Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk




The Academic Profession - A Jewish Topic


    The word academic is derived from the Greek.  Plato (427-347) taught in a place called Academe as did Aristotle. Traditionally, the academic profession relates to those who teach in an institution of higher education and who also engage in research and scholarship. That is why this is a Jewish topic.

    Our worst enemies, the Muslims, call the Jews “the people of the book”. This is an observation that did not even escape the bigoted eye of the haters. Indeed, for centuries the Children of Israel, the Jews,  have produced such an avalanche of scholarship that it is an axiom that every year a disproportionate number of Jews are awarded the Nobel Prizes, that Jews lead the world in science, literature and the arts, and that the Jewish community spends more money on charity than any other ethnic group in America.

    The reason for this adherence to academics lies in our past. The Jews of Europe were excluded from normal society and therefore invented an alternative status system which accorded the best Talmudic scholars the highest honors and prestige in the poor Jewish shtetls of Eastern Europe. The American version of this status system was the rush into education by the American born children of the Yiddish immigrants of the twentieth century. Here, medicine became the ultimate status symbol among Jews, and doctors (Latin for teacher) demonstrate by their arrogance every day that this system is still in effect.

   There are in this country also Jewish academicians. These are college professors and researchers who constitute ten percent of the 700,000 faculty in our academic institutions.

Since we are only 1.8 percent of the American population we are evidently over-represented in the Academy. This is particularly true of medicine, but also anthropology, sociology and other social sciences.

  In addition, during the past ten years several Jews have become presidents of universities.

  This success is fairly recent. Prior to the Second World War, there were hardly any Jews on the faculties of our colleges and universities because there had always been a “quota” system in place which allowed only a minimal percentage of Jews to enter each school as  freshmen.  After the Second World War the Veterans' Administration paid for the college education of ex-servicemen and a few women, so that discrimination could not be carried out by the student starved schools who hadn’t seen more than a handful of male students in four years.

   There were therefore very few Jewish professors, not only because of the bigotry practiced for so long, but also because there were hardly any Jewish people with the required doctorates, as the undergraduate “quotas” made most Jews ineligible to enter graduate schools.

   The Veteran’s Readjustment Act or “G.I. Bill of Rights” changed all that. Consequently, the Jewish interest in scholarship revealed itself once more, so that 80% of all Jews of college age now enter universities and a large number continue to earn three degrees and become professors.

    This has had the beneficial effect of creating courses in Jewish studies in innumerable private, public and Christian controlled schools. Consequently, many of our student age people are learning about their heritage for the first time because the courses carry college “credit” and are taught by professors. What was despised and rejected in afternoon schools earlier, has now become “kosher” because it is part of the college curriculum.

   There are also a few professors who make no bones about being Jewish in practice and outlook and who defend Israel against Muslim and “liberal” Jew baiters on campus.

    Unfortunately,  the vast majority of Jewish faculty do the opposite. They associate with those who are labeled “liberal” on the grounds that they reject the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These “liberals” don’t like freedom of speech. Therefore they shout down any speaker who defends the right of Jews to exist. They also don’t like freedom of the press. Therefore they burn campus newspapers and other material favorable to the survival of Israel. They don’t like freedom of religion. Therefore they assault and threaten Jewish students who display skull caps or other signs of Jewish affiliation.

    Liberals also preach anti-Jewish hate in their classrooms instead of teaching the subject matter for which they are paid. Consider this: a chemistry professor persists in teaching algebra but not chemistry to students enrolled in a chemistry class. Would this be tolerated? Of course not; but when a social science professor teaches religious bigotry instead of sociology or history or political science no one objects except a student, here and there. Many who do this are so-called Jews because they have Jewish sounding names such as Weinstein or Levi or they make a point of telling everyone that their parents are holocaust survivors but they hate the Jews just the same - see Norman Finkelstein, who travels from Arab convention to Arab convention and denounces Jews for money.

    Despite all this, Jews will continue in the academy in the future. I mean by Jews those who are members of the Jewish community and support our interests.

   As the profession becomes more difficult to access because forty percent of all college teaching is now done by part time teachers, only those can now succeed in gaining a tenured full time professorship who are capable of writing books and scholarly articles in professional journals. Although the phrase “publish or perish” has been in use for years, this was mostly talk but not action. Politics were and are always a substitute for achievement. That will hardly change. Those who know how to “make friends and influence people” have always succeeded without having to produce. Nevertheless, as the number of academic appointments has shrunk, the ability to write has increased in importance. There can be no doubt that the last ten years have seen a considerable amount of pressure on college faculty to publish the results of research in their field. This is of course legitimate since there would be nothing to teach if there were nothing learned from new research. It is peculiar that some who know little about higher education say that professors should only teach students and not spend time writing books. But what would we teach if no one wrote anything? There are also those who argue that professors should not have three months “vacation” in the summer and numerous “breaks” during the school year. This overlooks that writing a book is hard work which takes a great deal of time. Try it and see. No, professors do not have huge vacations. Research and writing is an all absorbing activity. There are professors who spend up to 60 hours a week in their laboratories or in libraries or at their computers.

   Now, in proportion to our participation in the Academy, we Jews have produced an extraordinary amount of new knowledge by means of research and writing in all areas of the sciences, the humanities and the social studies.

   Of course, another consequence of our involvement in academics is the abandonment of Judaism and the secularization of the Jewish community. If this interests you, look at my book: AMERICAN JUDAISM IN TRANSITION:  THE SECULARIZATION OF A RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY.

   Unlike any other religious group in this country, we are almost entirely devoid of religious practice or affiliation. Therefore, it can be predicted that unless an unforeseen event interferes, Jewish Americans will shrink from about 4 million today to around 200,000 by 2050. Note that the nonsense about 6 million Jews in America is unreal. Even in 1937, when we were 3% of the U.S. population, there were only 5.8 million Jews in this country. Today we are 1.8% of all Americans, if those who are not Jewish except in name are included.

   As more and more Jewish women enter the professions as well, this shrinkage must accelerate. Finally, we will vanish altogether from the American scene, although there will be many American descendants of Jews who will pride themselves on all the achievements of their ancestors whose names enhance the encyclopedias like stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore.

  Welcome to academia.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The Restoration of Israel (2006).