With one of the largest Jewish college student populations on its campuses, Rutgers University warrants the attention of Jewish communities around the globe.
When Rutgers professors, staff, student leaders or faculty unions use their platforms to malign Israel, denigrate Jews or distort bedrock American values, or when administrators shy away from forceful condemnations of these offenses, we take notice and rally community members to speak out. We actively monitor the campus climate to protect the rights of Jewish students and to ward off abuses of free speech at our state university (which is funded by our taxes).
At the same time, to be fair, we must also be able to recognize and show hakarat hatov when Rutgers leaders set policies and take actions that publicly show respect and appreciation for the university’s large Jewish constituency. Just as we are vigilant to monitor and oppose shortcomings, we should also watch for—and be encouraged—when the Rutgers administration demonstrates appreciation for Jewish institutions, groups and interests on campus.
In this vein, we take pride in the fact that Rabbi Esther Reed, interim executive director of Rutgers Hillel, was invited to offer a benediction at the inauguration ceremony for Rutgers’ new president, Dr. Jonathan Holloway, on November 5. We value Rabbi Reed’s prominent role in this highly visible event, as it serves as a signal of the importance of the Jewish presence on campus.
The transcript of Rabbi Reed’s benediction follows:
President Holloway, first I would like to offer a teaching from my own tradition in the hopes that its lessons might offer some blessings today.
The ancient Jewish compendium of wisdom, Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Ancestors, teaches, אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם, הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם “Who is wise? The one who learns from all people. … It continues אֵיזֶהוּ מְכֻבָּד, הַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת “And who is honored? The person who honors each person whom they encounter.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)
I haven’t known President Holloway that long, but in all my interactions with him, I have seen him to be one who learns from all people and one who honors each and every person.
President Holloway, you have come to us firm in the belief that building a beloved community, within and beyond Rutgers University, is the key to our success in addressing the compelling challenges of our times.
As you work to build these connections here at Rutgers, in the cities of New Brunswick, Newark and Camden, our state and our wider world, may bold vision, wise counsel and generosity of spirit guide your service. May you be blessed with the patience, discernment and humility to bring this university into an era of continued prosperity and deepened community.
President Holloway, may your new endeavors be a source of goodness for you and for your family, and may we all be kept in health and happiness.
With your tenure, may we all progress from strength to strength.
As Jews around the world chanted from Psalm 118 this morning in today’s service marking the new moon: זה היום עשה ה נגילה ונשמחה בו. This is the day that the Holy One has made—let us exult and rejoice on it. And let us all say Amen.
By Harry Glazer