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May 4, 2016 / 26 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Hillel’

At ‘Liberal’ Oberlin No Speech Rights for Non-Haters of Israel

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Oberlin College holds a position at or near the apex of a universe populated by the leftist and the further leftist American colleges and universities. But Jewish students are finding that Oberlin’s liberalism does not extend to any discussion that is not unequivocally scathing about the Jewish State.

In a place where every people’s right to self-determination is revered as an ideological imperative, that same right for the Jewish people is deemed not only unworthy, but as evidence of racism itself.

This month Oberlin reappeared center stage largely for a list of demands issued by its Black Student Union, a list which is notorious for several reasons. It is: very long (14 pages), wide-ranging (hiring, firing, health, prisoners given free tuition, the list goes on) and unequivocal.

Oberlin BSU’s demands are not requests, they are non-negotiable and backed by the force of threat: “these are not polite requests, but concrete and unmalleable [sic] demands. Failure to meet them will result in a full and forceful response from the community you fail to support.”

The Demand Document – which was unsigned – was sent to Oberlin President Marvin Krislov earlier this month. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, Krislov responded with an invitation to dialogue, something already scorned in the initial move.

This Oberlin exchange arose in the context of the 2015 Revolution on American Universities. That RAU began in the fall semester, initially triggered by the Ferguson and Baltimore riots, followed by the melee at Missou, and the shrieking girl outburst at Yale. Princeton followed and eventually Oberlin joined in, with the biggest and most brazen set of demands of all.

But something else is happening at Oberlin, something that is the focus of this article. This issue was raised in the demand document. Tucked away on page 14, amidst disparate essentials, the students demanded: “Immediate divestment from Israel who [sic] has exploited many African descendant peoples seeking refuge. Furthermore, because the oppressive and violent acts towards Palestinians mirrors the anti-Blackness currently in the United States.”

This demand for an official declaration by Oberlin College denouncing the State of Israel is only the most explicit display of a campus-wide hostility to Zionism, and more broadly to Jewish religious observance, at least when it has any connection at all to Zionism or the Jewish state (which might be a bit of a problem for someone reciting, say, the entire Amidah prayer at any time of day.)

One current Oberlin student put it this way to the JewishPress.com: “at Oberlin, People of Color (POC) are on the ‘good side of the ledger,’ and they are opposed to Zionists, who are categorized as “pro-racist and harmful towards POC.”

Jewish Oberlin students and alumni have begun to speak out, albeit quietly and cautiously, because it has now become the reality for many of them that despite the many leftist, “liberal” positions shared by most students across the Oberlin spectrum, any identification with the Jewish State as even an aspect of one’s Judaism is verboten.

As a result, there is now underway a painstaking effort to create a voice that opposes what is now being described as anti-Semitism at Oberlin. That new, wavering, quavering voice is seeking to counter a pervasive atmosphere on campus that reached its stride when the Oberlin student senate voted in 2013 to approve a BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) resolution, and has been going strong ever since.

Dr. Melissa Landa, Oberlin class of 1986, is attempting to do the proverbial herding of cats by creating a coalition of current students and alumni who can speak with a single voice, and have that voice attempt to draw attention to the unacceptable wave of blatant hostility towards anyone who identifies with the Jewish State. So far, Landa has helped to form a group more than 200 strong, “Oberlin Students and Alumni Against Anti-Semitism.” They wrote, signed and delivered a letter to the Oberlin administration, staff and faculty. Landa says she is meeting with Oberlin president Marvin Krislov on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Public Menorah Helps Dispel Darkness of Anti-Semitic Attack at New Jersey’s Rowan University Campus

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

The festival of light has dispelled the darkness caused by an anti-Semitic attack by vandals at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey last week. Chabad of Rowan University teamed up with the school’s Hillel group to light a public menorah on the university campus, distributing colorful flyers inviting students to “Light the Night!”

