This is a response to Professor Max Weiss's October 12 article entitled "Is the Center for Jewish Life stifling free speech on campus?"
Every member of the Princeton community is always welcome at the Center for Jewish Life. However, participation in a panel that we sponsor is a privilege and not a right. Our decision to sponsor or co-sponsor an event is an opportunity we evaluate in each case, not an entitlement on the one hand, nor an infringement of free speech on the other.
The CJL is a community that promotes dialogue and open conversation. Last week, the CJL sponsored a program together with the Princeton Committee on Palestine, the Muslim Student Association, Near Eastern Studies, Tigers for Israel, and J-Street U featuring a Palestinian peace activist, Ali Abu Awwad. We were happy to sponsor a compelling program promoting a constructive, pro-solution perspective on ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Like any other organization, we have policies that inform our programming decisions. A few years ago the CJL Board of Directors carefully crafted guidelines that embody our values. Under these guidelines, the CJL sponsors programs that provide opportunities for open discussion and the expression of differing views in the spirit of University life and in commitment to a pluralistic Jewish community. The CJL will not, however, sponsor groups or speakers that intend to harm Israel or promote racism or hatred of any kind.
When Professor Max Weiss was suggested as one of many possible faculty speakers for a program that two CJL-affiliated student groups were hoping to co-sponsor with the Princeton Committee on Palestine in response to this summer's conflict in Gaza, some of the student organizers ultimately decided not to invite him. They did so in consultation with CJL staff member Slav Leibin, and on the basis of the fact that Professor Weiss has supported the cultural and academic boycott of Israeli professors and institutions of higher learning, a position that infringes academic freedom and is incompatible with CJL event sponsorship on the basis of our guidelines outlined above. Professor Weiss's personal attack on Slav Leibin, and the Jewish Agency with whom we partner, was unwarranted, and we believe Professor Weiss owes Slav and the CJL an apology.
The CJL is committed to ongoing learning and exchange of ideas through panel discussions, travel experiences, ongoing dialogues such as the Muslim-Jewish and Black-Jewish dialogues and hundreds of one-on-one conversations. We believe these efforts are more likely to bring about positive change than boycotts or newspaper articles that attack those working to find common ground.
Rabbi Julie Roth, Executive Director of the Center for Jewish Life
Pierre Gentin '89, Chair, Center for Jewish Life Board of Directors
Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics, Princeton University, and Vice-Chair, Center for Jewish Life Board of Directors