UCLA Center for Jewish Studies’ Strange Choice


We hadn’t planned to write again about Cornel West’s appearance at the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies symposium on Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel this weekend. We made our views clear in a “>Journal and the “>study of West in The New Republic, “he hasn’t published without aid of a co-writer a single scholarly book since Keeping the Faith, which appeared in 1993…… West’s inability to write is hugely confining” [emphasis added]. Apparently, that isn’t a problem for the leaders of UCLA.

Finally, as to his scholarship, the former president of Harvard, the literary editor of The New Republic  and one of West’s academic colleagues of longest standing (Dyson) have all dismissed his scholarly work as ““>.an embarrassment to the university….“>piece in The New Republic provides ample examples of his reasoning gone awry. One revealing incident is when West compared himself with Christ and those who disagree with him as unprincipled opponents. Dyson found his behavior “the depth of delusion and exegetical corruption—isolating and then interpreting a text to sanctify his scurrilous views” [emphasis added].

West has vented his spleen at the president on countless occasions (as is his right), even undertaking a national “poverty tour” in 2011 that focused to a large extent on Obama and labeling him a “war criminal.” But the nature of his attacks are profoundly problematic. He has criticized the president for, allegedly, preferring the presence of Jewish men over black men. West has“>said that the president feels “most comfortable with upper middle class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective…” rather than with “free black men” whom “he [the president] fears.”

One wonders how comfortable West will feel on Sunday evening at UCLA with many “upper middle class white and Jewish men” in attendance at the conference. How comfortable will his hosts feel when he is done? It should be an interesting evening.

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