Rev. Bruce Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, has resigned in the wake of controversy over a New York Times letter he wrote suggesting Jews were collectively culpable for Israel’s actions and for subsequent rises in global anti-Semitism. “The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, on his own initiative, has resigned as Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale, effective immediately,” said a statement released by the Episcopal Church at Yale. “It is our belief that the dynamics between the Board of Governors and the Priest-in-Charge occasioned the resignation of the Rev. Shipman.”
In his letter to the Times, written in response to Deborah Lipstadt’s op-ed about rising European anti-Semitism, Shipman claimed that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.” Many readers expressed outrage at what they deemed Shipman’s exercise in victim-blaming, and an attempt to hold all Jews across the globe responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead put it,
No, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be a realization among cretins that “the Jews” are a group of people with very different opinions and desires, that they do not act in concert, and that individual Yale students, for example, of Jewish descent who are American citizens have zero responsibility for any policies of the government of Israel. Anti-Semitism is like racism: most racists don’t think of themselves as racists and most anti-Semites similarly don’t recognize their own twisted prejudice. Perhaps the chaplain at Yale should reflect on the passage in which a well known first century Jewish rabbi urged his followers to take the log out of their own eye before trying to take the splinter out of someone else’s.
Our own editor Mark Oppenheimer also questioned Shipman’s moral calculus:
By your reasoning, why wouldn’t one write, “The best antidote to stop-and-frisk policing would be for black men everywhere to press other black men to stop shooting each other”? Why wouldn’t one write—perhaps after a Muslim was beaten up by white-supremacist thugs—“The best antidote to Islamophobia would be for radical Islam’s patrons abroad to press ISIS and Al Qaeda to just cut it out”?
“Institutional Christianity continues to display its unrivaled expertise in the field” of “combating anti-Semitism,” quipped Berkeley’s David Schraub. In a later post, Schraub observed that someone like Shipman who insists that Jews behave in gentile-approved ways in order to live unmolested is perpetuating a world governed by anti-Semitic assumptions:
[I]t probably is the case that a non-Jew is less likely to punch a Jew in the face if he perceives Jews (as a group) as largely behaving in ways he sees as salutary. But that does not mean there is necessarily less anti-Semitism in such a state of affairs, if this view is transformed into an entitlement to such agreeability from Jews. That’s just anti-Semitism in a different form; the “safety” it provides to Jews [is] purchased at the price of their independence. Anyone can have positive attitudes towards groups who behave in ways they like; the true test of egalitarianism is respecting the minority when it behaves differently than how you’d want it to.
It seems the Episcopal Church at Yale agreed–or at least felt that someone who harbored Shipman’s views would not be the best face to represent their organization on campus. Hopefully, this episode will serve as a reminder that the “best antidote” to bigotry is always to fight the bigotry, not call on its victims to somehow attempt to appease their despisers.
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