The Episcopal chaplain at Yale University has resigned just over a week after he wrote a controversial letter to The New York Times ascribing blame for rising anti-Semitism in Europe to Israel, says an announcement from the Episcopal Church at Yale.
The Sept. 4 statement says that the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman "on his own initiative" has resigned as priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale and that the Right Rev. Ian T. Douglas, president of the Board of Governors, and the Right Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, bishop, have accepted the resignation "with sadness."
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The root of the controversy was Shipman's response to an Aug. 21 opinion piece
published in the Times by Emory University Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt addressing the rise of anti-Semitic acts in Europe.
In a letter
to the editor, Shipman wrote that Lipstadt "makes far too little of the relationship between Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond."
He concluded by asserting that the best antidote for anti-Semitism would be to push Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for "final-status resolution" to the Palestinian question.
The letter drew a sharp response from Rabbi Leah Cohen, executive director of Yale's Slifka Center for Jewish Life, who said the center was "adamantly against any justifications of anti-Semitism and hatred of any kind," reported The Jewish Daily Forward.
In a column published by the Yale Daily News,
Yale senior Joshua Isackson wrote that Shipman's comments "propagated decades-old misconceptions about Jews and Israel — and publicly participated in fanning the flames of anti-Semitism currently rampant around the world."
He added that the remarks "must be condemned in the strongest tone possible: declared untrue and contrary to Yale's values of respectful, honest discussion."
The church's statement does not address the letter to the Times, instead saying that it is "our belief that the dynamics between the board of governors and the priest-in-charge occasioned the resignation of the Rev. Shipman."
However, the statement read that the church at Yale, its board of governors, the bishops of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and Shipman remain "committed to a civil dialogue on difficult issues that divide peoples of this world and pledge ourselves to the prayerful and humble work of reconciliation and peace in our hurting and divided world."
On Aug. 26, the Yale Daily News
reported that Shipman claimed in an email to the newspaper that he was not trying to rationalize anti-Semitism, but was saying the loss of hope among Palestinians "and the continuation of annexation policies in the West Bank have some relation to the deplorable anti-Semitic crimes that we deplore."
That response also drew criticism from David Bernstein, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, who had written about Shipman's remarks in The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy
"I note not just the absence of an apology, but his decision to reiterate his point," said Bernstein.
A day before Shipman's resignation, a Yale alumnus made his views about his justification clear in a letter to the Yale Daily News.
"This scar will not quickly fade, because no amount of parsing and explication can change the sad reality that Rev. Shipman's toxic words have been distributed in over 1,000,000 newspapers and preserved for eternity in the digital world — with Yale's name affixed," wrote Michael M. Katz, who graduated in 1976.
He ended his letter by saying the Yale community must address the question, "Is someone who has demonstrated such profoundly poor judgment and insensitivity fit to serve as a chaplain in the Yale community?"
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