The Tikvah Fund Issues a Call for Applications and Nominations

Tikvah logoThe Tikvah Fund is has invited our nominations for potential attendees to its very well-regarded Fall 2014 Tikvah Advanced Institutes. This round, Tikvah will offer institutes in both New York and Jerusalem on topics including Religious Freedom in America, Israeli National Defense, The Hebrew Bible and Jewish Excellence, The Case for Nationalism, and more.  Please let us know if you are interested in further information in the nomination process.  The applications for these programs are open through August 10th, and Tikvah is now beginning the recruitment effort. There is no charge for the institutes, and the opportunity comes with a stipend to cover time and expenses. Below is a list of the topics of the fall institutes. Details about the Tikvah offerings and how to apply can be found at www.tikvahfund.org.   

THE NEW SOUND AND FURY OVER “RACE”

When I was six years years old, my parents taught me not to say “the baddest word in the world.” Not being exactly Victorian prudes, the word they had in mind was not “sex.” But it was closely related and started with an “f.” Today, that word in politically correct circles starts with an “r.” Of course, you can talk about race all you want—many do ad nauseam—as an indicator of economically unjust conditions or as a “social construct.” But not “race” as a “biological reality” (whatever that may be).

A case in point, as if we needed yet another (a similar firestorm twenty years ago surrounded Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnsteins’ “The Bell Curve” on IQ and race), is the building reaction of Nicholas Wade’s new book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.” A former science writer for the “New York Times,” Wade is of course a good liberal (as we have recently learned, all Timesmen and Timeswomen are “good liberals,” but not all are equally paid) and not a racist, though some of his new critics are treating him as he was an “r”—as in radioactive racist—for suggesting that the profound changes in human history over the past 10,000 years are a reflex of small changes in the human genome in response to the diverse environments confront by racially distinctive European, Asian, and African populations.

As an historian, I know well the pernicious intellectual and political history of the use and abuse of the concept of race over the last two hundred fifty years not only in Europe but in America. American Jews—viscerally if not always politically “good liberals” respond with understandable passion to this history. A hundred fifty years ago, many if most European intellectuals (as Sander Gilman, among others, have documented), classified Jews as, in some sense other, an African or “Negroid” race, inferior both in their in looks and moral physiognomy. Less than a 100 years ago, most American social scientists were convinced on the basis of culturally-biased World War I IQ tests that European Jewish immigrants were intellectually inferior.

A new breed of scientific intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic like Franz Boas and Ashley Montague—“Dr.” David Duke’s followers calls them “Jewish gatekeepers” of a new egalitarian “false consciousness”—rebelled against this racist orthodoxy and laid the foundations for our new color-blind consensus that race, biologically, doesn’t matter much if not at all.

Of course, findings about the human genome during the last 30 years have demonstrated that race does matter, at least in terms of disease propensities (the Ashkenazi Jews and Tay-Sachs disorder, African Americans and sickle cell trait, Native Americans and diabetes). However, the broader liberal-academic argument that it is cultural evolution—not racial biology—that drives recent human evolution still dominates the climate of opinion.

Launch of Northeastern Law School Chapter – March 19, 2014

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is happy to announce the launch of its Northeastern law student chapter, located in Boston.   Danit Sibovits, LDB Staff Attorney heading the legal advocacy initiative, will be speaking at the launch.  The law school chapter initiative is the newest phase in the Brandeis Center’s campaign…

Civil Rights Hero Irwin Cotler to Step Down from Canadian Parliament

The Brandeis Center congratulates former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler  for his distinguished service to Canada and the world upon the announcement that Cotler would not seek reelection to the Canadian parliament.  Cotler is Honorary Chair of the Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board.  

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus   commented, “Irwin Cotler is truly a living legend in human rights law, and his departure from governmental service is something of a blow, but I know that his passion for justice is unabated and that he will long continue to set the standard for the pursuit of justice internationally.  We at the Louis D. Brandeis Center are deeply proud of his accomplishments and wish him every success in the next chapter of his extraordinary career.”

Cotler, a longtime Labor Member of Parliament, stated yesterday that he would not be a candidate in the next election, announcing “I have enjoyed the honor and privilege of serving my riding, Parliament, and the Canadian people as a whole for close to fifteen years. I look forward to completing my mandate and continuing the pursuit of justice in other arenas.”

ASMEA Research Grants

ASMEA logoOur friends at the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) have announced these research grants for academic research papers.  Members of LDB law student chapters should be aware that law students are eligible for grants for research on topics such as various aspects of the law of the Middle East conflict.  The details are as follows:

Research Grants

ASMEA is pleased to offer research grants of up to $2500 to qualified professors and students engaged in the study of the Middle East and Africa.

To stimulate new and diverse lines of discourse about the Middle East and Africa, ASMEA’s Research Grants program seeks to support research on topics that deserve greater attention. The topic areas and sub-topics listed here, are intended as a guide for participants in the program and constitute the types of subjects that ASMEA intends to support in this program. Applicants may submit paper proposals on any topic as long as it is relevant to the six broad areas outlined, and constitutes new and original research.

The Misplaced Crusade to Circumcise Moby Dick—and Make “White Racism” Quintessentially Jewish

Last Purim, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind “blacked up” in an incredible display of bad taste. Jews in particular were appalled, but there’s a subgroup of Jewish professors who may have felt vindicated. Practitioners of “the whiteness school”—prominent names include the late Michael Paul Rogin, Edward L. Goldstein, Jeffrey Melnick, and Karen Brodkin—argue that for performers like Al Jolson applying burnt cork was a strategy of ethnic assimilation. Not only Jewish performers but their first- and second-generation Jewish audiences are supposed to have derived a sense of belonging to the superior white American majority by application of burnt cork that heightened the contrasting white skin color beneath the black mask.

Of course, the Jewish practitioners of “whiteness studies” are highly critical of the prejudice and conformism of other, lessened enlightened Jews, then and now. Yet while they may reject the Jewish version of what H. L. Mencken in the 1920’s called “boobus Americanus,” the whiteness profs are very much conforming to an American tradition that goes back at least as far as Herman Melville who made Captain Ahab’s pursuit of the White Whale a metaphor for the sickness of the American soul.

Unfortunately, Melville may be a bit of an embarrassing model for the “whiteness profs.” For while critiquing the national obsession with whiteness, Melville personally combined a stereotypical infatuation with lithesome Polynesian girls he visited as a sailor with a classic loathing of old world, crooked-nosed Jews he described in his European travel memoir.