You might not call this direct support of Breaking the Silence, but you can call it standing up against right-wing blowhards like Mort Klein. This I can definitely respect. Rabbi Bernie was distraught by the “lack of context” to the exhibit but nonetheless stood by his students’ decision to bring the exhibit into a Jewish space. He, like many others, disagree with the soldiers on many points. But thank the Lord this doesn’t mean he’s like some of the people who’ve come to exhibit simply to tell the soldiers that they should be shot as traitors. Or even attack them (and Hillel International at large) for being anti-Israel, as Mort did in a press release.
The highlights here, the full open letter below the fold.
On the ZOA:
I do not know the mission of the ZOA. If, however, your mission does include working with young Jews, you have done a grievous disservice to the ZOA. If it is not part of your mission, you should not intrude clumsily and aggressively into the Harvard campus, and undermine the good work of young Jews…
…Truth from a skyscraper in New York City looks different than on the ground of a campus in Cambridge. Every campus and every Hillel has its own unique culture.
On the student body:
Many students feel inconvenienced by the presence of the exhibit in the building. Many more criticize the presentation of the exhibit itself. Some feel that it humanizes the soldiers and they come away with a more positive feeling about Israel. I myself did not anticipate this response. It is more widespread than I would have thought.
On what Mort’s press release did:
…As a result of your actions, our students are receiving hate emails [from ZOA members]. In light of what you have said and have not said, this is a totally predictable response. If you intended to injure and hurt young Jews, your recent actions and words are a success. If your goal is to inflame and to defame Harvard Hillel, you should justly feel a sense of pride â€“ mission accomplished.
Whether you’re into Breaking the Silence or otherwise, you can also tell Mort to fuck off here.
Mort Klein is at it again: playing Jewish communal chicken with forces bigger than himself. This excellent reportage from Larry Cohler-Esses at the NY Jewish Week about Breaking the Silence:
â€œThis is a fight over the identity of Israel and Judaism,â€ said group co-founder Yehuda Shaul…â€œThis is why American Jews must take part in the debate.â€
But Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, declared he would call the national president of Hillel this week to protest the Harvard chapterâ€™s decision to provide Breaking the Silence a venue.
â€œHarvard Hillel should be ashamed of itself and should immediately rescind giving legitimacy to a program that only promotes hatred against Israel and Jews,â€ he declared. â€œThey should not be allowing programs that harm Israelâ€™s image, in this case falsely. Donors give to Hillel because they think they will be promoting love for Israel, not a negative and distorted image of the Israeli Army.â€
Mort’s private ZOA soapbox is noisy. But if he wants to go head-to-head with 500 Israeli soldiers who saw it, did it, and regretted it, then he’s more than welcome to embarrass himself once more. (Hell, he should do it more often.) He’s called BTS a lie. A year ago, Mort Klein tried and failed to get the UPZ kicked out of the pro-Israel campus umbrella for sponsoring a tour by the veterans. It comes as no surprise to anyone that his goat is got again.
I had an acquaintance in college, a man whose parents had moved to America from Bangladesh, an observant Muslim with whom I would spend late nights discussing religion and watching the mountain fog coalesce. We lost touch after he moved off-campus and later graduated, but I still remember one comment he made to me after I did my best to explain to him what a “machloket” is and how the halachic system accomodates (or otherwise dealsÂ with) disagreements in matters of law.
He was impressed, and complained about the Muslim student group on campus, sayingÂ the form of Islam espoused thereÂ was too strict and particularistic. Muslims from Bangladesh, he said, don’t practice the religion the same way as Muslims from Arabia, and the Arab students in charge were intolerant of that diversity. He and other non-Arab Muslims were told that their clothing was “un-Islamic” and their observances were faulty. He objected, saying, “I’m not Arab. I shouldn’t have to follow Arab cultural norms to be a good Muslim.”
Apparently, policy clashes between conservative and liberal Muslim students, and between Muslim students with different traditions, are common on college campuses. Sound familiar? But unlike in the Jewish communityÂ where Hillels haveÂ a set policy of pluralism dictated from on high by philanthropists and “Jewish professionals”, according to this article by the New York Times’ gloriously-named Neil MacFarquhar each franchise Muslim Students Association chapter (there are more than 200 in the US) sets its own rules as to what food/clothes/events/philosophies are acceptable. Depending on where you go to school, your local MSA mayÂ alternately scandalize traditional parents or Imams, and shun students who aren’t “Muslim enough”.
