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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘campus’

Why Bibi is Not Intimidated by Obama

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

I’m sure Jeffrey Goldberg got it right. Whatever the reason the President leaked his unhappiness with Bibi to Goldberg just a few days before the Israeli election – whether in an effort to influence the vote against Bibi, serve payback to Bibi for a perceived preference for Romney, or because the President could simply no longer suppress his dissatisfaction – it must indeed be unnerving to be the most powerful man on Earth and have the elected leader of a tiny Middle Eastern country defy you.

That’s especially when that country, in your opinion, owes you so much! You are their only reliable friend who watches helplessly as that little nation continues to isolate itself through its self-destructive policies. According to Goldberg, Obama has “become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart… Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are… Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”

If only Israel would recognize the President’s genius. If only it would stop building in Jerusalem and E1 and allow the President to sprinkle his magic peace dust, then Hamas would beat its rockets into ploughshares and Hezbollah would turn its bombs into pruning hooks. But no. Ungrateful to the last, Bibi insists on disobeying the President and claiming all of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capitol.

No doubt the President is likewise mystified at the Israeli people as well. How could the polls show that they will this week re-elect the intransigent Prime Minister who is doing so much to harm their country? The most powerful man on Earth is reduced to watching from the sidelines and complaining to journalists that he knows how to protect Israel far better than the Israelis themselves.

Such an ungrateful nation.

And yet, perhaps the Israelis have finally figured out that they are a sovereign people whom, while immensely grateful to America for its friendship and support, are still best qualified to judge their security needs better than anyone else. Perhaps they have come to understand that another Democratic president named Bill Clinton, whom no one would argue has a sincere love of the Jewish people and a Jewish son-in-law, still pushed Israel into the Oslo agreements that left a thousand Israeli civilians blown to bits. Perhaps they have come to understand that if Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, was correct that, as a legislator from Nebraska he was “not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator,” then the Prime Minister of Israel is the likewise the leader of the Jewish state who must put the security of the Israeli people even before a nod of approval from the President of the United States.

Over the past four years Bibi has grown into one of Israel’s greatest leaders ever. The country is booming economically and in terms of security. Cranes dot the skyline of expanding Israeli cities, terror incidents are negligible compared to the Clinton era, and unlike the anemic American economy, Israel is humming along at about four percent annual growth. And if President Obama is right that, in spite of this prosperity, Israel is isolated in world opinion, then it is arguably no more so than it has been in the past, and, besides, what is better, a popular Israel riddled with dead Jews or an unpopular Israel filled with living ones?

But what President Obama does not understand about Netanyahu is that the inflexibility he accuses him of is born not of a narrow-minded obstinacy but rather of a confident Jewish pride and deep-seated conviction that has been Bibi’s lifelong hallmark.

In my desire in 1990 to launch a robust response to anti-Israel speeches at the Oxford Union, I booked Netanyahu to lecture at the University. Bibi, just 41 years old, had already electrified the world as Israel’s most capable defender at the U.N. Bibi agreed to come with a single stipulation: “If I’m already making the trip, then work me like a horse.”

We obliged.

We picked him up in a special branch police car and as we drove through the grandeur of Oxford’s ancient center, he commented on the majesty of British academia and its incongruence with some of the petty anti-Israel sentiment that is often expressed within its halls. Arriving at St. Antony’s College for a private forum with Oxford Middle East experts, Bibi put one foot on a chair and for the next 90 minutes held forth on the justice of Israel’s cause, surrounded as it was by nation’s sworn to its destruction. As he finished, the attacks came in fast and furious in what had to be one of the most hostile audiences he ever addressed. He did not blink, he did not flinch, he did not bend. When the last question ended, he turned to me to ask what next.

Why Jews Are So Bad at PR

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The biggest question surrounding the State of Israel is why it is so hated. The conventional wisdom is that the world remains hopelessly anti-Semitic and is therefore deeply biased against the Jewish State. No doubt there is some truth to this assertion.

But to absolve Israel and the Jewish people of any involvement in this monumental failure to communicate strikes me as convenient and allows us to blame others for our shortcomings.

