The Tony Kushner Debate

Does ‘honor’ mean anything anymore?

Comments (94)

(84) Carlotta, April 15, 2019 3:00 AM

seeing both sides

I'm very much opposed to his politics, which I regard as dangerously naive; but his artistic contribution is definitely meritorious, and deserves recognition. I find some of his political statements about Israel upsetting and disappointing coming from such a significant intellect, but maybe we shouldn't expect artistic talent and political acumen to coincide. Some of his works - from Angels in America to Lincoln - actually draw on Jewish teachings and ideas (for example, the famous Lincoln speech with which he closes his CW screenplay draws on the biblical concept of supporting orphans and widows). It's unfortunate that his political statements are so wrongheaded, but I don't think that takes away from his artistic accomplishments nor the positive message of much of his work. People are complicated and it seems fair to give him credit for his artistry, while acknowledging that his politics are misguided - in my opinion very much so.

(83) Malka Kideckel, November 2, 2012 2:19 AM

Honorary "not honor"

The bottom line is if Tony Kushner spoke against the blacks, the Hispanics, he wouldn't get the degree. Israel doesn't hit home and doesn't hit a raw nerve. A liberal American Jew gets away with alot they have chutzpa. Rabbi Solomon here's something you just have to swallow: Jewish blood is cheap. Rabbi Pinchas Winston says, listen to the news, listen to what the goyim are saying, G-d speaks to us through the Goyim. We have to do T'shuva, work on ourselves. We can't change the world we have to change ourselves and that will have a ripple effect on other Jews and then the world at large. The Chofetz Chaim speaks about this in his famous work Shmirat HaLoshon. No one but no one becomes religious when you throw rocks at them and scream Shabbos. Invite them in for Kiddish and ask about them, take an interest in them that will change even the hardest nut.

(82) Anonymous, December 10, 2011 3:55 AM

kushner honorary degree

Disagreeing with Israeli policies doesn't make Tony Kushner anti Israel. Tony Kushner is a terrific playwright--so glad he got an honorary degree. Seems to me true lovers of Israel can disagree with the government and be vocal about it. That's what a true patriot does.

(81) C.R., June 5, 2011 11:42 PM

Honorary degree...

While I do not agree with anti Israel/anti semitic points of view--I think its more important to learn why CUNY would want to give this man an honorary degree--what has he done to deserve it? It also seems to me the Rabbi is confusing the word honorary with honor.

(80) Chaim, May 30, 2011 3:36 AM

Pick our battles

While I fully hear the points you're bringing out, I'm not so sure this is what we should be concerned about right now. An honorary degree is usually seen as a gesture to show significance in a certain area regardless of all else. I just feel that there are such more important things going on in the world today that this should hardly be an issue. Just my thought...

(79) Anonymous, May 23, 2011 11:39 PM

It was the School of Criminal Justice!

Why is the school of criminal justice giving out an honorary degree to a playwright? Did you know that MIT does not give out honorary degrees?

(78) G Bloom, May 23, 2011 9:09 AM

say it like you mean it

There is no entitlement to a degree or any other accolade. It is earned and conferred by some governing body according to some type of standard. I am genuinely unmoved by the style of this piece in the sense that you presnt the matters as odorless, colorless, tasteless and antiseptic We should be offended or even enraged if an institution hands out accolades too freely or for the wrong reasons or even to undeserving recipients. It is not so much about "honor" as the perception created by allowing the recipient to bask in the reflected limelight of the award. And giving such things away improvidently cheapens the priduct and the process.

(77) bkaufman, May 23, 2011 2:39 AM

i have a roll of paper to give him with his degree on it. i may have to use some of it prior to the presentation, because just thinking of an individual like him gives me an urge

(76) Anonymous, May 22, 2011 11:52 AM

Why give honorary degrees anyway?

1) Why give out honorary degrees anyway? What value do they have? Seems rather silly to me. 2) Seems to me that the giving of such things says more about the ones giving the honor than the one(s) getting it. Yeah.

(75) Lisa, May 20, 2011 10:56 AM

Nothing new under the sun....

Of course he does not "desrerve" a degree.....but society does not always do right as we see by looking back at our history. We make such a big deal when it comes to Jew bashing....why?? its nothing new & its been with us since Day One......why are we all so surprised when something like this happens??

(74) Anonymous, May 20, 2011 3:48 AM

Simple Jew hate disguised as Anti-Israel hate

If you want to make your mark, simply write, speak about anti-Israel. Do not speak about Jew hate only anti-Israel, your a hit with the media and academia. Watch what happens to Jews in America, people thought it wouldn't happen in Germany but it did. The German people were intellectuals. Nazis had PhDs for heaven sake. Israel must live or else where would you go. remember SS St. Louis nobody wanted the Jews either on that ship.

(73) Anonymous, May 19, 2011 5:13 PM

How on earth can we compliment someone by giving them a degree after bashing us? There has to be limits we will accept and we, too, are entitled to our opinions. And not giving him a degree is our right as well.

(72) moshe sifman, May 19, 2011 4:06 PM

charedi non zionists misreported

chareidi anti zionists KNOW that Hashem gave the land to Am Yisrael BUT on condition of total loyalty to Him. the z, anti Torah secularism has produced generations of jews ignorant of & even anti- Judaism this is what should distress

(71) Sheila Deutsch, May 19, 2011 2:36 PM

As usual, your are absolutely correct. Pity that others don't see it.

