Cancel Culture through a Jewish Lens
Whether it’s Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, or Mr. Potato Head, allegations of cancel culture seem to dominate the recent headlines. Fueled by social media, cancel culture has earned a consistent spot in the news cycle this past year. Yet the exact meaning of this phenomenon and movement is still up for debate as society weighs the balance of free speech and accountability. In our latest Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations discussion series, we examine the spirit of cancel culture and how it relates to Jewish values. With the rise in anti-Semitism, we explore how we may educate and forgive instead of simply canceling. We will examine when cancellation is merited and when it is insufficient or even harmful.
Dr. Rachel Fish is a celebrated academic with 20 years of experience in the fields of Israeli history, Zionist thought, and Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized for her teaching prowess and pedagogical approaches, Dr. Fish has published extensively and is frequently called upon to advise on community interventions to reclaim an Israel discourse that is nuanced and complex while remaining accessible to a broad audience.
Most recently, Dr. Fish was the founding executive director of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, an initiative of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, established to catalyze dynamic new solutions to stop the age-old hatred advanced by those who seek the elimination of Judaism and the Jewish people and the modern movement to destroy the world’s only Jewish State. Dr. Fish was recently Senior Advisor and Resident Scholar of Jewish/Israel Philanthropy at the Paul E. Singer Foundation in New York City. She worked closely with grantees to support them and provided framing around their educational content and programming. Dr. Fish served as the executive director for the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University where she trained the next generation of scholars and Jewish communal professionals in Israel Studies.
Dr. Fish completed her doctoral degree in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department at Brandeis University. Her dissertation, “Configurations of Bi-nationalism: The Transformation of Bi-nationalism in Palestine/Israel 1920’s-Present,” examines the history of the idea of bi-nationalism and alternative visions for constructing the State of Israel. In 2015 Fish held the Rohr Visiting Professorship at Harvard University, where she lectured on modern Israel and received the Derek Bok Certificate of Teaching Excellence. She is co-editor, with Ilan Troen, of the book Essential Israel: Essays for the Twenty-First Century.
Irwin Kula, a 7th generation rabbi, is a disruptive spiritual innovator. A rogue thinker, author of the award-winning book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life and President of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, he works at the intersection of religion, innovation, and the science of human flourishing. A popular commentator in both new and traditional media he is co-founder with Craig Hatkoff and the late Professor Clay Christensen of The Disruptor Foundation whose mission is to advance disruptive innovation theory and its application in societal critical domains.
Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. is President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. A leading political scientist and distinguished Jewish communal leader, Dr. Andrew Rehfeld’s career has bridged both the academic and Jewish professional worlds as tenured Associate Professor of Political Science at Washington University (2001-2019) and as President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis (2012-2019).
Dr. Rehfeld brings to HUC-JIR his extensive expertise in academic and nonprofit administration, fund raising, strategic planning, and community leadership. He has a passionate commitment to building communities based on the Jewish values that are central to his life. He is an advocate for pluralism, inclusion, and racial and social justice, and an activist in combatting antisemitism, advancing peace and security for the state of Israel, and strengthening the ties binding Jews worldwide.
His academic research focuses on contemporary democratic theory, the history of political thought, and the philosophy of the social sciences. He held leadership roles in academic administration at Washington University and is the author of The Concept of Constituency (Cambridge University Press, 2005), which provides a conceptual, historical, and normative analysis of territorial redistricting, and numerous articles.
Recruited to lead the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Dr. Rehfeld successfully strengthened fund raising and multi-generational collaborative participation by setting a strategic model for Federation as a community development organization that fosters engagement in the Jewish community as part of a life well lived.
He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science (2000) and a Master of Public Policy (1994) from the University of Chicago, and a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, in the Philosophy Honors Program at the University of Rochester (1989).
Dr. Rehfeld first recognized himself as a leader at Kutz Camp’s leadership program, where he became a song leader and later led the song-leading program. This experience strengthened the creation of his personal identity and connected him with a broad range of impactful teachers, leading him to decades of professional and lay leadership roles supporting Jewish life and learning and strengthening the Jewish people.
Born in Moscow, Russia in 1963, Cathy Young has lived in the United States since 1980. A 1988 graduate of Rutgers University (New Jersey) with a B.A. in English, she has worked extensively as a writer and journalist since the mid-1980s, including as a weekly columnist for The Detroit News (1993-2000) and The Boston Globe (2000-2007). Young is currently is an associate editor for Arc Digital, a contributing editor for Reason magazine, and a weekly columnist for Newsday, as well as a frequent contributor to The Week, The Bulwark, and Quillette. Her free-lance work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Jewish Daily Forward, Tablet Magazine, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Slate, Foreign Policy, and Commentary.
Young the author of two books: Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood (1989) and Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (1999). She is also a media fellow with the Cato Institute. Her writing deals with a wide range of topics, from American politics and international affairs to social and cultural issues. Her perspective is generally critical of extremism and authoritarianism on both the left and the right, stressing a commitment to liberalism, individual rights, and the free exchange of ideas.
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The series is named in honor of Jonathan Samen (z”l), past chair of the JCC Greater Boston Governing Board, to recognize his legacy of leadership. View donors.
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