In truth, while the State of Israel was asleep the Arabs pulled off one of the great propaganda coups in global history. They somehow convinced the nations of the world that six million embattled Jews, with a deep commitment to democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism were the aggressors in a war with hundreds of millions of oil-rich Arabs, whose governmental commitment to women’s and religious rights is tenuous at best and appalling at worst. The Palestinians in particular demonstrated a black belt in PR by convincing the world that amid their rejection of every peace deal ever offered to them, including the 1947 UN Partition plan, that it is Israel that has no interest in peace.

More than anything else ours is an age of media. Those who master media rise to great heights while those with contempt for PR most often fall. In 2000 Barack Obama lost in his run for Congress. Eight years later he was the most powerful man on earth. Why? Because in that time he mastered the media, wooed radio and TV producers, and won over op-ed columnists with his vision for America. Agree or disagree with this policies, his meteoric rise is a demonstration of how mastery over the organs of communication ultimately leads to mastery over the opinions of the people.

Yet here we are, a nation with a Biblical charge of serving as a light unto the Nations, that is simply terrible at communication. Perhaps we Jews feel that we will never be understood anyway, so why try. Or perhaps it’s that Israel’s cause seems so self-evidently just that it requires no explanation. Or maybe it’s that we find PR to be trite and superficial, all form with little substance. No matter the explanation, we have ceded the PR ground to Israel’s enemies.

The price paid is steep. What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor? Indeed, in the recent war in Gaza Israel did well in the PR battle precisely because it was using a defensive weapon – Iron Dome – which the world, amid its bias, could not possibly construe as an offensive instrument.

But the people paying the biggest price for Israel’s often deplorable PR efforts are Jewish students on campus the world over. It is at universities which are, for the most part, great bastions of liberalism that PR attacks against Israel are the most strategically coordinated and most effective. I remember as Rabbi at Oxford how well funded the Arab student organizations were while we struggled to convince donors of the importance of influencing impressionable young minds with pro-Israel advocates. Inevitably, the haphazard Jewish response by mostly volunteer activists on the world’s campuses is no match for the well-coordinated and well-funded efforts of anti-Israel campaigns that have become de rigueur on campuses throughout the world.

It is for this reason that at universities, more than anywhere else, there must be an effort to galvanize Jewish student leaders who are naturals at PR. And they must be cultivated from an early age.

The news stories this week that Ron Dermer, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s senior adviser, may be tapped to be Israel’s next Ambassador to the United States, is a case in point. If the news is accurate then American Jewry can look forward to an electrifying few years of pro-Israel arguments on the American airwaves with little previous parallel. Michael Oren, Israel’s current Ambassador, is already one of the greatest communicators ever to occupy the role. As a world class historian prior to taking the post, he has further distinguished himself as an eloquent and magisterial defender of the Jewish State.

Cut from the same cloth, Dermer will take this to the next level. In my experience, Ron is quite simply the most capable and erudite advocate for Israel alive anywhere in the world today. From the time that he arrived at Oxford in the mid-1990s as a brilliant political science superstar from the University of Pennsylvania, he shone as a leader and as one of the University’s most charismatic students. At the time, the battles we faced in making the case for Israel at one of the world’s premier universities was intense. Oxford receives a great deal of Arab philanthropy and each year graduates the sons and daughters of the leading Arab families of the Middle East. In addition, the University has long had a romantic history of Arabism and Lawrence of Arabia was one of Oxford’s greatest twentieth century products.

Touching the Opposite Sex

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I hate the term and have no clue how that term came into being. I don’t think it is even used in Charedi circles at all. Shomer Negiah – meaning guarding against touching the opposite sex – implies that physical contact between the sexes is some sort of Chumra. That according to the strict letter of the law, it is completely permitted.

That is not true. With the exception of parents (and according to many opinions siblings), it is against Halacha for men and women to have any physical contact with each other unless they are married. While there are Halachic opinions about whether platonic contact is permitted, certainly any contact that is sexual in nature is not permitted by anyone.

When young people say they are Shomer Negiah they usually mean that they do not touch members of the opposite sex in the context of dating – where holding hands for example is a lot more than platonic touching. And certainly it applies to things like kissing and more aggressive forms of touching that are completely sexual in nature.

The thing is that being Shomer Negiah really means that one is following Halacha. It is just as Assur to hold hands with your girlfriend as it is having a glass of milk with your roast chicken. And yet there are Orthodox students who will casually say that they are not Shomer Negiah as though they are saying that they are not Machmir on something like Chalav Yisroel.