We live in a world today where politics rule. You are correct in that a person should only be honored if his life deserves honor. Unfortunately, people honor anyone who agrees with their opinion, no matter how foul and evil that opinion may be. SD

(70) jgarbuz, May 19, 2011 3:51 AM

Any Jew who denies Israel as the Jewish Homeland should be

excommunicated and banned from the Jewish nation. Just as Moses set down a line and asked who was with him and who was against, and the earth swallowed Korah up. The Jew who denies Israel as Jewish tribal land should be blacklisted and not allowed into the Homeland. And that goes for anti-Zionist Haredim as well as the extreme leftist followers of "Rabbi" Karl Marx. The JEwish people will be better off without renegades and traitors in their midst.

(69) Carolyn, May 18, 2011 8:16 PM

I believe in free speech, but only when it offers others the same freedom. Sometimes "free speech" can "imprison" some minds that are already perverse with hatred and malice. By what principals do the "powers that be" HONOR this man? Is it the principal of peace? or war? glory? or shame?

(68) Anonymous, May 18, 2011 6:39 PM

Honorary Degrees, Nobel Peace Prizes - waste of time.

Evidently, honorary degrees are now following in the footsteps of Nobel Peace Prizes. Merrit is no longer a requisite for either. Kusher should be ignored, not honored. And to submit Obama's name as a candidate ofr the Peace Prize before he even took office, is a travesty. Forget the fact that he actually won. But he's in good company - Arafat- the father of the suicide bomber- won it too. La, dee, dah. It's all a pathetic attempt to debase Israel. The world knows how Kushner and Obama feel about Israel. Let's applaud them! Disgraceful.

Anonymous, May 23, 2011 11:41 PM

SO true!

totally agree!

(67) Anonymous, May 18, 2011 6:07 PM

I totally agree with what the Rabbi says

Honour . person mst have "Human honour" first

(66) Anonymous, May 18, 2011 5:59 PM

Boards and the like must be very clear in the meaning of "honor" before they go bestowing "Honorary" anything on anyone. I concurr with R'Salomon. Kushner does not deserve this honor

(65) dplv, May 18, 2011 5:46 AM

college puke

Too much emphasis today about degrees. Someone can hang several sheets of toilet paper, er, I mean Doctorates on the wall. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge(Proverbs 1:7a) If they don't have the fear of the Lord (respect, HONOR, Reverance) then they don't know the first thing. They know nothing that matters. How did we ever get along BEFORE we had these institutions that puke out a new generation of psuedo-intellectuals every year. We had respectful children that learned from people who actually knew how to do stuff.

(64) Kibbitzer, May 18, 2011 5:17 AM

Tony Kushner

Kushner has said that he believes Israel's creation a 'mistake.' Would the board consider honouring him if he said this of India or Pakistan? What about the USA? I suspect that they would not and rightly so. So what makes Israel different?

(63) Kathleen, May 18, 2011 2:51 AM

Tony was bushwacked.

If a university changes its mind about giving an honorary degree, that is their right. But they don't wait until the recipient is standing in front of an audience at the ceremony to take it away. That is the sin.

Anonymous, May 19, 2011 2:56 AM

You must learn the true facts

It was not taken away as he was standing in front of an audience. In fact, it was not taken away (unfortunately) at all. When it was up for CONSIDERATION (he had only been nominated, not approved), the Board voted against it, as is its right. In a cowardly act, a small subset of the board (4 people out of 17) were allowed to overrule. Tony Kushner is a vicious anti-semite - a self-hating "Jew." He has accused Israel of"ethnic cleansing" - a very irresponsible and frightening and FALSE statement to make in today's world. Truly.

(62) Esther Schachne, May 18, 2011 2:14 AM

What has happened to moral clarity?

I'm afraid honor doesn't mean much anymore to many misguided people and I commend Jeff Wiesenfeld for taking his morally clear and correct position. It's a disgrace that Tony Kushner has maligned Israel in such an ignorant and malevoloent way and then insists he supports Israel and its right to exist. He is a very confused and deluded individual who does not realize that his stance is at the very least, uninformed, and even more, aiding and abetting the agenda of the people who hate Israel and want to destroy it. He is so complacent that he doesn't realize that having a Jewish state is essential for us; there is no guarantee, even here in America, that we are completely protected from those who would do us harm. You are absolutely right, Rabbi Salomon; Tony Kushner's honorary degree is not given in a vacuum and the total package needs to be considered. As a graduate of CUNY I feel disappointed and distressed that it felt compelled to honor someone like Tony Kushner.

(61) Louise Pinedo, May 18, 2011 1:38 AM

Tony K. does not merit this reward.

Scandalous times we live in when people don't feel how inappropriate it is to grant this man fore mentioned award!

(60) Rick, May 18, 2011 1:32 AM

Honesty Meanigless in todays society

Just be anti Israel and that makes you eligible for any "honor " in todays educational system this is a sorry world we live in today

(59) Anonymous, May 18, 2011 1:21 AM

Kushner's poor judgment should bar his getting the honorary degree.

Angels in America is about the travails of homosexuals in America. Tony Kushner, was writing about lack of acceptance. As a Jew from Southwestern Louisiana, he had to deal with that prejudice, too. Yet for him to take the side of Arabs from Judea and Samaria who are avowedly anti-Semitic, and who believe homosexuals should be killed versus the side of Israelis who practice religious and sexual tolerance makes me not only question his judgment, but he judgment of those who would honor him for anything but his writing. If CUNY wanted to give him an honorary doctor of letters, perhaps - but a doctor of philosophy, a philosopher being a lover of wisdom, no.