Multiple swastikas and other anti-Semitic markings were carved into several doors in a residence hall on the Rowan University campus on Dec. 3, university officials said, adding that the vandalism seemed “random” because none of the students living in the hall were Jewish.

Located in the southern New Jersey town of Glassboro, 18 miles southeast of Philadelphia, the university had a Jewish student population of approximately 800 in 2013, out of a total of some 13,000 at the time. Those numbers have risen with each year that followed.

“I was horrified to learn about [it],” said Rabbi Hersh Loschak, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and co-director of the Rohr Family Jewish Student Center at Chabad of Rowan University.

“I believe that it is particularly significant that this incident took place during the Chanukah season,” Loschak said. “We commemorate Chanukah by lighting an additional candle each night of the eight day holiday, increasing in light and thereby minimizing the darkness.

“We refuse to be intimidated or frightened,” he continued, “in fact, we will use this incident as a motivation to increase the light and expand our programing for Jewish students on campus,” he said.

 

Hana Levi Julian

Hillel CEO Mocked at J Street U’s Student Leadership Event

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Lots of campus organizations have their retreats in the summer. It’s a time for energizing the members before they return to campus in the fall.

J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, is having its Summer Leadership Institute this week, just outside of Washington, D.C.

On Monday, Aug. 17, Hillel International’s CEO Eric Fingerhut addressed the organization that claims to be pro-Israel. Fingerhut was looking to stake out common ground. The only issue the J Street U students wanted Fingerhut to discuss, however, was the Israeli “occupation” of the Palestinian Arabs.

Fingerhut was invited to address J Street’s SLI back in June, when he met with J Street’s leadership to discuss ways the two organizations could work together. The June meeting took place after Fingerhut, who originally agreed to speak at J Street’s annual conference, pulled out of that commitment.

After Fingerhut’s no-show at the March J Street Conference, a mob of J Street conference attendees descended on Hillel’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, demanding to know why Fingerhut refused to address their event. They pasted post-it notes haranguing Fingerhut for canceling on them, along with a box of letters demanding a meeting with him.

The Hillel leadership concluded that Hillel and J Street U share a mutual interest: opposing the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) Movement. It was on this topic that Fingerhut planned to speak at the J Street U’s SLI.

Fingerhut, according to J Street U members present, said he “applauded” the campus group for opposing BDS, and told them “we appreciate what you do in building vibrant Jewish community.”

He also sought to mollify them by feeling their pain, as when he told them “sometimes you have also been subject to unfair criticism. That is wrong too and contrary to Jewish principles.”

But despite the earlier agreement, this time it was J Street U’s turn to pull the rug on Fingerhut.

With Fingerhut seeking to establish common ground, J Street U leadership members and the organization itself seemed to mock Fingerhut on social media: “. repeatedly calls for common ground b/w & . We will never compromise on condemning occupation.

J Street U and its members tweeted throughout Fingerhut’s address to the students, with most of the messages demanding to know whether Fingerhut would “acknowledge the occupation threatens Israel’s Jewish and democratic future as much/more than bds?”

There also was clearly a generation gap problem, with J Street U students incredulous that Fingerhut appeared to be boasting that “@HillelIntl is opposed to racism and islamophobia.” The students wanted none of the liberal credentials being offered: “Jewish leaders, lets be clear: mentioning Jewish solidarity w/ civil rights in the 60s doesn’t mean you uphold those values today.”

But the constant refrain was annoyance that Fingerhut was not addressing the issue foremost on the minds of the J Street U members who were listening to the Hillel executive: Israel’s “Occupation” is the central issue and absolutely their central concern.

The incoming 2015 J Street U president Amna Farooqi made the point quite clearly at the SLI gathering, during the Question and Answer session following Fingerhut’s address: “We are not here to talk about the pro-Israel conversation on campus. We are here to talk about the occupation.”

In fact, Farooqi announced at the event that 2015 for J Street U is going to be all about their favorite topic: “year – long anti occupation work.”

