A few days after a group of tenured faculty members published an ad in The Daily Princetonian calling for the University to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Rabbi Julie Roth, the executive director of Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life, sent her email list a message describing the CJL’s response. “I am confident that we are taking the best, positive strategic approach to defeat this action,” Roth wrote.
But the involvement of the CJL, whose mission, Roth said, is to provide a campus home for all Jewish students — whatever their religious or political views — sparked its own controversy-within-the-controversy.
“The Jewish community’s position on Israel is not monolithic,” said Maya Rosen ’17, who co-authored a subsequent open letter, signed by 38 Jewish students, calling on the CJL to remain neutral. “The CJL taking an institutional position opposing boycotts of the settlements creates a space in which there can’t be robust conversation about the issue of boycotts.” The students’ letter did not take a stand on divestment itself.
The discussion within Princeton’s Jewish community mirrors similar disputes taking place on campuses nationwide, as college-age Jews find themselves torn over the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hillel International, the organization of Jewish campus groups with which Princeton’s CJL is affiliated, prescribes guidelines on Israel programming that some see as designed to mute criticism of Israeli policy.
Roth said the intent of her email was misconstrued, and in retrospect she wishes she had phrased it differently. “We always welcome a multiplicity of views, both individually and programmatically,” she said. “Our intention was never to limit conversation.”