(58) Christine, May 18, 2011 1:13 AM

Sad, when there are so many deserving ppl to be honored

(57) Robert C. Wortman, May 18, 2011 12:27 AM

You're dead wrong!

Since when does the City University of New York require pro-Zionist thinking as a requisite for public honors? Kushner is being honored for his contribution to the Arts. How does Zionist thinking insinuate itself in to NYC official thought? Is it your contention that a great Arab writer or performer should be precluded from honors by a great university? Is it all to be predicated on the power to extort or unduly influence the "political" interests of a board? As a psychotherapist, do you only attempt to provide emotional health and comfort to those that "think" as you do? Your sanctimony gets in the way of your humanity!

Alan S., May 23, 2011 7:25 PM

me thinks you protest too much... would think be okay if any honorable university honored a Hitler (may his name be stricken) for his contributions to, um, the science of warfare? Or a David Duke because of his latter year contributions to wildlife preservation? Or to any misanthrope because I am sure that someone could find some redeemable quality that could be honored. No, any person, be it Arab, Irishman, Afro-American or even a Jew that espouses racist hatred should not receive an honorarium based solely on the fact that they have also made a contribution to some field of study.

(56) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 10:47 PM

Turn It

Kushner cares deeply about AIDS, the lives of Palestinian Moslem Arabs and political extremism in Israel. He should visit Tehran first, and if he survives, Gaza City, Mecca, Triploi and explain his thoughts to the public there while writing a new play and performing it at those locations. If he does so, the situation will surely be resolved by those he seems to care about more than Israelis who only want to live in peace.

(55) Scribo, May 17, 2011 10:28 PM

What about some facts?

You say "supposedly" made anti-Israel comments. What are they? You need to start with some reality. Where, when, and how were these comments made? From my reading, they were, perhaps, more evenhanded than "anti."

(54) Kay Lorraine, May 17, 2011 10:27 PM

Actions have consequences.

Although I was not aware of the Kushner brouhaha, I think his writing is extraordinary. Nonetheless, I cannot help but be persuaded by Rabbi Salmon's words. In bestowing an honorary degree, all parts of the person should be taken into account. And if some of those parts are less than "honorable," then he should not be awarded honors. In his day, Mike Tyson was a brilliant fighter but I don't think that he should be awarded an honorary degree either. His actions outside the ring have proven him to be less than worthy of honor, no matter how good a boxer he was. Actions have consequences.

(53) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 9:56 PM

no honor to antisemitic jews

any individual who dishonors others should not be honored. a French citizen who condemns France because its present government is not in keeping with his personal views should not be honored by France or any other country. An Italian citizen who feels that Milan should be donated to Yugoslavia should not be honored by any european country. A Jew who is anti semitice should be less of an eligible candidate for an honorary degree than a non Jew who is anti semitic. We Jews expect more of our fellow Jews than we can expect of others. Jews who were Nazi sympathizers were much more detrimental to others than non Jews with the same ideas. Any public acknowledgement of an individual should be measured in terms of his contribution to society and not in terms of his own personal aura. Greatness cannot be measured by big but by good. A great man is not a tall man but one whose soul is tall. A great person is one who has much room in his heart for others.

(52) Ann Brady, May 17, 2011 9:28 PM

What is Honor?

Well stated, Rabbi Salomon. Up here in Canada - unbelievably - we are seeing a debate still raging over the recently proposed naming of a building in our nation's capital. The 'honoree' was to be former Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton, whose anti-Semitism helped turn away a ship carrying hundreds of Jewish children seeking refuge in Canada from the nazis during WW II. Innocent children who were returned to their deaths. Those arguing the building be named in Whitton's honor cite that "she was a woman of the times" as an 'explanation' for her deadly anti-Semitism. Thankfully, and after the dedicated protest of many good and wise people, it was decided that the building would not be named after Charlotte Whitton. That this even would have gone so far, and is still being debated heatedly, is appalling. Do people not remember - or care? Thank you for speaking out about the Kushner situation. It's time people reacquainted themselves with the meaning of the word "honor."

(51) Suzanne, May 17, 2011 9:05 PM

Should Tony Kushner get honorary degree?

No! Agree with the rabbi.

(50) Gregory K. Tobkes, May 17, 2011 8:31 PM

CCNY's right to deny honorary degree.

An honorary degree reflects the philosophy of the institution awarding it. Therefor, the institution has every right to deny this honor to someone who does not hold to their philosophy. Logical,Nu?

(49) Tabitha, May 17, 2011 7:58 PM

No honorary degree for a dishonorable man

Of course, Kushner is undeservng. Would we honor Hitler's oratorio skills or Muhammad's swordsmanship? But our world has turned upside down. Our own people are boycotting Israel - in Universities, in the entertainment field, in our administration. Our liberal Jews have become so liberal that they're our worst enemies. Christians are also betraying their own, as we see how Islam has been accepted throughout Europe, and they're witnessing their own demise. A very sad scene.

(48) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 7:57 PM

ABsolutely agree!

Absolutely agree! We are all accountable for our positions and should expect to be judged accordingly. When an honorary degree is bestowed upon a person, that honor is applauding the person and his/her positions, as well as their positive impact on society in general and on the graduating class, specifically. SHAME ON CUNY FOR FAILING THEIR MISSION!!!

(47) Grace Fishenfeld, May 17, 2011 7:57 PM

Arabs/American Indians ?

