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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘campus’

Getting Uncomfortable: The Jewish Search For Meaning On Campus

Friday, September 30th, 2016

After several meetings with a bright and affable Harvard sophomore who made it abundantly clear that he was a “devout atheist,” I was utterly confused.

As a rabbi and the director of MEOR programming at Harvard, I spend the majority of my time working to inspire, educate, and empower the budding Jewish leaders on campus. Though I dress with a modern flair, my rabbinic look, complete with a black velvet kippah, make it clear to all that mine is a traditional, theistic view of life.

Granted, we always met in a trendy coffee shop, and the meeting came with an offer of a hot beverage or even a scoop of ice cream, but he rarely took advantage of those perks. So I wondered what this unabashedly liberal student was really after.

“Why do you meet with me?” I finally inquired.

He fielded my question without batting an eye. It was simple, really. He was in search of purpose and meaning, and was hoping I had a healthy dose of it to spare.

On today’s competitive college campus, the pace is frenetic and allows for little time to focus on “trivial” matters, such as life’s meaning. Many of the students I meet are preoccupied with a great many things. They are hyper-focused on their problem sets, term papers, and numerous extracurricular activities, and are constantly haunted by the invisible voice of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in the social sphere. It’s difficult to have a coherent thought about schoolwork with that kind of noise, and it’s almost impossible to find time to consider the “big questions.”

Even worse, one student recently told me he believes many students have no interest in developing genuine friendships, only welcoming the advances of those who can help them get ahead socially or scholastically. In this setting, it is no wonder that so many students are gasping for spiritual air. Amid all the tumult, a need for quiet arises, as well as a desire to think about something else entirely, something more substantial – even if that something propels them into uncomfortable territory.

Which brings me to the struggle on campus to define the role of college itself. Some believe it is a place for the unabashed intellectual freedom of ideas, no matter their source. As a recent letter from the University of Chicago to incoming students explains: “At U of C, you will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

The opposing view believes that college must provide a comfortable intellectual environment without forcing discomfort, even at the expense of learning. As Harry Lewis, the former dean of Harvard, suggests: “Ensuring that the intellectual and emotional environment is ‘comfortable’ for students is an almost unquestioned priority in American higher education, even at Harvard – in spite of the fact that real learning about values can take place only when one’s own values are challenged.”

In light of events at several American institutions over the past year, it appears as though most colleges agree with Mr. Lewis, making the University of Chicago perspective a minority viewpoint. But this means we have reached a paradox.

For many, the college environment is entirely bereft of meaning, and they begin actively seeking out something they can define as meaningful. But that very search leads to deep questions about life, heritage, and spirituality. Jewish students find themselves questioning the materialistic perspective held by so many in their circles, pondering the implausibility of Jewish survival through the ages, and considering their roles in the global Jewish community. Undoubtedly, these questions will challenge their initial assumptions to the point of internal discomfort, a position that many millennials would deem inappropriate and unfair.

However, this is where love comes in. Institutions are notoriously poor at providing love or forging relationships based on trust. Yet those are the two main ingredients required to create a “safe space” for those who are developing rapidly in an academic jungle, as well as the only true way to coax them into exploring viewpoints and experiences that were non-existent in their formative years.

My job as a campus rabbi is to lead students down that path of internal and external exploration, enveloping them in enough warmth and encouragement that they are not only able to embrace the discomfort the process produces but figure out how to grow from it.

Every student I encounter understands I have chosen this calling because I believe a human being only reaches his or her potential when life is cosmically meaningful and I want them all to reach their greatest potentials because I care. Whether I end up on the same page as a student is essentially inconsequential, as what makes the students great is their willingness to tackle uncomfortable questions. That ability is something they can take with them the rest of their lives. It is, in fact, the key to finding true meaning in every area of life.

I met with the “devout atheist” several more times throughout the semester and slowly realized I was no longer the one asking the questions. One day he asked me the mother of all theological questions: “Why do you believe the Torah is true?” A satisfied smile stretched across my face.

It was at that moment that I knew our meetings had been truly successful. He had asked a question whose implications were cosmic and quite likely immensely uncomfortable. And yet that’s exactly where he wanted to be.

Rabbi Yoni Ganger

Israeli Ministers Advocate for Better Incorporation of Zionism in School Curriculum

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

by Ilana Messika
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced plans at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting for the 2016-2017 school year scheduled to begin on Thursday with a focus on the need to instill Zionist values in a more effective manner throughout the school curriculum.