I think most religious high school students realize that. And yet this is how Shomer Negiah is treated. Like a Chumra that many do not observe.

Bearing all this in mind I found an article in the Forward about being Shomer Negiah on college campuses very intriguing. I was very happy to see that there are many Orthodox Jewish students  who attend secular universities that are very careful about these things. It was also gratifying to see that many non Jews or secular Jews are very understanding and supportive of them.

On the other hand I also found that some students who were Shomer Negiah gave it up as they made their way through the four years of college. And there are also many people who ridicule such strictures in 21st century America. After all non marital sex is about as common and as American as apple pie.

What is interesting for me is that even those who are meticulous about keeping this Halacha, acknowledge the difficulty in doing so in a culture that glorifies ‘hooking up’. That is indeed one of the ‘highlights’ of the campus life in an ‘away from home’ university.

Human nature is what it is. For the majority of mankind the libido (sex drive) is a very powerful force. Temptations to satisfy that drive are often very difficult to overcome. Being in an environment where both sexes interact socially and encourages sexual freedom is no place to be if one wants to guard themselves from temptation.

That said, of course it can be done. And is. Which is to the credit of those who do. Like Chana Lavaddin, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Of course it helps to have a support system like the one at Penn where I am told there are many Orthodox students who for the most part have an on campus Orthodox social structure  complete with a Rabbi, Minyanim and Sedorim for Torah study.

But even with that resisting temptation is not easy when one considers that one will inevitably be involved with others (both teacher and students) who do not understand our religious values and often challenge them. Or even ridicule them. Which means that in some cases Orthodox students go in observant of these Halachos and come out not observant of them.  As was the case with another student, Jordan Katz. She called it evolving. And explained her reasons in the Forward article.

The fact is that the sex drive is hard to control even under the best of circumstances. Even in sex segregated environments like YU and Stern.  Not only that but even the most religious people in the world can succumb to temptation as did one Rosh HaYeshiva that I know about in Israel who ended up having an affair with a married woman.

Even if we go back to the era of the sages – the Gemarah tells us time and again about how certain sages were tempted and how difficult it was for them to overcome those temptations.If I recall correctly there is a Gemarah that says something to the effect that the greater the individual – the greater the temptation and the harder it is to resist.

Which is why the Gemarah also says “Ain Apitropus L’Arayos”. There is no real way to guard against sexual temptation. I think this is why Chazal built so many safeguards into our daily lives. It was to try and minimize temptation as much as possible.

That said, one can go too far with anything and there are certain segments of society that take these laws and extend them way beyond all reason. To the point where it becomes counterproductive.  It’s all about balance. Not extremes.

The concept of Ain Apitropus L’Arayos is real, however, and does not go away just because some people misuse it in the extreme.

Which is why I am opposed to co-ed high schools as a rule. (Although I admit that there is a place for such schools in some circumstances.) And why I support Yeshiva University and Stern as the best way to be balanced about these things. That is not to say that there aren’t problems there too. Every approach has problems attached to it.  The point is that in an ideal world one must neither be isolated from – nor blindly immersed in our sexually permissive culture.

In any case, the Forward article gives us some valuable insight as to what campus life is really like from the perspective of Orthodox students and is well worth reading.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Chabad Emissaries Gathered in New York

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Some 4,000 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and communal leaders from more than 75 countries gathered in New York for their 29th international conference.

Many of the rabbis attending the conference over the weekend brought relief supplies and funds from their communities around the world to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, and volunteered their time for relief efforts.

Highlights of the conference included a visit to the gravesite of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; a group picture in front of the Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn; and the annual banquet featuring an international roll call.

Conference workshops included topics such as helping people through the global economic crisis; expanding the horizons of college campus outreach; and multi-sensory approaches to Jewish education.

RASG Hebrew Academy Breaks Ground For New Gym

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

The Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy held a groundbreaking for a new, regulation-sized indoor gymnasium on Friday, September 21. The ceremony was held at the school’s west campus field, located at 2400 Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach.

Hebrew Academy board member and gymnasium donor Robert Danial (left) receives proclamation from Miami Beach Commissioners Tobin (center) and Exposito (right) during the school’s recent gymnasium groundbreaking ceremony.

