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Bolton: Jonathan Greenblatt’s talk was a missed opportunity for campus dialogue

I’ve just come from the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity’s “Evening with Jonathan Greenblatt.” I admire the ADL and Greenblatt — and I commend OIED for bringing his voice to campus — but I thought the evening represented a huge missed opportunity.

Before dozens of pro-Palestine activists stood to exit in quiet protest, OIED managed to do something that no other element of the University had: They brought everyone together into one room. Pro-Israel advocates. Religious Zionists. Anti-Zionist Jews. Palestinian activists. For about twenty minutes, the entire agitated and aggrieved community sat together, shoulder to shoulder, nervously eyeing the other. 

Just before she took the stage, I confided to Dr. Sylvia Carey Butler and her staff that I thought Greenblatt’s talk should immediately be canceled. Instead? OIED should order 75 pizza pies, crates of Coca-Cola and 200 chocolate chip cookies. The AV could be commandeered by a student's Spotify account. Dr. Butler should have said, “we are not leaving here tonight until everyone finds something in common, laughs with people they don’t already know and (at least vague) plans are hatched to shape a campus community less encumbered by the stress and anger and fragmentation that have characterized things since October.”

It takes so much less courage to hole up in our ideological castles than to breach the chasm of dialogue.


But the nervous energy in the room prior to Greenblatt’s talk was definitely not ideological. It was social. After spending months disparaging one another, it simply was terribly awkward to all be together.

As a spiritual person, I pride myself on being naive and optimistic. We’re all holding so much pain and fear — but I believe we should still have the ability to laugh with one another and even get to know one another.

I hope we have another opportunity.

Rabbi Josh Bolton can be reached at Please send responses to this op-ed to and other opinions to


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