Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:
Still In The Dark
he U.S. Supreme Court last week pro-
vided a terribly disappointing decision
on affirmative action, one that ratifies
the status quo, but does almost nothing
to resolve the larger question of how America is
to deal with the persistent educational inequality
plaguing blacks in our society.
Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Sandra Day
O'Connor enunciated a principle that American
Jews would overwhelmingly endorse: "Effective
participation by members of all racial and ethnic
groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if
the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be real-
But then, the court failed to provide
any consistent rationale beyond expedi-
ency for upholding the constitutionality
of the affirmative action program that
the University of Michigan law school says it fol-
lows in deciding which applicants to admit. (The
court rightly and unsurprisingly invalidated the
university's undergraduate affirmative action
admission process, with its mindless blanket of
extra points to all minority applicants.)
At the same time that it decried governmental
action that either blesses or burdens individuals
on the basis of race alone, the court said the law
school could decide it had a compelling interest
in a diverse student body and, thus, could give
bonus points to be sure it reached a "critical
mass" of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.
It said the process was acceptable, now, but might
not be 25 years from now
"Racial classifications, however compelling their
goals," O'Connor wrote, "are potentially so dan-
gerous that they may be employed no more
broadly than the interest demands. Enshrining a
permanent justification for racial preferences
would offend this fundamental equal protection
principle. We see no reason to
exempt race-conscious admissions
programs from the requirement that
all governmental use of race must
have a logical endpoint."
In short, the court cut intellectual
corners to find that a desirable end
can be sought by means that are so
fundamentally unfair that they can-
not be allowed to stand a generation
The four dissenters provided much
the more rigorous and principled
critique of the admission process
and results. They faulted
the law school's vague defi-
nition of what constitutes a
critical mass" of minorities
— 100 blacks versus three Native
Americans, for example. And they
pointed out that the school's eager-
ness to accept minorities in almost
exactly the same proportion as it got
minority applicants led the admis-
sion's officers to base their actions
on the numbers rather than on each
individual's potential to bring some-
thing special to the new class.
In a notably lucid dissent, Justice
Clarence Thomas, the only black on
the court, said the court could have
compelled the law school to change
its admission policies, just as it did
five years earlier when it forced
Virginia Military Institute to open
its doors to women.
be disappointed that the nation's highest court
Many American Jews have worked hard over
has so badly failed to provide principled guidance
the years to help repair the stain of racism that
on making our graduate schools open to all citi-
soils the national conscience. They are going to
zens in ways that all would recognize as just.
A Daunting Thirst
That's a worthy pursuit. So is the reversal of
increasing apathy among students.
U.S. campuses serve about 400,000 Jewish stu-
dents; most feel assimilation's tug no matter how
hard they try to resist it.
Rabbi J, assisted by Rabbi Aaron Eisemann, does-
n't push one religious stream over another. But he
does strive to make our holidays, culture, teachings
and ideals resonate for students and parents alike.
For every Jewish success story on campus —
thanks to Machon, Hillel, Chabad, Ohr
Sameach, Aish HaTorah and other Jewish
outreach groups — other stories bubble
up that aren't so upbeat.
"We can do more," Rabbi J said in keynoting
Machon's 23rd annual dinner last week in Southfield.
Indeed, we can.
We can do something as simple .as building
bridges of understanding to this next tier of Jewish
leaders. We can show these young adults what it
means to live as a Jew. We can help them conquer
doubts and fears. We can encourage them to do
ADMINIS - rRATION
ISRM L si-loutZ
generation of Jewish college students is
thirsting for spiritual nourishment. It's
incumbent we step up as a community
and quench that thirst. At stake is the
seamless passage of Judaism from one generation to
So says Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitz, the outspoken,
tireless founder and director of Machon
ETorah-The Jewish Learning Network of
"I see a tragedy in front of my eyes," he says.
And he has a front-row seat. Machon reaches out
to Jewish students, whatever their religious upbring-
ing, on several state campuses.
Detroit Jewry would be foolish to ignore the plea
of the popular rabbi. Rabbi J, as students call him,
yearns for our history, heritage and traditions, and
unconditional support for Israel, overwhelming the
lures of materialism, gossip and lifestyle fads.
Jewish things and embrace Jewish values. We can
challenge them to learn at their own pace.
Beyond that, we can teach them to have "a good
eye" — to see the good in everything, even if it is
hidden under layers of wrong. As Machon teaches,
perspective does matter.
The Exodus Of Uris
eon Uris helped a whole generation of
Americans understand the founding of
modern Israel. His powerful novel Exodus
was for the 1960s and
1970s what Schindler's List
was for that generation's chil-
dren. The author, who died
two weeks ago, provided a stunning account of
what it means to say "Never Again." Friends of
Israel are forever in his debt.