Touro College President Dr. Alan Kadish and Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina discuss perceptions and reality.
What brings a conservative Christian congressman from rural North Carolina and his wife to a Jewish-affiliated university in the heart of liberal-leaning Manhattan’s Upper West Side? In a word: Israel.
Rep. Mark Meadows, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, joined Touro College President Dr. Alan Kadish for a thought-provoking conversation about growing concerns over anti-Israel bias throughout the world and the initiatives of the new administration here at home. The event took place at Touro’s Lander College for Women (LCW) on West 60th Street in New York City.
In her introduction, Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike, dean of Lander College for Women, spoke of Touro’s commitment to enriching the Jewish heritage, for which “studying in Israel is part of our DNA,” she said, adding, “Our support is fervent and unwavering.”
Rep. Meadows shares those sentiments wholeheartedly, albeit via a different path. His wife, Debbie, said that traveling to Israel had been “a life-changing experience.”
“The freedom and the camaraderie there,” she said, had affected her profoundly. The couple has invited other members of Congress to join them on subsequent visits.
As for the growing concerns about anti-Israel bias, Meadows warned that anti-Jewish thought in Europe had “infiltrated the highest level of government and education” and had not been this prevalent since WWII. “It is becoming part of the fabric,” he said.
When Dr. Kadish asked how many of the combined 535 members of the House of Representatives and Senate advocated for Israel, Rep. Meadows said around 100 were “pro-Israel,”—those who sponsor bills in support of the nation. However, there are fewer, whom he called “champions”—those willing to “reach across the aisle to get things done.” And although Congress voted in favor of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act 424-0, other anti-Israel campaigns, such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, have gained momentum.
Rep. Meadows agreed with an audience member who said more action was needed to enlist the U.N. and UNESCO’s cooperation on Israel’s behalf, saying that the U.N. had passed 354 resolutions against Israel, and zero against Palestinians. Africa, he said, received $250 million in aid from the U.S. but provides little or no support for Israeli security. He suggested that increasing advocacy for the State of Israel could be encouraged by adjusting financial relief from the U.S. “We would like to make it popular to vote pro-America and pro-Israel. But if it is not popular, then we make it painful.”
Dr. Kadish asked if there should be concern over perceived anti-Semitic sympathies among the incoming members of the Trump administration. Rep. Meadows responded, “There’s going to be zero tolerance for any kind of rhetoric that is expressed either outwardly or quietly in practice.”
Higher Education for Health Care Careers
Rep. Meadows was asked how the future careers of Touro’s medical and health sciences students could be affected by changes in the Trump administration policies. Rep. Meadows said he was optimistic that Congress would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he said was responsible for the “mass exodus” of physicians from their individual practices into combined physician groups “just to survive.”
Dr. Kadish said interest among students pursuing health careers was still robust and that he believed most were choosing the profession not for the money, but to follow their calling and to help people. Last year, there were 13,000 applications for just 205 openings at New York Medical College, a division of Touro College and University System.
Later Dr. Kadish asked students what they thought about the recent “polarization” of the nation’s political parties. A student said she was concerned that a “big divide” now existed between popular conservative Republicans. “How are they going to put things back together?” she asked.
Rep. Meadows replied that Republicans are unified in their belief in a strong national defense as well as “a strong Israel in the Middle East.” In domestic policy, the question is, he said, “how can Republicans be a generous party, helping people with a safety net, and not be wasteful?”
He encouraged students to reach out through his website and follow important congressional bills that are pending.