The Same 18 Years Later - June 11, 2021

The 101st Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland will take place on Monday, June 14 at 4:30 p.m. We will share the incredible successes of this past year, despite the pandemic, and announce exciting plans for our community going forward. Join us! Register here.
This is not my favorite topic. Nor do I want it to be a weekly theme for my Marc’s Remarks.
Last week I shared with you the one-sided anti-Israel statement from the Oregon State University student government. The statement, which went out to the entire student body, has been removed from its various postings on social media. But the damage was done. The VP of Equity and Inclusion finally responded with a brief email that the student government statement was made by the outgoing student leadership group and did not represent the views of the university. That is helpful, but as of now the student body has yet to receive any formal public response from the OSU administration (we understand a response from the administration is in the works) nor has there been any outreach directly to Jewish students on campus.
Here is a petition you can sign to stand up to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on the OSU campus.
Perhaps not surprising, earlier this week the student government at University of Oregon (ASUO) sent out via Instagram an even uglier and more hate-filled statement against Israel. Two days later, the ASUO posted this “apology”. Although it acknowledges missteps by the student government, you can decide if this new statement goes far enough.
The UO administration has been very responsive to both Oregon Hillel and the Lane County Jewish Federation. The President is involved along with the Dean of Students and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. They see this as a learning opportunity that may potentially lead to new relationships and collaborations.
If what happened at OSU and UO is not enough, on Wednesday we learned that the Portland State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors issued this statement attacking Israel. The statement purports to speak for all faculty and staff at PSU, which it of course does not. We have already been in touch with the Portland State University administration and several Jewish faculty members are eager to present another voice.
Kelly Menachemson, Chair of the Lane County Jewish Federation, shared her feelings with me that on each of these campuses students are upset, faculty are upset, likely alumni are upset, and community members are upset. While this may be happening on campus, this issue extends into the broader community. That is why Oregon Hillel, Greater Portland Hillel, Jewish student leaders and faculty, Lane County Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, and other groups are responding.
Some things for us to think about:
  • Relationships matter. Oregon Hillel and Greater Portland Hillel have relationships with the various campus administrators. Lane County Jewish Federation is in Eugene and is well connected. How do we maximize and expand these connections? How can we better utilize students, faculty, alumni, and community members to express concerns?
  • Could these hostile situations lead to a reduction of Jewish students in our state’s public universities? How can we work to ensure that current and future Jewish students feel safe and represented on campus?
  • We need more Jewish students elected to student government. Oregon Hillel and Greater Portland Hillel actively encourage Jewish students to seek office. We know, for example, there are open ASUO senate seats for next year and we hope highly qualified Jewish students get elected to make their voices heard. 
  • How do we leverage relationships with other student and faculty groups on campus to denounce such statements? Will they be there to support Jewish students/faculty and reject criticism of Israel that crosses the line into anti-Semitism?
  • How does the Jewish community (in North America and around the world) along with the State of Israel create a unified social media plan to set the narrative? By all accounts during and after the recent conflict, Israel was on the defensive in social media, which became a battleground of its own. We need to be better prepared going forward.
What has been reinforced after reading all these anti-Israel statements (including far too many from other universities) is that this is an orchestrated effort to delegitimize the State of Israel. Same themes. Same words. Same falsehoods. Same singling out of Israel.
There is a double standard – a systematic campaign to condemn Israel not only for alleged aggressions that are far less egregious than those perpetrated routinely by non-democracies, but also for the conduct that other democracies engage in but for which they are not criticized. People are consciously deploying a discriminatory standard exclusively against the Jewish state. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. forcefully stated, “When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism.”
Just so you know, the above paragraph was published in The Forward on January 10, 2003 by Bob Horenstein, Director of our Jewish Community Relations Council. Sadly, it is still the same 18 years later.
It is important to state the following and to be clear to our community – the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is on the record in support of a peaceful two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. We affirm the right of all people to share legitimate criticisms towards the State of Israel. And we encourage people to visit and see Israel for themselves (I will assume many of the students and professors supporting these statements have never been there).
Let me end on a positive note. Mazel tov to all the graduates – elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. This is an exciting time of transition and I wish them all the best in the next phase of their life’s journey.
Shabbat shalom and I look forward to you joining us at our Annual Meeting on Monday.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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