Campus Challenges

This past week, the Israeli people (along with Jews around the world) commemorated Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. It is a time when we remember the 23,320 people who have died defending Israel or were victims of terrorist attacks. This solemn Day of Remembrance comes a day before the exuberant, celebratory Israeli Independence Day, Yom Ha’Atzmaut. This rapid transition from grief to happiness, from remembrance to celebration is not easy but it serves as a constant reminder of the reality in Israel where its existence as a nation is too often threatened with pain and sacrifice.

On Wednesday evening our community celebrated Israel’s 67th anniversary. The Jewish Federation, in partnership with the MJCC, created a celebratory evening with Israeli music, food, and dancing for our community with hundreds of people in attendance.

For a nation that is only 67 years old – very young for a country – Israel is still a work in progress, and far from perfect. But there is so much to celebrate!

I found the following article from the JTA quite interesting with ten things you may not have known about Israel. 

I recently spoke with several parents in our community whose children are graduating from high school and are college-bound next year. I am always curious about where students go to college and their decision-making process. So when I read news like the following, I begin to get more concerned about the challenges facing Jewish students on campus today (which I have written about before).

The recent news story about Molly Horwitz, a candidate running for student government at Stanford University, who claimed she was asked how her Judaism affects her view of divestment from Israel, changed a campus election into a fierce discussion about “identity politics.”

The New York Jewish Week reported, according to Horwitz, a member of the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) asked her how she would vote on divestment, given her “Jewish identity.” Taken aback, Horwitz responded that she opposed divestment and, thus, did not receive the group’s endorsement.

In a student survey released this week, the Jewish Student Association at Stanford found that the incident is not isolated. According to an open letter published in the Stanford Daily, many Jewish students no longer feel accepted on campus because of their Jewish identity.

“Our survey indicated that many Jewish students, even those not engaged in the debate over divestment, have felt excluded solely due to their Jewish identities,” the open letter reads. “For instance, some reported being silenced in conversations due to their peers’ perception that their Jewish identity relegates them to a place of naïve bias. Others expressed pain because they feel the need to hide their connection to the larger Jewish community.”

Similar to Horwitz, Jewish students at Stanford said they do not feel comfortable expressing their love of Israel, an integral aspect of their Jewish identity.

This is not the first time the debate on college campuses over divestment from Israel has led to discussions about anti-Semitism. Earlier this year, students at the University of California, Los Angeles asked a Jewish student who was a candidate for a campus judicial committee whether her religion would influence her decision-making. Unlike at Stanford, where Horwitz’s claims are still being investigated, the incident was caught on tape.

The intensity and volume of these incidents seem to be increasing. Though these cases took place on the West Coast, they are not “geographically isolated.” A similar “environment of hostility” is at play in campuses across the country.

Unfortunately, life on campus feels so different today from when I went to college almost 25 years ago. The growth of anti-Israel/divestment campaigns on campus make Jewish student life very uncomfortable. That is why we value the special efforts of our Hillel professionals who strive each and every day to enhance Jewish life on campus for these young students.

I wish all our college-bound students only great success and may they only have positive experiences while on campus.

On a final note, and far less important…You know the old adage, “The Jewish holidays either come early or late, but never on time.” Earlier this week, the National Football League (NFL) released its fall schedule. The first game, as has been the case in recent years, will be on a Thursday night in September. And, you guessed it, the following Sunday begins the season for all the other teams and that evening happens to be the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The late afternoon games will end when people are typically already at synagogue (note that 2 of those 8 teams have Jewish owners). Plus, the 8:30 p.m. EST game that evening will be the New York Giants (team is co-owned by a Jewish family, think of all the Jewish fans in New York, plus they have a Jewish player who has already announced he will play in the game) vs. the Dallas Cowboys. Moreover, the next evening on Monday night (for many Jews who celebrate one day of Rosh Hashanah this will not be an issue), two games are being played where 3 of the 4 teams have Jewish owners. I guess this year, at least for many NFL fans, the holidays came at the wrong time.

Shabbat Shalom, may we continue to watch the State of Israel blossom, and Go Blazers!



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