Bar-Ilan University’s polyamory conference draws fire from students, professors

Organizers say event will be a professional discussion of treatment methods, does not support open relationships; opponents claim it encourages adultery

Illustrative: Polyamory (Getty Images)
Illustrative: Polyamory (Getty Images)

Bar-Ilan University has come under criticism from both students and faculty over a conference scheduled for next week on the topic of polyamory.

The three-hour conference, which will be held on February 5 at the university’s Ramat Gan campus, is titled “Treatment Issues in Polyamory.” It will include talks by professors from the psychology and gender studies departments titled, “On Polyamory, Open Relationships and Judgment in the Therapeutic Space,” and “Polyamory — Fusion and Healing in the Face of Fracture?” Organizers specified that it is intended for therapists only and will be closed to the general public.

Students at the university, which was founded as an Orthodox-oriented institution, protested the conference, saying it “supports adultery.”

Over 600 opponents signed a petition calling for the conference to be canceled, claiming it supported dismantling families, and saying it was “shocking to think about a child growing up in a house full of this kind of betrayal and fornication,” the Israel Hayom daily reported.

Bar-Ilan University (photo credit: CC-BY Avishai Teicher/Wikimedia Commons)
The Bar-Ilan University campus. (CC-BY/Avishai Teicher/Wikimedia Commons)

Protesters hung signs over the weekend in the area around the campus that read “Adultery at Bar-Ilan,” according to the right-wing Israel National News site. Other opponents held a protest outside the home of the university’s rector.

At least two professors at the university also opposed the conference.

“Although in academia there is the idea of freedom of expression at a scientific conference and this is very important,” said Professor Ely Merzbach, “the polyamory conference organized by the school of social work does not appear academic at all; it offers treatment methods that are completely against the Torah, the sacred values of most of the university population and the structure of the family.”

The organizers changed the structure of the conference following protests, with “the goal of better reflecting its professional face more accurately.” They stressed that the conference “deals with treatment issues and is not intended to encourage this phenomenon,” according to Israel Hayom.

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