“Our goal is to revolutionize education. This revolution will be based on two things—excellence and Zionism,” declared Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Netanyahu claimed that the basis of Zionist education was the study of Jewish heritage, specifically the Bible. “We have to make a supreme effort [to make this a part of the educational system]. It is the basis for our being here, it is the reason we were here, it is the reason we came back here, and it is also the reason we will stay here.”

The prime minister also stressed the importance of a comprehensive education for all of Israel’s youth.

“Whoever receives an education also acquires skills in computing, mathematics, the sciences, English, and in general history. We want to bequeath all of these to all the children of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, religious and secular,” he explained.

Netanyahu insisted that students’ potential could be maximized through the implementation of an internet-oriented system that would permit teachers to better interact with students.

Education Minister Bennett also announced that the education system would now function in a more personalized manner with smaller classes and more assistant teachers in kindergartens, amounting to an addition of 4,600 new professionals.

The education minister also discussed the need to better inculcate Jewish-Zionist values into the curriculum.

“We need to highlight our national values, Zionism, love of country and service to the state, and the strengthening of our shared Jewish roots.” Bennett emphasized.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

The Jewish Exception to Free Speech on Campus

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

In 2012, the Electronic Intifada, an online anti-Zionist media outlet that aggressively promotes the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, ran a lengthy article suggesting that “allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ create a real climate of fear” that is “silencing” pro-Palestinian student activists on U.S. campuses. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the article, not because of the absurd nature of the charges — that Jewish students were somehow intimidating and silencing pro-Palestinian student activists just by virtue of speaking up about the intimidation, and silencing they themselves were experiencing at the hands of those same activists — I laughed because of the accompanying photograph set beneath the headline. In one concise image, it revealed the utter disingenuousness of the thousand words that followed.

Students face a climate of intimidation on several California campuses (UC Berkeley SJP)

Students face a climate of intimidation on several California campuses (UC Berkeley SJP)

The photo, credited to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at University of California Berkeley, depicted a large pole on campus that was covered from top to bottom with multiple layers of promotional flyers. However, the only ones that were fully visible — because they had been affixed directly on top of the others — were the SJP’s flyers demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and urging the university community to support BDS. The juxtaposition of the photo with its caption, “Students face a climate of intimidation on several California campuses,” practically begged the reader to think: Which students are facing a climate of intimidation?  Certainly not the members of SJP, whose bold and brazen “freedom of expression” to demonize and delegitimize Israel and promote efforts to harm it is literally smothering everyone else’s!

In the four years since that article was published, the smothering of speech depicted in the article’s photo has not improved. In fact for one group of students, it has gotten worse.  Much worse.

A study of anti-Semitic activity in 2016 on more than 100 campuses, which our organization released earlier this week, revealed that over the past year the number of incidents involving the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly by members of SJP or other anti-Zionist student groups had approximately doubled. For example, in April of this year, more than two dozen members of the General Union of Palestine Students at San Francisco State University disrupted and ultimately shut down a Jewish student event featuring a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. A few minutes after Barkat’s speech had begun, protestors stormed into the hall and loudly chanted slogans such as “Get the hell off our campus,” “Long live the Intifada,” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free,” until the speech was prematurely terminated. Similar disruptions and attempted shut-downs of Jewish student events unfolded on campuses across the country.

It is telling that in our study we found a strong correlation between incidents involving the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly and those involving the expression of anti-Semitic tropes that demonize and delegitimize Israel or promote its destruction: in 2016 all 12 of the schools at which the speech and assembly of Jewish students were suppressed played host to one or more incidents of anti-Zionist expression, and the greater the number of these incidents, the higher the likelihood that Jewish student expression would be suppressed. Not only does this strong correlation suggest that anti-Zionist expression may incite conduct which harms Jewish students, it also underscores the breathtaking hypocrisy of anti-Zionist activists on campus, who vigorously exercise their own freedom of expression but deny Jewish students that same right and freedom.

In addition, the increase in incidents which trample on the civil rights of Jewish students indicates the growing success of a tactic known as “anti-normalization,” which members of SJP and similar anti-Zionist groups routinely employ to aggressively stifle all pro-Israel expression. For example, in one of its founding documents the SJP group at Binghamton University outlined strategies for harassing Jewish students and disrupting or shutting down their Israel-related events in a section entitled: “Tactics and Strategies Used to Counter Zionist Normalization.”

Adherents of “anti-normalization” target not only pro-Israel students, but anyone presumed to support Israel, first and foremost Jewish students, regardless of their actual personal feelings on Israel. As a result, Jewish students engaging in Jewish activity having nothing to do with Israel — wearing their Jewish sorority or fraternity letters, displaying Star of David necklaces, walking to Hillel for Sabbath dinner – report fearing for their safety and well-being.  In addition, because of their support, or even just presumed support, for Israel, Jewish students report being rejected from progressive social justice activities such as pro-choice rallies, anti-rape demonstrations, Black Lives Matter events and racial justice conferences.

