click here to jump to beginning of article list
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

View All Recent Posts

Posts on the topic of "Campus"

Penn State Needed a Pinchas

Jul 14, 2012 at 03:28:12 PM

My dear friend Harve Linder in Atlanta has done it again: found a deep Torah message in the headline news. The definitive Penn State investigation report was released just as we were reading the Torah portion of Pinchas, creating an amazing juxtaposition.

Recall the scene: A young graduate student walks in and sees an unspeakable incident taking place. What action does he take? Does he shout at the aggressor to stop it? Does he run out seeking help? Does he call either campus or local law enforcement officials? The answer to all these questions is "no."

Instead, he seeks out his leader, the head coach. But the coach himself doesn't know what to do. So nothing comes of it, and no one involved does the right thing for the victim, for future victims, for the university. The end result is that the abuse continues, people lose their jobs, others will go to prison, the university is harmed, and an extraordinary legacy forfeited.

Let's compare this to events in the Torah. An audacious sex crime has taken place, and a young man, Pinchas, witnesses the incident. He is incensed and knows the appropriate response. Yet before acting, he goes to the leader Moses for guidance. But Moses himself does not know what to do. And here our tales substantially diverge: Pinchas does not wait around for an investigation. He does not allow a conspiracy of silence to blanket the incident. No, he acts swiftly, precisely, and in accordance with the law. He stops the act, sends a clear public message, and ensures there are no future victims.

This is not to suggest that the Penn State graduate student should have become a vigilante, circumventing the courts. But he did lack Pinchas' passion and total commitment to doing the right thing. A bit of righteous indignation would have been well-placed, propelling him to cut through the layers of bureaucracy and malaise.

The Torah instructs us to act whenever danger is present: "Do not stand idly by your brother's blood" (Leviticus 19:16). We cannot wait for political posturing, for committee debates, or approval from public opinion. We cannot allow cover-ups and conspiracies of silence to develop. We must consistently do the right thing. Sometimes the proper action is not obvious. Even Moses occasionally forgot. But we have to learn the parameters, consult with our leaders, and act with confidence and determination. Only then will we fulfill our role of tikkun olam, and ensure there are no future victims.

Visitor Comments: 14

(12) elizabeth kosmerl, July 23, 2012 4:26 PM

let us all heed this message in Torah

Let us apply this zealousness to our own who betray our trust and the trust of our children. Let us not turn away because it is easier and by so doing help the victimizer. Let us prosecute to the fullest extent of the law the people who abuse the souls left in their charge.

(11) Rachel Garber, July 17, 2012 1:45 AM

Protecting the university, instead of the victim

As a former CPS (child protective services) worker, I followed this story with deep despair and sadness. To say nothing of anger. I can't believe that not only was this permitted to continue as long as it did, but when the story finally came out, and Joe Paterno was "let go" that the student body as well as alumni were incensed, that they wanted trustees removed. I just couldn't believe the comments about the victims, that seemed to be an aftethought. When Joe Paterno died while the investigation was ongoing, people said he died of a broken heart, what bull, what a travesty. Aside from the ongoing priest abuse drama, that was also covered up for decades, this has to be one of the most reprehensible stories of child abuse, that I have heard in a very long time. Sports Ilustrated and similiar magazine rushed to print special "tribute" issue for Paterno, I was so incensed, everytime I was in the magazine section in whichever store I was in, I took another magazine and covered up his picture.

(10) Anonymous, July 16, 2012 1:41 PM

Think About It

Having trouble making the analogy of Phineas stand for his G-d and his people and the Penn State situ. Hate that Penn State is forever marked by the act of an individual. Hate more for the precious children who suffered at the hand of that scallywag. One observation about people in my country is that their vision is for themselves and maybe a few others, but never think in terms of how everyone is affected by their actions. If Sandusky thought for a moment about the impact of his actions on the children, the University, our society, our nation, he could not have committed such crimes on innocent people, but he thought of one thing, his selfish lusts. The person walking by and seeing him in the act and simply reports to his upline is as quilty, as is his upline. Why. Because he wanted someone else to take the risks for doing the "right" thing. Paterno, I believe, knew about this problem, as I believe, they all did. We do a good job of living the life, but true character and integrity of heart are not there. Did we need a Phineas at Penn State? No doubt. More though, we need a righteous people who love and fear the one true G-d of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.

See All Comments

Harvard’s One-State Solution?

