J Street Commends CUNY Vote to Reverse Decision Revoking Tony Kushner Honorary Degree

May 10, 2011

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami issued the following statement in response to news reports that the CUNY Board of Directors has voted unanimously to reverse a decision revoking an honorary degree intended for playwright Tony Kushner:

Score one for enlightenment!

The unanimous decision by the Board of the City University of New York to grant an honorary degree to Tony Kushner is a victory for all of those in the Jewish community and beyond who cherish freedom of speech and are unwilling to punish people for the content of their political views.

We commend the Board of CUNY and President Benno Schmidt in particular for their leadership in reversing a short-sighted decision. We salute Mr. Kushner first and foremost for his artistry and talent and secondly for standing up for his beliefs and principles – on matters where we agree as well as where we disagree.

The events of the past few days can hopefully guide the Jewish community as it considers whether and how to open or close the doors of its institutions to those whose views on Israel are at odds with those of the community’s traditional leadership. The common sense and respect for free speech that drove support for Kushner at CUNY can hopefully help to carry the day in the larger fight over freedom of expression and dialogue that is taking place across the country in Jewish communal institutions – though with far less exposure.