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“The Ominous Decree of 2021”

“The Ominous Decree of 2021”

A headline in the respected journal Commentary read “Hamilton, Barnard, and the Ominous Decree of 2021” and covered an email sent out by a Barnard College administrator to Orthodox Jews that, as the article put it, “declared the millennia-old religious requirements of Judaism null and void.” 

The article began with Founding Father and first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who had advocated for the Jews in an early America struggling with ethnic equality. Hamilton was instrumental in the formation of New York City’s Columbia University, formerly Kings College, in 1784. The tie between Columbia and Jews became so significant that the school’s official “seal [features] the Tetragrammaton, the sacred biblical name of God, written in Hebrew letters,” often translated into English as Yahweh.

All of this history was traced in order to emphasize the ironic, rather disturbing, incident that occurred in September 2021, at renowned women’s liberal arts school Barnard College, an undergraduate affiliate of Columbia.

College, COVID, and Conviction

On September 6, Cynthia Yang, deputy chief of staff to Barnard’s President Sian Leah Beilock and the official head of the college’s “pandemic response team,” sent out an email informing Orthodox Jewish students that they would need to violate their religious beliefs and practices in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The email directly referenced their keeping of the Sabbath. It read: “You have identified yourself as a Sabbath-observer to Barnard’s Residential Life & Housing. As a Barnard student, there are policies and procedures that you must follow relating to the College’s pandemic response.”

Yang then continued, “We recognize that how you have practiced religious traditions in the past may not align with the use of technology during the high holy days or the Sabbath, but this year it is paramount for the community’s health and safety (as well as your own) that you abide by the Barnard pledge and follow the College’s policies and procedures. The campus communities that intersect at Barnard and Columbia cannot wait until Wednesday night for students to report symptoms or respond to a notification of a positive test. The chain of transmission can only be shortened when individuals act responsively and quickly.”

“The use of technology” referred to the daily check-in process required from every Barnard student, in which they would “report symptoms [or] whether they had come into contact with a student who had tested positive” for COVID -19 using an online platform. The reference to “Wednesday night” was in regard to Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday in which would be celebrated an annual sabbath. Annual sabbaths are different from the Sabbath of the fourth commandment in that they are not weekly nor are they considered part of the law of God. Learn about this important difference in this concise resource “Is the seventh-day Sabbath a ceremonial feast day?” To Orthodox Jews, however, the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual sabbaths are the same in that the use of any kind of technology, from turning on a light to using the Internet, is forbidden.

Yet their university had basically just informed these Orthodox Jewish students that they would have to use technology during Rosh Hashanah. In other words, the greater good overrides religious conscience.

Yang’s email raised such a stink that an hour and a half later, she backtracked. In a second email to those same students, Yang said that her missive had been “written in haste with the goal to keep everyone as safe as possible during the high holy days and it, regrettably, was not considerate in the way it should have been of … students’ ability to practice and observe their religion how they choose.”

In the end, “a Sabbath-friendly” solution was agreed upon. After consulting with a Jewish organization on campus, the school put in place a manual system for practicing Orthodox, in which those with symptoms would place a sticker on their dorm door to alert others to possible infection.

The Sabbath and Religious Freedom

However narrow and quickly resolved the issue, the process failed to sit well with certain Jewish groups, one of which highlighted Barnard’s “complete lack of respect for Jewish religious practices.” It was also noted that Yang’s first email was sent only hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah.

But perhaps most significantly of all, the debacle brought to light a much larger principle: the right to practice one’s faith, especially when it’s out of the mainstream.

According to the book of Revelation, this same issue will be of tantamount importance in the last days. At stake will be your life or your faith in the Bible and the Bible alone. All the forces of evil will be unanimously assembled against God’s small remnant, “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). Particularly targeted will be the Sabbath—not the annual sabbaths of the ceremonial laws—but the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment. And this time, there will be no apology, no retraction, and no quarter.

Columbia has a seal with the name of God—but God Himself has His own seal. At the very end of time, that seal will stand in stark contrast to the devil’s mark and will be placed upon every person alive who will be saved. What is this seal, and what does it have to do with God’s commandments? “Don’t Be Fooled”—find out today in this eye-opening, truth-filled presentation. Make the choice in your life now that will gain you eternal life when Jesus returns.

This article contributed by Clifford Goldstein
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