Some of us in our Jewish Family bend over backwards to see the other persons point of view. In the case of the Middle East , they push aside the history of our people which includes an emphasis of the Holocaust as another good reason for the establishment of Israel, the Jewish Home Land. The realization that took place by The United Nations in 1948, gave to our Jewish people a sovereign country which Tony Kushner states , "is an amazing place. " The man is a talented writer, an artist. His focus has turned away from Jewish pain and accomplishment to the Palestinian pain of displacement. His vision is blurred. He sees injustice. He probably equates Jewish gaining of land in the Middle East from Arabs with American gaining of the western territory of America at the expense of the Native Americans (Indians). Not so, when you examine the details of how Israel negotiated with those on the land of the newly established country. Who ran from the land in hopes of retrieving it with the help of those who refused to recognize Israel's legality? Who have continued to use force and violence on Israel's citizens? Kushner is not Wagner, an anti semite, or Heidegger, whose morality was compromised by the Nazis. He is a Jew, whose backside does not burn, since he has not lived through daily attacks on Israel. He has a conflict with Israel's current government believes that peace can still be worked out in the Middle East. I do not believe that he is anti Israel . Tony Kushner is a talented and accomplished writer. He is not an historian nor political philosopher or maven on religion. His plays deserve the recognition and award from City College for his work but if you asked me, while he's bending, I would just give him an enema.

(46) Judith, May 17, 2011 7:43 PM

Rabbi is Right

The Rabbi is right - it does not matter how talented Mr. Kushner is, an honorary degree is just that - an honor and it is necessary to take into consideration the entire person as well as his work. His anti-Israel/anti-semite comments are not "honorable" no matter how you cut it. I do not understand the CUNY board as a degree, honorary or otherwise, given to an individual automatically associates that individual with the institution. Is that what they want - to be associated with an individual holding anti-Israel/anti-semite beliefs?

(45) Stevelv, May 17, 2011 7:22 PM

Double Standard Hypocrisy

Its not about freedom of speech. Its about the content. If someone was to come out with anti gay statements or even anti Palestenian comments he probably couldn't even get on campus let alone receive an honorary degree.

(44) Shashi Ishai, May 17, 2011 7:16 PM

Another Sign that American Jews are living a false sense of security

America has become a scary and dangerous place for Jews to live. A mosque is given the right to rebuild-next to the Twin Towers...Brooklyn College has apartheid/Israel week..Israeli/Jewish academians and performers are being boycotted to lecture/perform..These actions are insidious, vexing, whatever..but they are growing bit by bit, and are too reminiscent of pre-war Europe..I am glad I moved to Israel almost 2 years ago......

(43) Rosalie, May 17, 2011 7:01 PM

My immediate gut reaction based upon me being a staunch Orthodox, Zionist, was to say, "absolutely not". However, I believe once you start denying an honoraree degree based upon political standing you get into "murky waters". (Only speaking for a Public Institution, not a Private one). Who's to stop the next honorary degree from being awarded solely because the person is pro-Israel and anti-Palistinian. If in fact an honorary degree is bestowed solely based on artistic talent, which one of the comments seems to suggest, I feel it should be awarded. (Again, only for Public Institutions). We all know Kushner's true colors by this point. "Ain't no award gonna change that". Hashem awards us when our time comes.

(42) Phyllis Becker, May 17, 2011 6:38 PM

Tony Kushner's Honorary Degree is ridiculous

Tony Kushner should not receive an" honorary" degree from any university because his views are without honor or dignity or correct behavior. I could not agree with you more and I am also appalled that another university founded by Jewish people (Brandeis) would even consider giving him an honorary degree. If these universities are so interested in representing everybody, not matter what their views, why do they never give an "honorary" degree to someone with social conservative values. In case Mr. Kushner hasn't noted, democracies like Israel and the U.S. are some of the few environments where he would be free to express his beliefs, no matter how absurd they seem to others.

(41) maish goretsky, May 17, 2011 6:24 PM

the most worse emotion

The self hatred that this man has, is a reflection of an antipathy he feels toward himself and humanity.In his soul the fraud lurks and is recognized. therapy for him would be (has been) like tate in banke-excuse spelling!

(40) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 5:51 PM

Give him the Honorary degree

As much as I disagree with Kushner's position on Israel, the Honorary degree for Kushner is being considered in honor of his strength as an artist/writer, In this case, he has achieved the merit for the degree. How many racists/anti-semites etc should have been denied their degrees, or had them revoked, due to their political views? As much as it may be abhorrent to some to grant the degree to him, he has earned it.

Safti, May 17, 2011 7:29 PM

He earned it?

He did NOT earn this HONORARY degree. There is no HONOR in any aspect of this man.

(39) Miriam Harpaz, May 17, 2011 5:23 PM

Tony Kushner does not deserve a honorary degree.

Tony Kushner is the producer behind Munich. Why would you give him a degree ? To bash Israel some more. What a chutzpah!

(38) jack bender, May 17, 2011 5:23 PM

right to opinion...yes...but not to facts

kushner..joined the cadre of israel deniers who twist and outright lie their zeal to assault he is a liar and a falsehood pedaler of hate..he deserves scorn ,not honors

(37) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 5:08 PM

no right

There is no right to receive an honorary degree. it is just that, an honor, not a right. It is leftist bigotry to think they have a right to this, just as they think they have a right to impose their views on the world and a right to suppress all with whom they disagree. This is leftist totalitarianism. The board should be fired.

(36) Elaine Neace, May 17, 2011 5:02 PM

I agree with Rabbi Salomon

If political correctness goes against the people and nation of Israel, how can we insure that we are not allowiing the foundation for another Holocaust? Consider what is happening in Israel with the nations surrounding her today!