The Hebrew Academy’s dream of a gymnasium is coming to fruition thanks to the generosity of community donors. Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin, Founder’s Club members, Builder’s Club members, all gymnasium donors, Hebrew Academy faculty, students, staff and many community members attended the event. During the ceremony, a proclamation from Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower was bestowed upon the donors who made the construction of the gymnasium possible.

Following the groundbreaking, students in grades 6-12 moved to the west campus auditorium to participate in the annual Chesed Assembly and Fair. This meaningful event set the tone for student service for the school year. The fair presented 20 non-profit organizations that were on hand to provide information about their organizations and the opportunity for student to sign up as volunteers. This year the significance of giving back to the community is even greater, as students are being provided a gymnasium due to community philanthropy. The fair brought the idea of community giving and philanthropy full-circle.

The Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy is an Orthodox Jewish college and yeshiva preparatory school, serving students through grade 12, that inspires and equips students to reach their fullest potential both academically and spiritually by focusing on their individual attributes and instilling eternal Torah values in a changing world.

U.S. Graduates Seek Work in Israel

Monday, September 24th, 2012

When Joanna Lieberman was preparing for graduation from Cornell University five years ago, her career options were unsettling. Dreaming of a job in the hospitality industry but lacking a degree in the field, she realized she needed hands-on work experience before pursuing a full-time position. Lieberman, along with thousands of other American college graduates, turned to Israel’s growing employment market for an answer.

“People are realizing the opportunities in Israel to get hands-on career experience in industries that are doing cutting-edge work,” she said. “Israel is known for its booming tourism industry and it seemed like the perfect place for me to test out working in the field.”

Lieberman’s hands-on work experience came from working with Career Israel, Masa Israel Journey’s five-month professional internship program that allows college graduates to explore their fields of interest. In addition to a life spent embracing her Jewish heritage, she points to her involvement with Israel-on-campus activities as a driving factor behind moving to Israel after she graduated. Participating in her Hillel’s Israel activities, she said, kept her feeling connected to the country.

Lieberman’s story is far from uncommon; since 2008, more than 2,600 graduates have taken internship positions in Israel with Masa Israel’s rapidly growing program. It’s no surprise that students are looking to Israel for career opportunities, in light of the ongoing weak domestic job market in the US. A recent Associated Press report found that more than half of America’s recent college graduates are unemployed or working in jobs that do not use their skills.

“As students and recent graduates continue to face a difficult job market, they are looking for ways to continue developing their career and also to stand out,” Masa Israel Director of Communications Miranda Bogen said. “Coming to Israel on internship and even volunteer programs offers them international professional experiences that are usually much more substantial than entry-level positions in the US.”

Between the underwhelming number of job opportunities at home and a love for Israel, the decision to work in Israel has been easy for some recent college graduates, including University of Florida graduate Robert Yanks.

Yanks was bitten by the Israel bug after he went on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip organized by his school’s Hillel. Being surrounded by his classmates in Israel not only solidified his love for the country, but also landed him a job offer in Israel. A friend Yanks met on Birthright put him in contact with internet-startup company Moolta, and soon after he was hired as its regional marketing director.

“I wanted to choose a job in Israel to experience a different way of living and to travel before life became too hectic,” he said. “I think it’s amazing what the country has accomplished; it’s almost a miracle in the middle of a desert. Just being able to support the country by living here may have made my decision to come a little easier.”

Yanks is three months deep into his Israel stay and will return to the U.S. in November to launch domestic marketing initiatives for the company. He says his work in Israel has broadened his professional knowledge while simultaneously allowing him a living experience unlike any other.

“There’s a different feeling here unlike any other country I’ve been to and that’s what makes Israel so appealing to the American student,” Yanks said. “I think the main reason why students take jobs in Israel after college is because it’s so easy to fall in love with the country and its people. Life moves at a different pace here. People of Israel know how to truly appreciate everything around them, and they all realize that nothing is simply given.”

Unlike Yanks, who realized his interest in Israel toward the end of college, Illinois State University graduate Tess Sevelow-Lee made her Israel decision early on during her extensive Israel-on-campus involvement.

