Dear Therapist:

The world of academia has recently come under a lot of scrutiny for its antisemitism. To those paying attention the so-called intellectuals in college campuses have become more and more antithetical to Torah values, but even more so to common sense! These ideas seem more prevalent in the social work and psychology fields. I can only imagine that these newfangled ideas seep into how mental health disorders are evaluated and treated. On the other hand, there are clearly more and more mental health professionals who are genuine ehrliche yidden that are entering the field. My question is how do you filter out all the "woke" ideology which is so contrary to our values from your treatment of mental health? At what point is the field so impacted by the nonsense that it devalues the legitimacy of the entire enterprise?



At first blush, you seem to be asking two questions. You are concerned with both antisemitism and woke ideology that you believe are pervasive across our academic institutions. However, in the end, your question focuses on the issue of woke ideology. Perhaps you are assuming that the two are interconnected, and that woke ideology gives rise to antisemitism. Naturally, this issue is not universal across all academia. However, it does seem to be more prevalent in more institutions.

The issue that you highlight relates not just to academia. It relates to traditional media, social media, and our society in general. In my opinion, the overriding problem is not necessarily the values themselves. Although this is clearly problematic for those of us who do not subscribe to these values, the bigger issue is the concept of cancel culture.

Certainly, it makes sense for us personally and individually to “cancel” a concept, organization, or doctrine that we consider to be antithetical to our beliefs. However, an entire culture based around the idea of “cancelling” people en masse due simply to differences of opinion is both a symptom and a cause of the general divisiveness that we see today. Compounding this is each side’s castigation of the other side, again both a symptom and a cause of the divisiveness.

Gone are the days in which it was standard for us to respect differing opinions—and therefore people who espoused beliefs that were different from ours. We have become a society in which anyone who has a belief of which we do not approve becomes a pariah.

To some degree, academia is a microcosm of our larger society. As such, it will demonstrate beliefs and behaviors that exist more generally. Of course, this is also a reciprocal relationship; academia will follow society (as publicized by media), and society will follow academia. So, the issue is larger than simply problematic values within academia. The problem is the vilification of others in general.

Throughout the ages, Jews have been faced with efforts to assimilate us into general society. In past generations, however, governing laws were often based on each society’s beliefs, whether they be religious, cultural, or philosophical in nature. There have typically been three ways in which various groups have attempted to assimilate Jews into the fabric of their societies: by force, through camaraderie, or with a combination of the two.

Although forced assimilation appears to be the most dangerous, it often backfires. When faced with a clear choice of maintaining one’s beliefs and being forced to accept those of others, we have the opportunity to make a considered decision. Assimilation through camaraderie, however, tends to be far more insidious.

Pretty much everything in life exists on a spectrum, and behavior of the things within many spectrums operates like a pendulum. Although we may not like what we are seeing, I believe that the pendulum will swing in the other direction. The tendency of academia toward woke ideology and cancel culture is a problem. However, I believe that within the very vehemence of their dogma lies their weakness (and perhaps ultimately their destruction).

This effrontery that weakens an ideology’s message also contributes to the staunchness of the other side. The more vehement woke ideology is, the more the other side will push back (and vice-versa). This is part of the cause of our current fractured society. Therefore, both on an individual basis and on a more universal one there is another option.

The concern over non-scientific ideology seeping into less scientific fields like mental health is not a new one. It has always been a struggle to separate the wheat from the chaff. Current ideology simply puts a new spin on this age-old issue. As always, it is the responsibility of each professional to be true to themselves—and to their clients—and to carefully consider their education and practice. It is also important that clients do the same in order to identify the provider who either shares their beliefs or (often even better) is respectful of them.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


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