(35) tom, May 17, 2011 5:01 PM

No way Jose

Tony Kushner should not get any award from CU NY other than maybe a swift kick in the rear. Any self hating Jew should be embarrassed to call themselves a Jew and Kusher is a very good example. No Jew should hate Israel and anyone who does should not get special recognition.

(34) ed wunsch, May 17, 2011 4:54 PM

i totally agree

you're absolutely right! the board has every right to deny the recommendation of giving an HONORARY degree to anyone that is an outspoken hate propegandist.

(33) Mark Goldstein, May 17, 2011 4:47 PM

No *Honorary* Degree for Kushner

I agree with Rabbi Salomon. The fact that it's called an *honorary* degree means that the selection panel should be able to factor in everything about the candidate. Though CUNY may wish to confer the degree to honor Mr. Kushner for being an award-winning playwright, they must consider everything about the candidate's behavior to deem him worthy of honor. Mr. Kushner's political views which single out a particular group for criticism are ill-informed and, therefore, prejudicial. Because of his fame, many others who are ill-informed will adopt his views. This misuse of his fame is very dishonorable behavior and should disqualify him immediately for this honorary degree.

(32) Chris, May 17, 2011 4:46 PM

Honorary Degree Tony Kushner

I think no matter what religion, Political View ect - if you the person wanting to recieve it promotes hatred to any group or person should not recieve it - The Honorary Degree was original estamblished to be give to exceptional people, now they will give them out to just about any one. These exceptional people should be ones our children can look up to. I have nothing against freedom of speech, but awards should not be giving to people that promote any kind of hatred. I am not Jewish, I do not pratice Judaism - I do feel strong about promoting peace, if we don't our world will just get worse and by giving Tony this award says its okay for what hes said and lets allow more hatred.

(31) Robin Guttman, May 17, 2011 4:31 PM

I am familiar with Tony Kushner's hatred of Israel.

I am proud and supportive of Jeffrey S. Weinbrod's defense of Israel. Tony Kushner's views on Israel are hateful although you may have noticed that he has tried to play down his opinions during this current debate. I haven't heard Mr. Kushner utter a word against Assad for the unapologetic slaughter of unarmed citizens engaged in peaceful protest in Syria. Kushner is a hypocrite.

(30) Daniel, May 17, 2011 4:26 PM

double standard

Does anybody think CUNY would give an honorary degree to someone who was anti Egypt? The answer is obvious. We live in an age of political correctness.

(29) jeromeb, May 17, 2011 4:24 PM

I love it!

I love it when people outwardly denounce Israel and proclaim their hatred for Jews. At that moment, they make themselves easily identifiable as Jew haters, and we can take steps to deal with them. Those people can never catch us off-guard again, as they have revealed their position.

(28) Guillermo, May 17, 2011 4:21 PM

Freedom of speech, yes; honors, no!

There is nothing honourable in CUNY's "honor" award. I agree with the Rabbi.

(27) Craige Kinney, May 17, 2011 4:10 PM

Take it away

I agree with Rabbi Salomon Would you give one to Hitler just because???????????? THis is what is wrong with the world today there is No Honor or thought given to who should realy recieve something. So where is mine I love Israel & pray for Israel O yes I know I don't have any money to give out & I am just A Christian that no one can make any off of ...........

(26) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 4:01 PM

I agree with the Rabbi's argument

Well stated....

(25) Raphael Sisa, May 17, 2011 3:54 PM

Tony Kushner's Anti-Israel Views

Can someone define to me what Anti-Israel is. I myself am confused. I tried googling what Tony Kushner's views are that would characterize him as being such. For anyone who was wondering, here is what he said in an interview (pulled from Wikipedia): "All that anybody seems to be reading is a couple of right-wing Web sites taking things deliberately out of context and excluding anything that would complicate the picture by making me seem like a reasonable person, which I basically think I am."[5] In an interview with the Jewish Independent, Kushner commented, "I want the state of Israel to continue to exist. I've always said that. I've never said anything else. My positions have been lied about and misrepresented in so many ways. People claim that I'm for a one-state solution, which is not true." However, he later stated that he hopes that "there might be a merging of the two countries because [they're] geographically kind of ridiculous looking on a map," although he acknowledged that political realities make this unlikely in the near future.[

(24) Prof. Brian Smith, May 17, 2011 3:47 PM


The question is not whether Kushner has talent as a playwright or is good in his field, it is not even about whether or not he should get an honorary degree - certainly there are countries and institutions in which he should be honored - for example by the University of Teheran or Al Quds University. The real question is what it says about CUNY - a university in the heart of Jewish America with a large number of Jewish students and alumni who will surely find the decision to honor this openly anti-Israel personality to be shameful.

Anonymous, May 18, 2011 5:54 AM

Hear, Hear!

Spot on comment! You hit the nail on the head!

(23) Bernie Mandell, May 17, 2011 3:33 PM

Honorary refers to wholesomeness ..... not ability. Kushner's ability may be great but to honor the man who wants to destroy the people whose genes gave him those abilities is despicable. Unfortunately we have such self-haters as kushner.

(22) Stanley Tee, May 17, 2011 3:30 PM

More Kushner in his own words ...