The reporter, who apparently attended last weekend’s MSA West Conference in San Jose, got some good anecdotes, includingÂ community reaction to the sexes mingling at a barbecue, a potential member driven away because he wore a Budweiser t-shirt, liberal Yale vs. Wahhabist UC-Irvine, and the kinds of sermons given by Imams who visit college campuses.
I’m wondering what can we learn from this article, and what those of us still in school can learn from our Muslim fellow students. And what can we teach them? Keeping in mind the extensive similarities and deep differences between JudaismÂ & Islam and between the Jewish community & the Muslim community, there’s got to be some productive knowledge to be gleaned. What do you think it could be?
JPost covers UPZ’s birthright israel trip — the only progressive such trip in existance, now in partnership with the New Israel Fund. And I couldn’t agree more with the impact of showing people the real Israel over showing them the facade of a Jewish Disneyland:
[UPZ Executive Director Tammy] Shapiro believes that bringing young Jews into direct contact with the often unsettling reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can help to strengthen the connection of young Jews with Israel. “When people actually go to these places and learn about things for themselves, they can go back to their campuses in America and talk about it better than they did before,” she says.
American pro-Israel activism is pretty pathetic. And it’s failing. American Jewish students are in a miserably uneducated place to defend accusations of human rights abuses in the West Bank — the daily reality, as attested to by soldiers themselves — but they are expected to do so by the pro-Israel establishment as it stands. This is the success of UPZ’s progressive birthright israel tours, NIF’s social activist tours, Encounter’s tours of Bethlehem and Shovrim Shtika/Breaking the Silence’s tours of Hebron. Support for Israel should be divorced from support for the occupation. But presently they go part and parcel, to the uncomfortable disaster of students connected to Israel. And non-students, not to mention.
But just whipping a little checkpoint-and-poverty on students is detrimental and thus wasteful, as they leave Israel feeling that reconciliation is impossible between their values and their Israel aspirations. This is why the UPZ is so important and why they, NIF, Encounter, and Shovrim Shtika stand out amist the plethora of other tours which happen to be organized by Jews also:
…But the UPZ’s program isn’t the only tour bringing Diaspora Jews into contact with Palestinians. Birthright Unplugged, which has no connection to birthright israel, brings North American Jews to the Holy Land to engage in Palestinian solidarity activism, many of whom return to US campuses as anti-Zionist activists, says Shapiro.
“Birthright Unplugged is an alternative to birthright which includes the Palestinian narrative, but ignores the Jewish narrative,” she says. “Our tour is more complex and doesn’t ignore either one. We are not coming from the perspective of animosity toward Israel; we care about the country deeply.”
I fully believe it’s impossible to understand the conversation about settlements without seeing the varieties of settlements yourself. I think it’s fully impossible to address the first-hand testimonies of ISM and pro-Palestinian activists without also having experienced East Jerusalem and the territories. And I think it’s disgustingly disingenuous to laud Israel’s civil rights record in relation to her Arab neighbors without paying heed to the pains and struggles of disenfranchised Israelis. We are all dangerously vulnerable of being mindless pundits if we have read only what other people say. (Read our comments exchange about Hebron to see what happens when talking heads fall under the bulldozer of first-hand experience.)
UPZ/NIF’s trip won’t take you to Gaza City. But the closer you can get, the more credibility you bear and the more able you can defend Israel interests — her moral interests and her security interests.
Registration for UPZ/NIF’s two trips are now open at www.israelexperts.com, 1st trip: May 19th-May 30th and open to ages 18-26. 2nd trip: July exclusively for ages 22-26, exact dates for this trip will be determined after registration. Email UPZ director Tammy Shapiro at email@example.com for full details.
So the Israeli university strike ended at the 11th hour (or as they say in Israel, the 90th minute), and classes began on Sunday. So this is the first week of the semester for all the classes that have been on strike (i.e. classes taught by senior professors), and the last week of the semester for classes that haven’t been on strike (classes taught by junior faculty, everything at Rothberg and other special programs exempted from the strike, etc.).
The Hebrew University has announced the calendar for the rest of the year, and I assume the other universities are doing something similar. This is too insane to be believed.
- The “fall” semester will be from January 20 to April 4.
