Last month, the Anti-Defamation League held a conference at Cardozo featuring famed mustache-haver John Bolton. I am not entirely sure why Bolton was there. He is not Jewish. According to Wikipedia, he is a Lutheran. But beyond this, he does not seem to have any actual experience concerning Judaism.
This is how most people see John Bolton
This is how the Anti-Defamation League sees John Bolton
Leaving out Bolton’s actual policy positions, one cannot deny that he is a divisive political figure and a living totem of the controversial cowboy style diplomacy of the Bush administration. Touting Bolton as an ADL ally sends a message to liberal Jews (aka, most Jews) that the ADL is not a the organization for them. At Cardozo, this message was put into action when someone in the audience chewed out a young woman for expressing her difficulty reconciling liberal leanings with the conservative agents supporting Israel.
I guess you could say she was defamed to a certain extent. Irony!
Right now, the ADL is riding on its history and reputation. But scandals like this, and ADL chief Abe Foxman’s own controversial moments, risk damaging this important organization beyond repair. If the ADL keeps up like this, it will lose a generation of American Jews. And that is the actual problem (pdf: Mintz ADL column):
America is slowly losing its Jewish population. If the ADL actually cared about Judaism, it would work to create an atmosphere in the United States where young Jews feel proud of their heritage. However, pride is not exactly what one feels when the ADL condemns Borat, or Jewish settlers throw stones at IDF soldiers for protecting Palestinians. If the ADL wants to help protect Jewry in the long run, it should focus on projects that help make more Jews and keep current Jews Jewish, rather than play up divisive political projects.
Certainly Israel faces threats. But Israel has done a good job standing for itself. The ADL should perhaps worry about Jewish problems at home — the problems facing the American Jews at the ADL’s own panels.
First, thanks to Roxanna Maisel, whose line “I know lots of things, but most of them are wrong,” I stole for this column.
The Cardozo Jurist came out yesterday, and I have another column in it. Because the paper only comes out monthly, each column needs to be a real barn burner. No time to waste precious column space on pot or masturbating. I have a list of the big wheels at the law school, and each column will address one. Last month was the Dean, this month is law journals. And you can read all about it at the Jurist website! Or here. Or whatever. (pdf: Mintz oct column)
In addition to my column, the Dean wrote a response to my column from the previous issue, in which I accused him of general cowardice when it came to gay rights. Of course my column was mean, blunt and over the top. It was written by me, Evan! However, it does raise the question of whether gay rights should be viewed as a political matter or as one of civil and human rights. I think that it unequivocally should be the latter, and there is no room for compromise. A general written statement does not have the authority of a public statement, which I guess the Dean made in this letter. So I’m glad I could force him into that position, or some such.
Also, notice the redesign of the newspaper! It looks pretty darn cool. They finally bought inDesign.
“As the news of Yeshiva University’s appalling attitude towards homosexuality spreads throughout Cardozo, students should be shocked, but not for the reason they may think. Sure, there is the hypocrisy of a historically discriminated demographic attempting to stifle another historically discriminated demographic. Not to mention an attitude towards homosexuality that seems more at home in Iran. But what makes the whole situation so shocking is the sheer irony is that it’s occurring at a university that named its law school after Benjamin N. Cardozo, a man whose own sexual orientation is quite questionable.
Admittedly, it is not academically honest to impose contemporary concepts of sexuality upon other times, cultures or societies. Furthermore, facts about Cardozo’s sexual orientation are limited to what is documented in the historical record, which is unfortunately sparse due to Cardozo’s private nature. However, it is not too much of a stretch to say that Cardozo was some sort of a sexual, and it ain’t hetero.
So while there is no direct evidence proving Cardozo’s sexual orientation, there is hearsay and conjecture, which are kinds of evidence.
As far as the current historical consensus says, Cardozo can join Isaac Newton among history’s famous life-long virgins. However, that does not mean he was never interested in women. In fact, he was very interested in one: his sister, Nellie. According to Richard Polenberg’s book on Cardozo, our namesake judge admitted that he “never could give Nellie the second place” in his life. This sort of sibling devotion would seem out of place in the Osmond family, let alone in an established New York, Jewish aristocracy.
Then again, this devotion to his sister may have been exaggerated by Cardozo’s friends. However, they did not tell these tales to spread rumors about Cardozo’s deviant sexuality. On the contrary, they spread the rumors to create an excuse for his non-traditional sexual habits. These are the very same friends who often described Cardozo as beautiful, exquisite and sensitive. Or as Seinfeld would put it in an outdated reference: thin, single and neat. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Even as a child, Cardozo was personally tutored by Horatio Alger, who himself was haunted by accusations of homosexuality and pederasty. One might as well say that Cardozo enjoyed spending his salad days drinking wine with the priest from Doubt.
On the other hand, Judge Learned Hand is quoted as saying that Cardozo had “no trace of homosexuality anyway.” But that doesn’t really count because Learned Hand never even made it to the Supreme Court.
Indeed, a smattering of anecdotes does not mean that Cardozo would have been the president of OUTlaw at turn of the century Columbia. However, one must admit that Cardozo’s sexual history does not conform to contemporary standards of heteronormativity. In fact, the best way to describe Cardozo’s personal life would be: queer.
In the end, historical density and Cardozo’s own privacy make his sexuality a question that will never get a definitive answer. But this mysteriousness does not mean it should never be discussed, shoved in a corner because of a perverted sense of “modesty.” Cardozo’s personal history is not something that should be treated in a discreet manner just because it may ruffle some issues of sensitivity. Academic integrity demands that universities leave no stone unturned and no question unasked in the constant adventure of academia. However, if President Joel and Rabbi Reiss have their way, we would halt at the first sense of discomfort, never leaving sight of the intellectual shore. And if that is how the current administration wants to run Yeshiva, and Cardozo, then they should put it in the prospective student paraphernalia, because that is not the sort of law school I signed up for.”
Now, as I have become accustomed to, my column received an angry response the rhetoric of which hints that the author either did not read the entire column or simply didn’t get the point. Given the string of factual rebuttals in the response, this one is probably in the latter category. (PDF: Reject Cardozo sexuality 1, Reject Cardozo Sexuality 2)
Despite the actual titles, I believe a more accurate headline would have been “Response to Evan: Nuh-uh!” Read the whole thing if you want, but it can be summed up with one line:
“With all due respect to Mr. Mintz, to advance such a provocative idea only to then ultimately plead historical inscrutability is an act of intellectual dishonesty.”
Of course it is intellectual dishonesty! I admit to that in my second paragraph:
“Admittedly, it is not academically honest to impose contemporary concepts of sexuality upon other times, cultures or societies.”
Of course its not intellectually honest, but its also lots of fun!
In the end, my column was not an academic paper, it was a column in the student newspaper, with the purpose of making a point and possibly be entertaining. Thus is the essence of punditry (?).
In conclusion, Kagan is just as gay as Cardozo.
EDIT: They’re also both Jewish, which is as close as you can get to being gay without being Asian or French.