In his letter to the Board of Trustees of CUNY, Mr. Kushner repeats his anti-Israel canards. He writes: "I believe that the historical record shows, incontrovertibly, that the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes as part of the creation of the state of Israel was ethnic cleansing .." He bases this belief on having read just one historian, the revisionist Benny Morris. It appears that Mr. Kushner has made no attempt to learn whether there are any other opinions on this subject, or whether any other historians disagree with Morris. He would be well advised to read Efraim Karsh's meticulously-researched "Palestine Betrayed", which clearly documents how Arab leaders, from the Mufti of Jerusalem to the leaders of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and more, all encouraged Palestinians to flee, in order to allow Arab armies to annihilate the Jews and the Jewish state. I would say it's a good thing Mr. Kushner writes fiction because writing non-fiction requires diligent research.

(21) Sy Dill, May 17, 2011 3:19 PM

Honor In Honorary Degrees

An example of this hypocrisy in supporting Kushner's honorary degree would be of Ezra Pound. He was considered a first rate poet, but during WWII he broadcasted from Italy that he wanted to see all Jews exterminated. Under CUNY rules, or any one else's rules,would anyone give that kook an `honorary degree?'

(20) Stanley Tee, May 17, 2011 3:16 PM

For those who want to know what Kushner said

Some commenters here seem to be having trouble finding the statements Kushner made that led to this controversy. Here are some of them, together with references: [Israel was] founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing, and that today is behaving abominably towards the Palestinian people. —Yale Israel Review (winter 2005) I've never been a Zionist. I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state. It would have been better if it never happened. —The New York Sun reporting Kushner comments made at a conference in NY(10/14/02) Ha'aretz reporter: But you are saying that the very creation of Israel as a Jewish state was not a good idea. Kushner: I think it was a mistake. —Ha'aretz (4/7/04) There's much more, all pretty easy to find, if you look properly.

(19) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 3:14 PM

I agree. You are absolutely right.

rabs by a chair in every university and their money buys everything!

(18) Ruth Mendes, May 17, 2011 3:12 PM

Honor is the key concept

To bestow an honorary degree implies legitimizing the philosophy and politics of the honoree. It is not only appropriate to consider the politics and policies of the candidate, it would be irresponsible not to do so.

(17) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 3:11 PM

You're so wrong!

While I've believed that Tony Kushner has served as a useful idiot to the Palestinians, I also believe that he's a marvelous playwright, one of the best of his generation in the world. To compare him to Nazi's is beyond the pale. He's receiving an honorary degree because of his talent, not because of his naive political views.

(16) Sondra Silver, May 17, 2011 3:09 PM

Tony Kushner's "award" is an abomination!

I am concerned about the discrimination against Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld shown by the CUNY Faculty Union. Hopefully Aish and others are taking steps to defend Mr. Wisenfeld, a vocal supporter of Israel, and not support Tony Kushner, a self-hating Jew.

(15) Unlisted, May 17, 2011 2:57 PM

His literary works are equally objectionable

The fact that he's being honored for the trashy art he's created is equally objectionable to me. I'm equally concerned about the anti-Torah values portrayed in Kushner's plays, which have had enormous impact and been given every prominent theater and literary award. Like many other (secularly) successful, misguided Jews, Kushner is a perfect example of someone with an incredibly brilliant and creative yiddishe kopf whose energies and efforts were channeled in the wrong direction, rather than with Torah values and toward Hashem.

(14) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 2:52 PM

If Tony Kushner can't get an honorary degree we're in bad shape.

Tony Kushner is a great writer. His Angels in America trilogy ranks up there with the best of Miller, Albee and yes -- Shakespeare. It covers a critical issue of America spanning the 60's through the 80's in the most creative way. His other plays also make it clear that he is deserving of the honor. But if we deny him the honor because he is publicly critical of Israel on some issues, than no Israeli or Jew would ever get an honor. The Israelis in Peace Now say things critical of Israel, Netanyahu, when Rabin was the Prime Minister said things critical of Israel, Livni often is critical of Israel, Jews in America that love Israel are sometimes critical of Israel -- that's called democracy. Israel chose this form of government and Jews all over the world thrive in democratic societies. So let's not lock step in the thought that if you are critical of Israel you are somewhat "self hating". The Talmud has shown us that debate and disagreement makes our decisions stronger. I am a Jew who loves Israel, visits Israel and has family in Israel -- but even I sometimes wince at some of the decisions Israel makes. So let's not go overboard on this issue. And Rabbi, comparing Kushner to Wagner and Heidegge is really going overboard. Kushner is no anti-Semite, he just expressed some of the same opinions that many Israeli do daily.

(13) Anonymous, May 17, 2011 2:43 PM

"Honor" has become a meaningless term.

Unfortunately, the word "honor" has become devalued in -- well, a dishonorable way. Honoring someone implies looking up to that person, respecting what he / she stands for, etc. But in a self-centered society, it is often regarded as a sign of personal weakness to seek to emulate another human being. People tend to think, "What makes him better than me? It's mostly his lucky breaks that have gotten him to where he is!" This kind of thinking absolves us from looking inward and striving for improvement. That's hard work! Who needs it; better to (ironically) run after honor for ourselves and knock down anyone standing in our way! Kushner probably will get the honorary degree because otherwise the liberal, leftist "freethinkers" at CUNY and elsewhere will rage. Though it may make the rest of us mightily uncomfortable to face the truth about where our society is headed, we'll be silenced by those whio don't want to or cannot consider the real meaning of "honor". But this will be a Pyrrhic victory for Kushner because he'll be rendered even less honorable; to paraphrase a well-known adage: "One honorary degree doth not make an honorable man".

(12) Steve W., May 17, 2011 2:38 PM

What Is His Right?

