For those of you are newer network participants or who may not be aware, I am a co-founder and the first President of SPME (2002-2009). Having been a faculty or administrative member at such institutions such as NYU, Rutgers, and Penn State since 1968, as well having my own clinical practice since 1979, with my concentration on developing and growing SPME, I joined the faculties of the Schools of Psychology and Counseling and Social Science in 2006 at Walden University where I am involved in their Mental Health Counseling programming and teach up to five course a semester and try to attend their residencies for students and faculty as a contributing faculty member.
I have had enjoyed a wonderful career having been a leader in my academic/professional associations having been president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the Pennsylvania Counseling (PCA) Association and the Founding Practice Section Associate Editor of the Journal of Mental Health Counseling and a board member of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), having co-written the first national program accreditation standards adopted by CACREP in 1987 which continue to serve as the core standards for the profession despite several revisions.
So why SPME? well, there’s the other side of me that ran parallel to all of this over the past 42 years. As a son of a Holocaust survivor married for nearly 42 years to the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I have always remained active in the Jewish community, especially in the Jewish community of Harrisburg PA where we’ve lived since 1972. When we first moved to Harrisburg, I became involved with Jewish Family Service and served as its Vice President until returning to Penn to get my doctorate. When I returned from Penn, I became involved in with the local Jewish Federation and have served in many capacities ranging from Community Relations Council Chair to Super Sunday Chair in our small but extremely vital community with five temples and a longstanding Rabbinic Advisory Council where the rabbis not only talk with one another, but are friends and meet regularly to discuss the welfare of the community. It is special to be sure.
The Holocaust caused our family that survived to scatter throughout the world and several of my wife’s and my family landed up in Israel where we visited several times since the early 1970’s and maintained close relationship with cousins our age. With the advent of the Internet, we became very close.
Fast forward…. In 2001 my son, a graduate of Cornell University who has been to Israel many times with different programs and to visit family, is accepted into the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and we are thrilled. As he is preparing to leave for Israel for at least 4 years, the Second Intifada is starting and we become quite concerned not only for him, but for our cousins and families as well.
So, in 2002 I became more involved in trying to understand the narrative of the conflict, especially being attuned to what was being said at the college and university level amongst my colleagues. Needless to say, I was appalled. Having headed NYU Students for Eugene McCarthy in 1964 and had vast experience in the anti-war movement in New York, with strong Quaker influences, yet being attracted by the warmth and strength of the milk and honey, progressive kibbutznik notions of Zionism with a very strong ecumenical background committed to multiculturalism and civil rights, I was attracted to a listserv called Professors for Peace in the Middle East. I had been a member of the old American Professors for Peace in the Middle East in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and was disappointed to see that they were no longer around. In any event, I was devastated to see the narrative of colleagues, Jewish and non-Jewish on this moderated listserv relentlessly bash Israel and not allow for any balance, rebuttal, discussion or discourse. It was there I met Judith Jacobson of Columbia University whose messages sometimes did get through when mind would not and there we started to develop the relationship that would quickly found the SPME listserv at Yahoogroups which grew into this organization where over 53,000 colleagues and sympathizers world wide have participated in one or more of our efforts to address the issues of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in our institutions, in our disciplines and in our communities as academics on a shoe string budget of contributors.
While I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished with the help of an extremely talented and generous with time and resource faculty board of directors; chapter, task force and committee chairs and individual members, I am hoping that the next group of leaders will be a resource for SPME that are necessary to strengthen SPME which has become the premier international academic organization addressing these issues to produce more programs and services which are faculty conceived, driven and operated as any other academic association.
Originally SPME has been constituted with the Board members and various officials constituting the membership of the association with Network participants being contributors. I hope to bring to the Board a proposal whereby we have membership dues for our network members so that we can be fully independent and rely on our own member resources primarily to deal with academic services, programs and product. We have grown to the point where we need to sustain ourselves. We are no longer a start up and we must succeed or fail on the basis of our ability to appeal to our Network.
It has always been my goal that SPME be that niche organization apart from Jewish Studies, Israel studies and Middle East Studies that addresses the discourse of the Middle East conflict from an interdisciplinary perspective across other disciplines where anti-Israelism and frequently anti-Semitism find homes in academic journals, discipline related actions, in the classroom and frequently in the quad. This is a vast and wide problems which we recognize as not being addressed by anyone other that ourselves.
It has often been said that the Middle East conflict may well have to be resolved on campus as well as in the region because of the lack of understanding of the complex issues of the conflict. It is my hope that SPME will become strong enough to successfully address the issues on the campus in a way that will reverse the tide of anti-Israelism on campus. I have long argued that faculty have not only the right, but the obligation and duty to hold students and administrations accountable for meeting the standards of academic discourse, integrity and accountability. SPME has taken great strides in engaging, educating and empowering faculty to do so and with your help will continue to do so.
It’s been a pleasure to know so many of you and serve you all. I hope to continue serving on the SPME Board and as co-editor of the Faculty Forum for the foreseeable future. Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments and ideas with me that you are willing to support with your contributions. Contact me at [email protected]