The situation has become intolerable for many Jewish students.

This past spring, the University of California system took a critical stand against the rising anti-Semitism plaguing its 10 campuses. Its Board of Regents issued a Statement of Principles Against Intolerance acknowledging that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism which incites additional Jew hatred and, like other forms of discrimination, has no place at the University of California system. The Regents’ statement also singled out “actions that physically or otherwise interfere with the ability of an individual or group to assemble, speak, and share or hear the opinion of others,” stating that they “impair the mission and intellectual life of the University and will not be tolerated.”

Universities across the country must follow suit.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

New Study: Alarming Spike in Campus Anti-Semitism in 2016

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Nearly 100 more incidents of anti-Semitism occurred on campus during the first six months of 2016 compared with the first six months of 2015, according to AMCHA Initiative’s mid-year study released today. In addition, calls for Israel’s elimination on campus tripled, and that expression highly correlated with actions that harm Jewish students.

“The growing problem of campus anti-Semitism is no doubt a serious threat facing the Jewish community, but this disturbing and dangerous spike and the bolder, more brazen, methods of those perpetrating this hate are particularly alarming,” cautioned Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative director and co-founder.

The study, which examined anti-Semitic activity from January to June 2016 on more than 100 public and private colleges and universities with the largest Jewish undergraduate populations, found that 287 anti-Semitic incidents occurred at 64 schools during that time period, reflecting a 45% increase from the 198 incidents reported in the first six months of 2015.

The study also revealed the following disturbing trends:

Suppression of speech approximately doubled from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, 14 incidents that restricted Jewish students’ civil rights by suppressing their speech, blocking their movement or hindering their assembly were found on 12 campuses. These incidents reflect a significant increase from the first half of 2015, in which eight incidents of suppression occurred on seven campuses.

Expression denying Israel’s right to exist nearly tripled from 2015 to 2016 and correlated with actions intended to harm Jewish students. The first half of 2016 saw an almost three-fold increase in the number of campus incidents that contained expression opposing the existence of Israel, a recognized form of anti-Semitism by global leaders such as President Obama, Pope Francis and the prime ministers of Canada, Britain and France and the world’s preeminent scholars of anti-Semitism. There were 43 such incidents in 2016 compared to 15 during the first half of 2015. In fact, expression opposing the existence of Israel highly correlated with conduct that targeted Jewish students for harm.

Divestment resolutions are fueling anti-Semitism. In 2016, the student governments of 10 schools in the study considered anti-Israel divestment resolutions. Of these 10 schools, eight showed the largest increase in anti-Semitism from 2015 to 2016. Conversely, seven of the nine schools in the 2015 study that considered or voted on divestment resolutions showed a marked decrease in anti-Semitic activity in the first half of 2016 when no divestment resolution was considered. The two schools that did not decrease in anti-Semitic activity hosted discussions and votes on divestment.

Anti-Zionism, particularly Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activities, anti-Zionist student groups, and faculty boycotters, remain the strongest predictors of anti-Semitic incidents on campus. Consistent with 2015, this study revealed that anti-Semitism was twice as likely to occur on campuses where BDS was present, eight times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP, and six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotters. In fact, schools with more faculty boycotters and more BDS activity tended to have more incidents of anti-Semitic activity.

Schools to watch in 2016: the schools with the largest increase from 2015 to 2016 are Columbia University, Vassar College, University of Chicago, NYU, University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts (Amherst), University of Wisconsin (Madison), University of Florida and the University of Washington.

“Instead of just boycotting Israel, the anti-Zionists are now boycotting Jewish students,” stated Professor Leila Beckwith, AMCHA co-founder and one of the study’s lead researchers. “Sadly, all too often it is not debate but hate. The lines between political discussions on Israeli policy and discrimination toward Jewish students are being blurred. Anti-Zionists are attempting to harm, alienate, and ostracize Jewish students; it is Jewish students’ civil rights that are being trampled. To properly address this rise in anti-Jewish bigotry, universities must adopt a proper definition of contemporary anti-Semitism and use it to educate the campus community about the distinct line between criticism of Israeli policies and discrimination against Jewish people.”

The report concluded with recommendations for university administrators including (1) adopting a definition of anti-Semitism that identifies all forms of anti-Jewish bigotry, including when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism; (2) allocating resources to educate students and faculty about contemporary forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish discrimination; and (3) establishing clear guidelines about free speech protected under the First Amendment and conduct which violates others’ civil rights, including disrupting or shutting down campus events and restricting free speech and right of assembly.

