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Claudine Gay & Harvard: ‘If I am not for me, who will be for me?’

The Claudine Gay affair at Harvard evokes materials from which antisemitic conspiracies arise. Gay's presidency, the shortest in Harvard’s 386-year history, is a modern Cinderella story turned tragedy. As only the second woman and first person of color to lead the university, her ousting by wealthy Jewish donors risks reinforcing the stereotype of Jewish financial control. Gay was replaced by a Jewish interim President. The episode has been interpreted as wealthy donors abusing power, threatening university autonomy and free speech.


Gay’s career was rocked by her congressional hearing where she was questioned if calling for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard's rules against bullying and harassment. To this, she responded "...depending on the context." Gay also faced allegations of plagiarism, which sparked debate around the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy and concerns that academic excellence was no longer the main criteria for career advancement.

 Harvard tomb


Her resignation was portrayed by some as a right-wing attack on education, namely that her ousting was more about politics than maintaining academic integrity. American self-described civil rights activist Al Sharpton, for example, said this “is an assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity and inclusion.” The historian of race Ibram X. Kendi said that “racist mobs won’t stop until they topple all black people from positions of power and influence”. The founder of the 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones stated that “black women will be made to pay”. Activist Cornel West wrote on social media:

Diversity, equity and inclusion are essential, but when they become an end in themselves rather than a means, they undermine meritocracy and excellence. However, since we cannot evaluate Gay’s academic qualifications, we will assume here that her appointment was merited. Therefore, we'd like to focus on another troubling aspect of this affair.

Jews feel caught again politically between right and left. The Claudine Gay affair does evoke antisemitic conspiracies in the short run. Yet, pressuring Harvard was justified and may pay off in the longer run.

Cornel West tweet
From X (formerly twitter)

When remaining silent regarding hostility or prejudice the Jewish world is facing in academia, antisemitism goes unchallenged. Amid the rise of Critical Race Theory , which often frames Jews as white and privileged, Jews are expected to develop a “white guilt” and accept affirmative discrimination against them. Woke culture also frames antisemitism as a problem of the rich. Thus, CRT both fuels antisemitism and diminishes the severity with which it is perceived.

Claudine Gay may not be antisemitic but she failed morally in a way warranting resignation. What she said, even if unwittingly, encouraged antisemitism. Her departure as Harvard’s first Black woman president is tragic yet constitutes a necessary crucial lesson: Blindly submitting to simplistic Woke narratives enables Jewish discrimination, and this has consequences.

The Jewish donors who stood up against antisemitism at Harvard and other universities must be applauded. The easiest and most socially rewarding path for them was to remain silent. But in order to oppose the discrimination and bias against Jews, showing intervention was the right thing to do.

The Jewish World must confront the prevalence of double standards, the normalization of misinformation and the stigmas they face. If the Jewish world will not do it for themselves, who will?


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