Rabbi S. is correct, of course, about Kushner's right to air his views. I will also state what I think Rabbi S. implies--that is that no one has a RIGHT to an honorary degree. This, I take it, is Wiesenfeld's point, and he is also correct. I was amused that Kushner was quoted as affirming Israel's "right to exist." By this, he merely perpetuates the hypocrisy of the rest of the world, which never has put in issue France's "right to exist," or Iran's or Sudan's. The CYNY Board should be taken to the woodshed for now making noises about throwing Wiesenfeld off the Board. They are reactionary cowards.

(11) yaakov ha., May 17, 2011 2:31 PM

Honorary Is An Holist Degree

In my opinion an honorary degree is given to a person to honor the WHOLE person.It is not a recognition of excellence in a specific field like the Noble prize for phisics.If the powers that be at CUNY decide to honor him as a person they have of course the right to do so,but they are setting a dangerous precedent .The examples are numerous as you yourself mentioned.Would they honor rabbi Meir Kahane???

GLP, May 17, 2011 4:41 PM

They wouldn't honor Rabbi Meir Kahane

The only Jews who are honored in this world are the anti-Jewish/Zionist/Israel Jews. Jews who are proud and fight for Jewish causes are not honored. Rabbi Kahane was the best a Jew could be and therefore villified.

(10) Rachel, May 17, 2011 2:21 PM

The meaning of honorary degrees; 1st amendment

1. Honorary degrees are generally awarded to honor outstanding achievement in one's field. Kushner is an outstanding playwright. So yes, an honorary degree honoring his body of work is appropriate. Perhaps an honorary degree would today be bestowed on Wagner for his magnificent music. You can argue, then, about whether that's right, but honorary degrees have nothing to do with being an honorable person. 2. The First Amendment issue is particularly important because CUNY is a government institution. If Kushner meets the standard for receiving an honorary degree, then it would be a government interference with his freedom of speech if the government nonetheless decided not to bestow it purely based on his protected political speech. This is very different than if Yeshiva University (or Catholic University of America, or Harvard University, all private institutions) decided that based on someone's political opinions that ran counter to that institution's principles, such a person would not receive an honorary degree. Leaving aside this analysis, I don't particularly care for Kushner's artistic work. And while he's against Israeli policy, I haven't found anything "anti-Israel" per se. I'd be interested in reading DOCUMENTED evidence of truly "anti-Israel" remarks he has made, if anyone wants to post some so we can decide for ourselves.

GP, May 17, 2011 2:52 PM


Honorary degrees have nothing to do with excellence in one's field of expertise. As the Rabbi said he can say what he wants but once he said it, he cannot stop other people from voicing their opinion about what he said in fields that are outside the area of his excellence. Furthermore, where does his understanding on Israel affairs come from? is he a scholar in the field, a fellow somewhere that we did not know. As far as i am concerned, he may be a greast playright but a moron in middle eastern history and politics and when these two are being considered, he does not deserve a honorary degree. Maybe the proceeds from his playwrites should suffice.

Batya, May 17, 2011 4:45 PM

For Rachel

Perhaps I've misunderstood, but I believe Rabbi Saloman meant to suggest that one of the considerations for the bestowal of an honorary degree SHOULD be the character, integrity, etc. of the candidate in question. Anyone who makes incendiary comments can and should be bypassed in favor of another worthy candidate who refrains from doing so. Like it or not, the word "honorary" implies that the receiver himself is honorable -- not just his work. Of course, there's room to disagree over the semantics -- but that's my understanding of Rabbi Salomon's point.

(9) Dr. Sandra Lynton, May 17, 2011 2:03 PM

I am a long-time fan of Tony Kushner, and so am biased. I do think he should have received an honorary degree. I believe it is important to consider bias in this discussion, as it is key - since it is other people's biases that could have prevented him from receiving this honor. I found it interesting to read others' comments, since what Tony Kushner has said about Israel is obscured by each individual's opinions. Personally, I have no idea what he has remarked. Even if it is outrageous, he has a right to his opinions as has been acknowledged by almost everyone. The question is whether his beliefs specifically regarding criticism of Israel should color the opinions of those who judge his worthiness of receiving an Honorary degree for his literary talents. If it is considered intolerable for him to criticise Israel then I believe this is a big problem. Israel was founded by people holding different opinions and visions for how the State would become. Would it have been just to block the Revisionists who followed Jabotinsky, or the Socialists who followed a different path? There is great diversity of opinion today in modern-day Israel, and many voices that are critical. To a certain extent Amos Oz, another literary figure, is critical. Personally, I defend Israel, mainly because many members of my extended family are Israeli and both my parents who lived there in their youth were ardent zionists. But I don't think that should make me judge others negatively who do not hold my opinions on this topic for their merits on unrelated matters.

(8) Esther Benari, May 17, 2011 1:49 PM

Kushner Should NOT Be Honored

I trust Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who is an upstanding patriot of the USA & Israel. Wiesenfeld is CORRECT in protesting the honor of Kushner, who considers Israel as ethnic cleansing and an apartheid state. Israel gives more rights to Arabs, than any other Arab country

(7) Carol Polcovar, May 17, 2011 1:25 PM

Honor of our Traditions

From the beginning Jews have been discussing, offering opinions, disagreeing to the nth degree. Rabbi Akeva, of honored memory even followed, for a while, a false Messiah. A deep tradition among Jews of the past is to love our fellow Jews, if not agreeing with them. The honor was given, then rescinded. If the man was unworthy , he should not have been honored in the first place. To punish a fellow Jew for what he believes no matter how it displeases us is not our tradition. It is an embarrassment that leads to the belief that even killing another Jew is allowed, if one believes his fellow Jew is "wrong enough". It has happened, hasn't it? Is Israel a piece of land we treasure, or is Israel an idea of peace, freedom and brotherhood among Jews that we embody in the land G-d gave us? How Jews answer that question will determine if we will have Israel , the piece of land.