Read full copy of today’s report.


Anti-Semitic Threat Scrawled in Men’s Bathroom at U Buffalo

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Jewish students at the University of Buffalo were threatened this month by anti-Semitic scrawls discovered on a wall in the men’s bathroom at Capen Hall. The vandalism “threatened violence against Jewish people and used a derogatory slur,” according to the campus newspaper, The Spectrum.

In response, the university’s police force increased patrols near the Hillel of Buffalo in The Commons as a precaution, and patrolled campus locations where students were celebrating Purim last week.

The university’s Deputy Police Chief Joshua Sticht called it was an “isolated” incident, according to The Spectrum, but students say anti-Semitism on the campus has happened before, albeit less severe.

“I”ve never seen any form of anti-Semitism like that before,” Jewish Student Union (JSU) president Andrew Meyer told The Spectrum, but noted “I’ve seen swastikas in the past.” However, he added, “that is nothing compared to this.”

Meyer said what was found on the wall is “the most horrific and derogatory term” used against Jews.

It has already been removed, and photos are not available to media.

The newspaper did not print the threats nor did it publish the photos that were sent to The Spectrum. The school’s maintenance staff and the students apparently did nothing about the vandalsim for at least two weeks, according to the report, which cited grave concerns over that apathy.

Meyer pointed out that students have to raise awareness that “any form of anti-Semitism or racism is not OK and they must report anything they see immediately.” He also met with Student Life and Student Association (SA) president Minahil Khan, who said the group is working with the university police and Student Life in “any way that they might need.”

U Buffalo Hillel director Dan Metchnik called the incident “very disturbing.”

University of Buffalo spokesperson John Della Contrada said in a statement that racist and discriminatory conduct would not be tolerated.

“When acts motivated by hatred or discrimination occur, the university will respond promptly to protect the safety and well-being of the entire university community. Diversity, inclusion and mutual respect are strongly held values of our university. We are committed to upholding these values at all times.”

Hana Levi Julian

Brown University Probes ‘Violent, Threatening’ Anti-Semitic, Homophobic Graffiti

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Brown University is investigating hostile graffiti found in the Marcy House fraternity complex on Friday.

The graffiti targeted the Jewish Beta Rho Pi fraternity and the co-ed LGBTQ Zeta Delta Xi fraternity, both living in the building.

The graffiti was described by students as “violent” and “threatening,” according to Campus Reform.

Administrators offered counseling for affected students, according to the Campus Reform website.

“Students say they are not surprised by the incident, given the history of anti-Semitism at Brown,” according to the site.

A transgender advocate and writer scheduled to speak on Monday had been canceled last Wednesday. The co-sponsor of the event, Brown RISD Hillel, was targeted by an online petition that accused the group of defending “Israeli state policies of occupation and racial apartheid.”

President Christina Paxson told the Brown community in an email Friday that campus police would investigate the incident after the graffiti was found scrawled across the walls.

“While the graffiti has been removed, the impact of identity-based bias and threat is not easily wiped away … This incident impacts not only those immediately involved, but threatens our shared sense of safety and respect on campus,” officials noted in the email.

Nevertheless, when JewishPress.com checked the university’s Crime Alerts page, it carried no alert or mention of the vandalism on its list of incidents. Apparently the only crimes serious enough to rate a mention are those that involve shootings, robberies, rapes and use of date rape drugs. The most recent incident to make the list was dated December 2015.

“Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment has been allowed to fester on our campus for years now. I’m disturbed, disgusted and disappointed that Brown community members would do this, but am, sadly, not surprised,” BU student Laura Galvan told Campus Reform.

Hana Levi Julian

The Year in US On-Campus Anti-Semitism: 302 Acts at 109 Schools in 28 States

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

(JNi.media) The AMCHA Initiative on Tuesday unveiled a database that chronicles anti-Semitic incidents that occurred over the past academic year by state and university, to be used as a resource by current and prospective students, parents, university administrators, elected officials, researchers, and donors.

The incidents are organized into three categories: Targeting Jewish Students and Staff; Anti-Semitic Expression; and Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Activity. Each act is further classified under the 10 recognized forms of anti-Semitic behavior. In addition, AMCHA announced a dynamic, 2016 incident tracker that will be updated in real-time.

“Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to plague our nation’s schools,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA cofounder and director. “We hope … cataloging such anti-Semitic incidents should serve as an important wake up call to university leaders and elected officials.”