An active StandWithUs campus leader, Sevelow-Lee spent her college career creating and distributing an ‘Israel 101’ presentation which teachers and faculty used to introduce Israel to Jewish and non-Jewish students.

“My involvement in college was the catalyst for my move,” she said. “I realized that while I was in the States, just talking about my love for this country wasn’t enough, I needed to be here.”

To Protect Jewish Students, California University Committee Recommends Ban on Hate Speech

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Each year at many California universities, pro-Israel students dread the inevitable arrival of “The Wall,”—the centerpiece of Israel Apartheid Week. These programs, sometimes known as Justice in Palestine Week or Palestinian Awareness Week, usually take place sometime between late-winter and spring and focus on charges that Israel is an Apartheid state that illegally occupies Palestinian territories.

But what if the wall wasn’t allowed to go up?

Speculation on the future of anti-Israel demonstrations on University of California (UC) campuses has increased in recent weeks after a mid-July report compiled by the UC President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate recommended that UC consider banning all hate speech from its nine campuses.

Between October 2011 and May 2012, a group of professionals handpicked by UC President Mark Yudof travelled to six UC campuses (Santa Cruz, Davis, Irvine, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego) to assess the social conditions of Jewish students as well as Arab and Muslim students.

Jewish student leaders on the campuses were interviewed by the council, which evaluated the students’ biggest concerns as Jews on campus.

A separate report, providing background and recommendations on behalf of Arab and Muslim students was also released in mid-July.

Ultimately, the council recommended that hate speech, particularly anti-Israel demonstrations, be banned because of the unsafe and uncomfortable environment that can ensue on campus.

“UC does not have a hate-free policy that allows the campus to prevent well-known bigoted and hate organizations from speaking on campus such as the KKK,” the council wrote in the report. “UC should push its current harassment and nondiscrimination provisions further, clearly define hate speech in its guidelines, and seek opportunities to prohibit hate speech on campus.”

The council recognized that such a ban, if put in place, almost certainly would lead to legal action challenging it. Already, a petition asking Yudof to table the recommendations has gathered over 2,300 signatures.

Opponents of the recommendation claim that the report, released July 9, does not consider all viewpoints of Jewish students on campuses—particularly those of Jews who are critical of Israel.

In response, StandWithUs started a counter-petition urging the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to accept and implement the recommendations outlined in the report. While the first petition targets the hate speech ban proposal, the StandWithUs petition focuses on implementation of the entire report’s recommendations which include ensuring that kosher food options be available on UC campuses and that anti-Semitism be clearly defined and banned.

The advisory council also recommended that UC staff members receive cultural competency training and that accurate data be kept on Jewish students to better evaluate their needs.

There has been mixed reaction to the report in the pro-Israel community. Sharona Asraf, a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow and board member of Tritons for Israel at UC San Diego, created a Facebook event promoting the petition and said she supports the Council’s recommendation to ban hate speech.

“This will verbalize protocol and will elaborate what the consequences are for hate speech,” Asraf said.

However, Daniel Narvy, President of Movement for Peace in the Middle East at UC Irvine, said that while he thinks hate speech should not exist, banning it on UC campuses could actually make life more difficult for pro-Israel students.

“I can promise that SJP will claim the university is Islamaphobic and complain until they get their way,” Narvy said. “Do I think the hate speech, which it clearly is, should be there? No, but the university cannot use prior restraint and just censor a club just because [some members of the club] are obnoxious .” Richard Barton, who is the national education chair for the Anti-Defamation League, co-wrote the report with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP. Barton defended the report in an Aug. 23 op-ed in the San Francisco Gate.

“By including an examination of the climate for Jewish students, the Campus Climate Council has truly advanced the notion of honest and critical examination that lie at the heart of the UC’s core values,” Barton wrote.

Though UCOP is not expected to finish evaluating both the Jewish and the Arab and Muslim reports until late October, Yudof noted that ensuring a right to free speech would remain a priority.

“The Council will continue to address issues for a broad range of campus community members,” Yudof said in an August 8 open letter to the UC system. “None of this is designed to stifle free speech, but rather to ensure that our campuses are welcoming to a broad diversity of students, faculty and staff.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/on-campus/to-protect-jewish-students-california-university-committee-recommends-ban-on-hate-speech/2012/09/12/

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