Here is a portion of J Street U’s simultaneous tweets during Fingerhut’s talk to J Street U’s Student Leadership Institute:

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Hillel Rabbi Proud Drexel Honored Anti-Israel, Anti-America Noam Chomsky

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania bestowed an honorary degree on one of the U.S.’s most infamous anti-Israel, anti-American public figures this month. And on her Facebook page, the Hillel rabbi at Drexel posted a picture of herself with Chomsky and Drexel’s president at the ceremony.

“A representative of the Jewish community should probably not be in a photo op with him,” said one former Hillel student. “It is a bit disturbing that a figurehead of the Jewish community would allow herself to be next to him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some students felt alienated and more hesitant to be involved in the organization after seeing such a photo.”

Drexel awarded 14 honorary degrees this year. The recipients of seven, including Chomsky, spoke at various graduation ceremonies.

Chomsky is one of the best known and most outspoken American critics of Israel. He has called the Jewish State such a consistent and extreme violator of human rights “that you hardly have to argue about it.” For that reason, he claims, U.S. military aid to Israel is in direct violation of U.S. Law. He also contends that peace proposals made by Hamas have been more “forthcoming” and sound than any proposed by Israel.

At least Chomsky rejects (sometimes) the claim that Israel is an Apartheid state. But that’s because he thinks Apartheid is too gentle a term for Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

“To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse,” Chomsky said in an interview last year. Chomsky said that the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is totally different than that of South African whites to blacks. He said that the “South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. … The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.”

Although he is distressed that the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) Movement has not yet been successful, he is very supportive of it.

Perhaps that is why it was so extraordinary to see a Hillel rabbi providing what would appear to be tantamount official support for Drexel’s decision to honor Chomsky.

Isabel de Koninck is Drexel Hillel’s executive director and campus rabbi.

A 2004 graduate of Brandeis University, de Koninck was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College from which she also completed a graduate certificate in Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies. Dee Koninck is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and serves on the board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

At the ceremony at which Chomsky received his honorary degree, de Koninck, wearing an academic gown, posed with Chomsky and Drexel President John A. Fry. De Koninck’s official status as Hillel director and rabbi could be seen by the university as the official Jewish imprimatur for its awarding the honor to Chomsky.

De Koninck posted the picture on her Facebook page, underneath which she wrote: “That’s me with Chomsky and President Fry!”

In addition to being virulently opposed to Israel, Chomsky is also extremely harsh in his denunciations of the United States. For example, he publicly stated that the 9/11 attacks on America were not any worse than President Clinton’s use of cruise missiles against Sudan in retaliation for bombings in Nairobi.

Chomsky also denied there was proof of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and said the U.S. attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan would justify a retaliation scenario in which “Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.”

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Fliers Posted at U. of California Santa Barbara Blame Jews for 9/11

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

A number of unknown students at the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California started off the new school year this past weekend with posters proclaiming that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“911 was an outside job,” reads the flier that featured a large, blue Star of David. The leaflet asks every student to “educate yourself” by visiting websites claiming that Israel was behind the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people., including hundreds of Jews.

It also suggested that people search Google for subjects such as “9/11 Was Mossad.”

Rabbi Evan Goodman, executive director of the Hillel branch on campus, wrote in a blog post that a Muslim student leader alerted him to the fliers, of which approximately 5-10 were distributed.

He added that Hillel and university staff, along with some students, took down the fliers.

Jewish Press Staff

Loyola U. ‘Suspends’ and Reinstates Students for Justice in Palestine

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Loyola University Chicago suspended and subsequently reinstated its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine following an anti-Israel protest this month by the SJP chapter that blocked an event promoting Birthright Israel.

The university informed the chapter on Sept. 19 that it was “temporarily prevented from hosting any on-campus activities or events until their leadership meets with University representatives and the group complies with stated policies and procedures that apply to all student organizations,” according to a statement released by Loyola.

After meetings with university officials on Sept. 25 and 26, the group was allowed to resume its activities.

The one-week suspension was enough time for the university to win accolades for the suspension of SJP. The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) commended Loyola for instructing SJP to temporarily stop hosting any on-campus activities or events.