(6) CMBERZON, May 17, 2011 1:25 PM

Honor to CUNY?

A University that gives an honorary degree is not only honoring the recipient. THey are also expressing a pride for the university that he has received a degree from them. Is CUNY proud that Kushner will be a recipient of their degree? I surely hope not!

(5) Linda Saban, May 17, 2011 1:05 PM

I agree with Rabbi 100%

I agree with Rabbi 100%, and honourary degree should be an honour to give. This man is not worthy. But nu, whats new.

(4) Mitch, May 16, 2011 2:11 AM

Reasonable point of view

Yes, it's reasonable for a university to consider character when granting honorary degrees. However, let's consider what Tony Kushner has actually said about Israel. I goggled the topic and found lots of _reactions_ and discussions about CUNY and its actions but it took some persistence to find any statements from the author himself about Israel. He said "“I believe that there is still the possibility of a negotiated peace in the Middle East." He also expressed some disappointment in the current government of Israel but consider the country 'an amazing place.' These sound like reasonable points of view. Is a person allowed to criticize Israel at all? This is certainly OK in Israel itself, a democratic country. It sounds very reasonable that CUNY granted him an honorary degree.

Anonymous, May 17, 2011 3:10 PM

Keep looking ...

You must have missed some of this gentleman's statements. You know, the ones where he proclaimed that Israel was/is guilty of ethnic cleansing and that the creation of Israel was "a mistake". Not such a reasonable point of view after all, is it?

(3) Beverly Kurtin, May 15, 2011 9:16 PM

As we say in Texas

Honor? It seems to me that I've heard that word at some time in the past. But when it comes to hating Israel, there is no honor in defending it, just in spouting lies, lies and more lies. In Texas it means "Steer Stool." Yes, rabbi, an Honorary degree starts with Honor, when that is lacking then it cannot be given with a straight face. The haters of Zion made the decision to honor that guy (I refuse to write his name), so what else is new? Recently, I purchased a Sony Walkman with 8 gigs of memory in it. Why? To download some of the videos on Aish and when I hear someone bad mouthing us Jews or the State of Israel, I plug in a speaker and let them hear the truth, I am particularly fond of the Letter from Jerusalem written in 1969; it is archived and can be found by clicking on Videos on the homepage. In my years I have worked for Jews and Gentiles, some were honorable to the Nth degree; others would hold back my pay just to see if I would demand my money. Two of the most honorable have been a Gentile and a Jew. I so admired them both that I would stay at work until they were ready to leave; they knew why I was waiting for them to leave; it was just in case they needed a last moment paper or script to be written, etc. Both of them always said, "Thank you, Bev, I appreciate what you do." How many bosses have you had that would do that? My Jewish boss always left early to get to shul and, naturally enough, he would send me packing so I could attend services with my son. Menches both., I'll not talk about the less than kind bosses I worked with because they were not honorable men; they do not deserve being remembered; and such it is with the present controversy, if there is no honor, an HONORABLE school would not give the honorable degree to a person without honor. What a shame.,

(2) Stella, May 15, 2011 8:48 PM

Mr. Kushner’s harsh comments about Israel leave me with a bad impression of his judgment. He sounds like a self-hating Jew who doesn’t consider Israel to be “his” country or realize that when he condemns Israel he is condemning Jews all over the world who love and care for Israel. Perhaps he is unaware of the fact that Israel was founded after the horrors of the Holocaust to be a safe haven for survivors and has become a remarkably well-developed country over the last six decades despite threats from surrounding countries. Or perhaps Mr. Kushner IS aware of Jewish history but doesn’t want to pay attention to it. Kushner’s anti-Israel comments make me question if he’s even visited Israel, toured the sights, or spoken to the locals on a one-to-one basis. From what I’ve read, it sounds as if Kushner is repeated back from the media portraying Israel an evil imperial power instead of a constant target for terrorists. If Mr. Kushner wants to get a real perspective on Israel, he should go VISIT IT! Pope John Paul II did it, the Coen brothers did it, Glen Beck is doing it, countless presidents of the United States did it….the truth is out there if people want to seek it. Regardless of opinions on homosexuality I also have to ask why Kushner is blasting Israel when his gay-related plays would get him banned from places like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Tel Aviv is known to be an open-minded liberal city that probably would put on “Angels in America” and welcome him with open arms. So I ask again: why is Kushner attacking Israel and—in a sense—attacking himself?

Stanley Tee, May 17, 2011 3:08 PM

Sorry, you're wrong

Israel was not 'founded ... to be a safe haven for survivors" of the Holocaust. Zionism began long before. Yes, it was a response to international anti-Semitism, but it predated the Holocaust by more than 50 years. In fact, if Israel had been founded BEFORE the Holocaust, or if Britain had not prevented Jews from entering the Holy Land, millions of Jews could have been saved. Please check the history a bit more thoroughly.

(1) Alan S., May 15, 2011 3:43 PM

Rabbi, as usual, your comments are proper, cogent and right on! An excellent analysis. Too bad that not enough of the board of trustee members analyzed it properly, as you did. Certainly the "whole" person needs to thoroughly vetted before honorary degrees are awarded. I doubt that CUNY would honor a David Duke. Why their double standard?


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