR EVERYONE:
Thursday, May 6 at 8:00pm Eastern: Challenges to Liberal Principles and Jewish Values (link here)
A conversation with David Bernstein, founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values (JILV) along with board members Samantha Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe (and me), and the Institute’s Scholar-in-Residence and CRT subject matter expert Monica Osborne, PhD. We will talk about the “Jewish Harper’s Letter,” the JILV, and the difficulty of having challenging conversations when ideas about social justice that contradict the preferred narrative are often met with rebuke and retribution rather than discourse and debate. (Other participants will likely join the conversation.)
Monday, May 10 at 8:00pm Eastern: Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and I will discuss fear and censorship in US universities (and K-12 education –– which recently made the news).
Clubhouse has created a way for people to skip the waitlist to join the Habits of a Free Mind Club and RSVP for this event by clicking here.
Wednesday, May 19 at 6:00pm Eastern: Ending Bigotry: Chloé Valdary’s Theory of Enchantment (link here)
Chloé Valdary (whom I wrote about for Psychology Today here) will talk about her innovative framework for compassionate antiracism, Theory of Enchantment, which incorporates social and emotional learning, character and leadership development, interpersonal growth and an appreciation of our common humanity.
Wednesday, May 26 at 6:00pm: Join me in the “Uncancel Club” for a Q&A with Samantha Harris, legal expert on the First Amendment, free speech, due process, and Title IX. Sam was my colleague at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where she worked for many years before going into private practice as a lawyer. In addition to serving on the founding board of the JILV, Sam is on the board of advisors of the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR), which, like Chloé Valdary, is at the forefront of creating ethical anti-racism approaches in K12 education.