Beyond Dartmouth's Anti-Semitic Past

by Justin Mandel | 11/21/97 6:00am

You might have noticed that Dartmouth has been mentioned quite a bit in the New York times since the opening of the Roth Center for Jewish Life on November 8. The discussion stemming from this event raises some important questions: Is there still anti-Semitism on this campus? At the Roth Center dedication ceremony, President Freedman chronicled anti-Semitism at Dartmouth and remarked that Dartmouth has come a long way. This building radiates, "look how far we have come!" It stands as a symbol for the immense social change Dartmouth has undergone. The opening of the Roth Center signals to many that Anti-Semitism is a memory.

Can buildings alone erase intolerance? Just because we have the Afro-American Society and Native Americans at Dartmouth does not mean racism doesn't persist. Quite the contrary, serious race issues exist at Dartmouth, issues that up to this point have gone virtually undiscussed. At the "Dispelling the Greek Myths" panel a month ago (a discussion intended to address cultural stereotypes of fraternities and sororities), almost to a person, black students sat on one side, and white students sat on the other. Throughout the entire discussion, there was not a single mention of racial issues. What better place to discuss racial tension? This is progress?

So why were Jews upset about the New York Times coverage of the Roth Center dedication? Because the article centered on anti-Semitism and not on the celebration that is the Roth Center. The article, while focusing excessively on Dartmouth's past, did not "revive old stereotypes" as Hillel president David Levi has suggested. What is upsetting, though, is that Judaism at Dartmouth was treated as historical fact without acknowledging present contributions. While cultural groups have overcome a great deal of bigotry and hatred, we should instead be discussing the next steps: How are Dartmouth students going to foster understanding and appreciation?

Currently the debate in the Times rehashes historical analysis instead of trying to solve current problems. Trustee to the Dartmouth Review, William F. Buckley Jr., writes "Dartmouth's Center for Jewish Life... surely is intended to Judaize campus Jews." This ...Consider this an invitation!

Now our school has a space which can accommodate the spirited and active Jewish student population. Hillel can have joint programs with cultural and religious organizations without having to turn people away for lack of room. Just a week after the dedication ceremony, Dartmouth Hillel participated in the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Co-Education by holding a panel discussion with seven Jewish Dartmouth Alumnae. Seventy-five students listened to tales of coping and cherishing being both female and Jewish at Dartmouth. This event and the performance of "Uncommon Women and Others" (One more performance on Saturday 8 p.m.) have affirmed Dartmouth Hillel's commitment to creating all inclusive events and opportunities for understanding. We wish to emphasize that this is not the Roth Center for Jews but a Dartmouth social and religious space.