It remains to be seen if SJP now will function without violating the rights of others.

The temporary sanctions on SJP came shortly after a member of the group and of the student senate, Israa Elhalawany, was censured by the judicial board of the student government on Sept. 16 for “several Facebook posts over the summer in response to the attacks on Gaza” that included “profanity or expletives.” The board noted that the censure was for the manner of the posts, not the content.

In a protest on Sept. 9, SJP members lined up in front of a table manned by Hillel students promoting Birthright Israel trips. A student news website, The College Fix, quoted Hillel chapter president Talia Sobel as recounting that students from SJP asked Hillel members, “How does it feel to be an occupier?” and “How does it feel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing?”

In March, Loyola’s United Student Government Association took two votes on divestment resolutions. The measure at first passed unanimously. In a subsequent vote, it passed narrowly before being vetoed by the student president.

The university’s president dismissed the resolutions as irrelevant.

JTA contributed to this report.

Jewish Press Staff

Inside the Presidents’ Conference and the J Street Vote

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The fractious public reaction to the rejection of J Street’s membership by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has been based on widespread dissemination of false information about the process, according to exclusive interviews with sources close to the Presidents Conference process. The sources declined to be named because, while fully conversant with all aspects of the J Street vote, they were not authorized to speak publicly. But they emphasize that J Street was rejected not by the “Left or Right” or a “right-wing minority” but by the overwhelming voting consensus of the 50-member organization. Moreover, the sources say, J Street supporters were in a smaller minority than initially apparent because just two voting blocs mainly controlled many of the 17 yes votes.

By way of background, after a year of trying, the controversial lobby J Street was rejected by a wide margin for membership in the Presidents Conference, the umbrella group for 50 American Jewish communal organizations. The lopsided vote rang in at only 17 for, and 22 against in a process that required 34 yes ballots out of 50 voting member groups. But digging into the numbers reveals more than previously apparent about who voted yes and who did not, Conference sources say.

J Street bills itself as pro-Israel, but has engendered controversy among the pro-Israel community about its true intentions. Since its April 30, 2014 membership rejection vote, public vitriol by J Street and its supporters in the Conference and the Jewish media have been directed at the Conference as an organization, and, in a few instances, its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, personally. The fallout included a threat by a Reform Judaism leader to break away as well as sarcastic jibes on J Street’s website, which are still live at press time more than a month after the vote.

One such J Street website remonstration declared: “Yesterday’s rejection of J Street’s bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community. The Conference of President [sic] claims to be the [sic] ‘the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry.’ Last night’s vote removed that pretense. So join us in thanking Malcolm Hoenlein for clarifying this situation and revealing to all what we’ve long known: a new voice is needed to represent the true majority of American Jews — and non-Jewish supporters of an Israel at peace.”

Getting personal, the J Street rebuke included a mock thank you note: “Dear Malcolm: Thank you for finally making it clear that the Conference of Presidents is not representative of the voice of the Jewish community. We recognize the need for an open and honest conversation on Israel in the United States. We appreciate you being honest. Now we’ll work on the openness.”

J Street’s initial public statement asserted the organization “is disappointed that our bid for membership to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has been rejected. This is a sad day for us, but also for the American Jewish community and for a venerable institution that has chosen to bar the door to the communal tent to an organization that represents a substantial segment of Jewish opinion on Israel. We are, however, most heartened by the tremendous support we received from many of the largest and most prominent organizations in American Jewish communal life who urged their fellow members to join them in building a robust and representative community body.”

In response to questions for this article, J Street vice president for communications Alan Elsner stated, “We regard the vote as a closed chapter. We were happy to receive the support from the very significant organizations that backed us; and we are heartened that the vote has prompted a debate and examination of the Jewish community’s ability or lack thereof to hear diverse views and to fully reflect the positions of American Jews.”

Edwin Black

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/inside-the-presidents-conference-and-the-j-street-vote/2014/05/30/

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