Mar 3, 2012 at 11:05:51 PM

It's no secret that Alwaleed bin Talal ― the Saudi Prince who insulted Rudy Giuliani with an attempted $10 million check after September 11 ― has donated a whopping $20 million to Harvard.

That may explain in part why Harvard officials have been so reticent to speak out against the "One-State Solution" conference at Harvard, scheduled for March 3-4, 2012.

The "One-State Solution," as anyone familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows, is a code word for the "demographic annihilation of the State of Israel."

Not surprisingly, many of those scheduled to speak at the Harvard conference are on record as opposing the existence of Israel.

Surely, universities are bastions of free speech and tolerance, but this is crossing the line. Harvard is allowing its resources ― including student activity funds, free space on its property, and the credibility of the Harvard logo in promo materials ― to be applied toward the goal of the dissolution of Israel.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard professor Ruth Wisse observes:

Freedom of speech grants all Americans the right to prosecute the verbal war against Israel. But let's differentiate toleration from abetting. Harvard may tolerate smoking, but its medical school wouldn't sponsor a conference touting the benefits of cigarettes.

And surely Harvard would never allow students to organize a KKK convention or a gay-bashing fest using campus resources.

If you believe this has crossed the line, sign the petition protesting Harvard's support for the "One State Conference," and email Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust:

Visitor Comments: 6

(5) Anonymous, March 21, 2012 10:44 AM

One state solutions break up in civil war

Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, and British India were one state multi-ethnic/multi-nation governments. They broke into separate nation-states when nations want a "room of their own" as Virginia Wolf titled her novel about a notional sister to Shakespeare. When people no longer trust "the king [George III, Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas II, or ...]" and resolve, "We the people [of the US, India or wherever] will take our government upon ourselves because if we want a job doing properly we have to do it ourself. Then those who do not think themselves belonging because of geography, language or religion walk out - or are expelled. So, "one state solution" is a recipe for another war - re-running 1948 in which Jews or Arabs leave or re-group. Christian Arabs as the smallest group in ex-British Western Palestine so the most vulnerable, unless Israeli Jews take them under their wing to de-Arabise by reviving Aramaic or Greek. These are precedents: Portugal left Spain (1650's), Belgium left Holland 1829, Norway left Sweden (1900ff), Hungary and Austria partially in 1866 and completely in 1918, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria left Turkey in 1820's, 1850's,1870's. World War I opened on Serbia/Jugoslavia leaving the Habsburgs though Jugoslavia broke up over Serbian dominance in the 1990's. Ireland left UK in 1921 but the UK holds together so far, because 85% of the population is in England despite England is only 55% of the land. Chinese Singapore left Moslem Malaysia over religion and language. The Germans and Tsarist Russians, with Poles, French, Hungarians and Irish not disagreeing - and Palestine Arabs - do not consider the Jews as, "we the [Arab/ Catholic] people" expelled and killed Jews, and now do likewise with European Gypsies/Roma and Arab Christians. Israeli Jews fought for a state because diaspora states fell flat on protecting Jews' liberties - and Palestine Arabs pretend to their own state too. A "one state solution" is a war. Shkoach Israel!

(4) Anonymous, March 14, 2012 12:29 AM


I find it hard to believe,a historic university, once considered, if not the best ,one of finest educational institutions in the world ,would be in this position.Combine this with what might be considered a very radical group of professors,not all but enough

(3) Merav Celano, March 6, 2012 11:35 AM

Feast or famine?

Money is power, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. With today's strained economy, finding benefactors for an institution the size of Harvard is extremely difficult. It's no wonder that they accepted such a large "donation". The question is, what do they have to do in return. Even if the Harvard officials try to remain unbiased, their motives will always be suspect. It's inevitable whenever a large contribution is accepted. In an institution that's most precious commodity is young minds, it's obvious what's up for negotiation. I admired Gulliani's refusal of the $10 million, because it was a clear statement that he wouldn't be bought, even though N.Y. could have used the money. Today, tuitions are astronomical, and most students can't afford to pay full tuition. They have to get scholarships or loans that can have them indebted for much of their lives. With the job market being so poor, more people are electing to go to public colleges. So where does that leave institutions like Harvard? They have to rely on their benefactors. I'm sure there are many Jewish benefactors that donate smaller amounts. Those benefactors shouldn't be discounted, because they add up. In a more balanced field, there's less likelihood of bias. I would suggest to Harvard that they be careful. What looks like a seemingly innocuous trend, may actually come back and bite them in the future.

See All Comments