“Anti-Semitism, what many of us thought only a decade or so ago was a sad part of our history, continues to rear its ugly head on campuses from coast to coast,” said Leila Beckwith, AMCHA cofounder and UCLA emeritus professor. “What those of us that monitor cases on a regular basis know is today’s anti-Semitism not only includes swastikas and historical anti-Jewish slang. Today’s anti-Semitism is often cloaked in anti-Israel behaviors and demonstrations that in truth seek to deny Jews, alone of all ethnic groups, the right to self-determination, and blame the only Jewish state for all evil in the world and spew lies and hatred about the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Universities must adopt accurate definitions of anti-Semitism so that students understand when political debate crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.”

Here are a few examples of the 302 incidents from 2015 that took place at 109 schools in 28 states:
Brooklyn College: “Jews – the root of all evil” was scrawled on a wall in the library.
Clark University, Cleveland State University, Framingham State University, George Washington University, John Jay College, Montclair State University, Rowan University, SUNY Purchase, Tufts, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland, University of Missouri, Valdosta State University, Vanderbilt, Western New Mexico State University: Swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs were scrawled on school buildings and property.
Columbia University: Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was one of 10 local SJP chapters endorsing an advertisement for a rally that contained several classic and contemporary anti-Semitic tropes including that the administration’s ties to Israel were responsible for tuition hikes.
Delaware Valley College: Female student athlete tweeted, “Can I kill all the [expletive deleted] Jews in Lakewood pleeeasse?!?!!”
Drexel University: A swastika and “Jew” was found written near an Israeli flag.
Farleigh Dickinson University: A swastika was drawn outside Hillel Director Rabbi Ely Allen’s office.
Hunter College: “Zionists out of CUNY” and “Long live the Intifada” was chanted during a rally protesting tuition hikes.
Indiana University: Thirty members of the Traditionalist Youth Network marched on campus holding anti-Semitic signs and wearing Nazi memorabilia.
Medgar Evers College: An Orthodox Jewish student was punched in the face and told “Leave the school, you Jew.”
Miami University Ohio: Two students wrote anti-Semitic graffiti on a dormitory hallway.
Northeastern University: Following a divisive divestment vote, a mezuzah was vandalized and multiple swastikas were drawn on school property.
Northwestern University: Following an active and vocal divestment effort, multiple swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti were found in four different locations on campus over a three-month-period.  During that same time a Jewish student reported being targeted and harassed at an SJP “Israel Apartheid Week” event and filed a bias incident report.
Pace University: A student’s Snapchat account featured the University’s football captain giving the Nazi salute.
San Diego State University: Convicted terrorist Rasmeah Odeh was the keynote speaker at a national SJP conference at SDSU promoting the anti-Semitic BDS movement.
Towson University: A Jewish star with a cross through it, “Hitler was right,” and “With Jews you lose” were scrawled on campus.
UC Berkeley: “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” found etched on school property.
UC Davis: A Jewish fraternity was defaced with swastikas the day after a contentious divestment vote; “grout out the Jews” was etched into the Hillel house; and vandals carved swastikas and “F**k the Jews” into cars and slashed tires on campus.
UC Irvine: An Anteaters for Israel I-Fest event was disrupted by anti-Israel protesters who chanted loudly to drown out the event and physically blocked a walkway.  The civil rights of Jewish students who wanted to gather peacefully were violated.
UCLA: A UCLA student and employee posted anti-Semitic comments on social media including, “F**king Jews. GTFOH with all your Zionist bullshit. Crazy ass f**king troglodyte albino monsters of cultural destruction. F**king Jews. GTFOH with your whiny bullshit. Give the Palestinians back their land, go back to Poland or whatever freezer-state you’re from, and realize that faith does not constitute race.”
UC Santa Cruz: SJP set up mock checkpoints on campus insisting that students show ID cards before entering the library.  The event demonized Israel and Jewish students reported feeling targeted and harassed.
University of Central Florida: A rash of anti-Semitic posters swept through campus over a period of a week. One had a Star of David and the words “1%” and “Bankers” underneath, a second had a swastika on a flag with a message calling for an Israel boycott and others contained the phrases “Muh Holocaust” and “Truth is Treason In the empire of lies.”
University of Chicago: Threatening anti-Semitic comments were posted on Yik Yak including, “Gas them, burn them and dismantle their power structure.  Humanity cannot progress with the parasitic Jew.”
University of Illinois Champaign Urbana: A large menorah outside the Chabad House was knocked over twice.
University of Oregon: A male yelled anti-Semitic slurs at a Jewish student and threatened to assault him with a firearm.


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