June 15, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 15, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

WJC ‘Israel Connection’ Series Features Columbia Professor Shai Davidai

Columbia Business School Professor and Pro-Israel activist Shai Davidai in virtual dialogue with Westchester Jewish Council.

On May 15, the Westchester Jewish Council’s monthly “Israel Connection” virtual series hosted Professor Shai Davidai, moderated by WJC board member Danny Schultz. Davidai, an Israeli Columbia Business School professor, teaches managerial negotiation. After graduating Hebrew University, Davidai moved to the United States in 2010, earning a PhD in social psychology from Cornell and did post-doctoral research at Princeton.

This hour-plus conversation included the topics of encampments and agitators at Columbia, their faculty and tenure process, money flow on college campuses, faculty self-governance on campuses, Jewish students in these environments, financial investment in campus studies and Congressional hearings.

Davidai said: “Pre-October 7, the fact that I’m Jewish was personal. I used to describe myself as a partner, husband and researcher. Now I describe myself as a Jewish-Israeli, Zionist, partner, husband and researcher. My identity hasn’t changed, but things have come to the surface.”

“I remember watching a video you posted,” Schultz noted. “I know all of us saw your reaction at that moment. You were expressing all our deepest anxieties and fears. What led you to record that video?”

Davidai responded: “On October 11, when I first found out about the pro-Hamas protest planned for the next day. I told the dean of the business school, ‘This can’t go on. You need to alert higher-ups.’ The next day, at 8 a.m., I went to a meeting with the president, had her read the letter by the pro-Hamas organizations calling October 7 a historic day. Their reaction was: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll just bring in the cops.’ If you need to bring in cops, you know there’s danger. Why appease it in the first place?

“After that, I started calling on the administration to just condemn Hamas, ‘like you condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Boko Haram’s horrible kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls, other moral depravity.’ If that was done, we would have had a very different trajectory.”

“From the first moment, Columbia had a very clear, childish strategy: ‘Keep our heads down and this would go away.’ This is not something that just disappears itself. This is hate. People don’t stop hating; hate either lies dormant or grows. Then Columbia had a second strategy: ‘It’s not going away but run the clock till winter break. Students will go home and things will quiet down.’ Students came back with a vengeance. Then Columbia said, ‘Let’s run the clock to the spring semester.’ That didn’t work. Then they said, ‘Let’s run the clock till graduation.’

“I’m here to remind Columbia, three months from now, we start a new semester. The faculty supporting Hamas and the student organizations are not going away. About 75% of the students, the ones who didn’t graduate, are coming back. New students already radicalized in high school are choosing Columbia because of social activism.

“Every tragedy has a silver lining. For me, one of the most amazing silver linings has been meeting Jewish students.” Teaching graduate students, he rarely meets undergrads. “I am meeting all these Jewish undergrads; they give me hope for the future. Some have been very active and attended protests, others are tired, and some fed up. Some are scared. Some are told by parents to focus on schoolwork. I don’t blame any of them. I will never blame a Jewish student for not showing up, because they have been put in a horrible position.”

Asked if students should leave Ivy League schools, Davidai responded: “I say stay and fight. Every parent wants to protect their kids. Before anything else, I want to make sure sons and daughters are safe and healthy. There’s no place for you to completely keep your kids safe. …

“If you want to protect your kids, don’t shield them from the world. Prepare them for the world; get them in the habit of wearing their Jewishness out in the open. I tell people who have the resources, ‘Send your kids to a gap year in Israel. Don’t look at it as wasting a year; look at it as investing a year.’ I see students that spent time in Israel walk more proudly on campus; they are not fazed by all these arguments that just don’t hold water.

For the future, Davidai said: “We need to get involved, I think we will see a shift. When we see the shift, it will be immediate. We need to make sure non-Jewish Americans join us. This isn’t a fight for Israel; it’s not a fight for Jews. It’s a fight for democracy, for common sense, for enlightenment.”

Follow Davidai, @shaidavidai, on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles