An Open Letter to Respected Colleagues

who have used “language”
to increase
“power”
and “solidarity,”

believing in the power
of one’s words
and in the power
of words,

words so powerful
that they work “against all forms
of racism, colonialism,
and injustice

at Franklin and Marshall,
in the classroom,
on campus,
and beyond,”

and who have spoken freely of “Jewish supremacy”
spoken repeatedly of “Jewish supremacy”
without “quotation marks” and
without quotation marks,

who have stood ground
around “Jewish supremacy”
and dug in heels
around Jewish supremacy,

and said: “the phrase is taken
… from Israelis”
perhaps thinking, that makes it fine,
as though that makes it fine,

and who have claimed the power
to re-intend language,
to deny to language
its power to invoke,

and who “reject the claim
that any criticism
of Israeli government policy …
equates with anti-Semitism.”

I call out to you
who have called me out
with “Jewish supremacy”
and Jewish supremacy.

With no will to power
I lift a single voice
as a Jew
a J-Street Jew,

who condemns
strong-arm nationalism:
violence, policies, and laws,
ideologies of extremism.

I agree:
not every “criticism …
equates
with anti-Semitism.”

Yet some words
live in ideologies
thrive in ideologies
murderous ideologies.

May we, rather, “at Franklin and Marshall,
in the classroom,
on campus,
and beyond”

express solidarity without demonization
and eschew facile activism
for our highest standard
of intellectual exchange.

Respectfully,
Scott

(Scott Lerner, Italian and Hebrew, Judaic Studies)

Scott Lerner is a Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and French and Italian at Franklin & Marshall. His email is scott.lerner@fandm.edu.

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