Here’s what she said when she was installed:
We worry about the climate crisis, the unbridled power of technology and challenges to reproductive rights, privacy, democracy here and around the world, and more. We also worry that despite the urgency and magnitude of these concerns, the incessant media cycle and lack of a shared base of information make it hard to engage productively with others. To undertake the hard work that is a prerequisite for transformational change.
I believe wholeheartedly—in fact, I have staked my career on the belief—that education is key to such change. Education—deep understanding born of intense intellectual engagement. Education— the spirit of collegiality and obligation to the common good and to a common community. Sadly, the educational sphere has narrowed as a space for the vigorous exchange of ideas. It has become increasingly hard to engage with others whose perspectives differ from our own. Many bite their tongues, or preach to echo chambers rather than confronting opinions that might sow doubt or offend….
But when we cultivate a rich intellectual and religious life we recognize the complexity of human emotion and know that we can love our family, people, and country even though they will at times make us angry, deflate us, even break our hearts. Our tradition doesn’t shy away from human fallibility. Think of the Torah’s depictions of our ancestors—Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and others. All are flawed, complicated. Knowing that we will occasionally be disappointed by those we love, feel exasperated by our study partners, and disagree with those we care about does not deter us from engaging.
Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz, from her inaugural address at The Jewish Theological Seminary’s new Manhattan campus, May 2022.