An effort to address the tensions of Jewish practice in both American legal and social contexts was highlighted by an appeal for academic civility at the College of Law’s Center for Jewish Law & Judaic Studies (JLJS) symposium “A Comparative Analysis of Law through Biblica, Talmudic and Scholarly Texts.”
In May, JLJS invited Jewish scholars from across the nation to speak to niche practice problems such as women’s issues related to Jewish traditions, and the intersection between rabbinical courts and secular courts. Keynote lecturer Rabbi Capers C. Funnye Jr., rabbi and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation synagogue in Chicago, proposed that university learned behavior, or lack thereof, precipitates anti-Israel and anti-Semitic behavior with his presentation “Anti-Semitism on the College Campus and Free Speech.”
Citing the recent virulence of anti-Semitism at San Francisco State University, Rabbi Funnye, who also serves as a senior research associate for the Institute of Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, warned against the potential for development of “uncivil" universities where hate speech is not only tolerated but permitted to reign free.
Rabbi Funnye's vision of a civil university stands largely with faculty members. “Teaching and research must be free of politics and propaganda,” he asserted. He urged universities and colleges to temper academic freedom with academic responsibility, and to facilitate open and academic discussion and respectful dissent.
Rabbi Funnye, whose Hebrew-Israelite synagogue serves one of the largest African American congregations in the country, invited the Jewish community to demonstrate to Latinos and African Americans, and others, the importance of the relationship between America and Israel. He placed an emphasis on also encouraging greater inclusiveness amongst Jews.
Coverage of the JLJS symposium, including Rabbi Funnye’s presentation, appears in the July issue of JUF News.