- Then there will be a long break for Pesach, exams, Yom Ha’atzma’aut, etc.
- The “spring” semester will be from May 11 to August 1.
- Exams will go through September, and the new school year will begin after the holidays. (Given that the academic year is somewhat tied to the Jewish calendar, i.e. classes begin in the fall after the holidays, they’re lucky that they have an extra Adar to play around with this year.)
This post is by guest contributor Amit.
The first Jewish university in history, the Hebrew University, was established in 1925, on Mt. Scopus outside of Jerusalem. In 1948, when the state of Israel was established, the university was moved to several buildings in town â€“ most notably the Terra Sancta College, which was returned to the Latin Patriarchate several years ago. The University became a public institute and was put to work churning out doctors and lawyers and teachers for the new state. Ben Gurion also made it part of his personal agenda to establish the Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, which is the worldâ€™s largest repository of copies of Hebrew manuscripts. Slowly, the universities became part and parcel of the governmental educational system, all the while sacrificing more and more of their financial freedom in return for promises of government money.
Less and less money, obviously, has been coming in, as the Israeli treasury is adopting not only a Thatcherist economic worldview, but is run by a professional level that has no college education save in economics. So the universities are cutting back on chairs and lab funds and library money. 800 senior professors have left Israeli universities in the past ten years, an amount that is equal to the current number of professors at the Technion and the Weizmann Institute together. Anyone who has gone to an American college can remember at least one Israeli professor, Iâ€™m sure, and more PhD candidates and holders are leaving all the time.
The universities are also trying to save money by employing less and less fairly. Adjunct professors are fired every eight months so the universities wonâ€™t have to give them a pension plan. Research assistants are as well. The cleaning and security staff is outsourced to external contractors so the universities wonâ€™t have to give them benefits university employees are entitled to.
Against this backdrop, the senior faculty (i.e. tenure-track professors), is demanding that the government raise their salaries by 30%. The government will not budge. The professors chose not to direct their anger at the general deficiencies of the universities, because then their strike would be broken by the courts â€“ so they focused on the fact that the public sector has received more pay raises in the past ten years than they have, and this is an argument the labor courts cannot counter, and under Israeli law the strike can go on indefinitely. The university presidents asked for injunction orders nonetheless, which created a tremendous breach of trust between them and their former colleagues.
The students â€“ who have been working and coping with a 50% courseload at the same time â€“ are suffering both from the strike, which now looks as if it will cancel the semester, if not the school year â€“ but also from the general state of higher education in Israel â€“ donâ€™t really know whom they should be supporting. Should it be the professors, who ignored the students’ strike last year, and who seem not to be starving (like the teachers, who just finished their strike) â€“ or should it be the treasury, who is itching to implement a plan to triple tuition and fund less and less of the universitiesâ€™ budget proportionately?
It is, quite truthfully, the battle of the stupid professors â€“ who created a strike which excludes all but the richest of the universitiesâ€™ employees â€“ and the evil treasury, who would like nothing more than to stop government funding for all but the most necessary of sciences (which would be business administration, thanks for asking).
The professors and the treasury are meeting now to try and broker an agreement. The university presidents announced that if there is no settlement by Friday noon, the universities in Israel will close â€“ for the first time in their 80-year history â€“ until further notice.
After damn near two years of planning, fundraising and designing (and re-planning, re-funding and re-designing) the improved New Voices web site is up! Archives, comments, free subscriptions, and all — welcome to the 21st century, Jewish Student Press Service. If you’re not familiar with the sordid history of JSPS/New Voices and it’s thorn-in-the-side approach to Jewish campus life, then read editor Josh Nathan-Kazis’ enemies list below…
The November/December 2007 issue of New Voices is online now at newvoices.org. Highlights include:
A Quiet Freshman’s Secret Past, by Arielle Reich. One year ago, Sam fled his isolated Satmar upbringing for the secular world. This fall, he’s starting college. And you thought your first year was tough.
A Student-Run Shabbaton Falters, by Ashley Bagan. Once the vanguard of the post-denominational movement, Jews in the Woods has fallen on hard times. Will it be a casualty of its own success?
The Best Years of our Lives, by Marissa Brostoff. Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer reflects on his time as editor of Avukah Student Action, a Jewish student newspaper of the World War II era.
My Enemies List, by Josh Nathan-Kazis. Hillel’s domination of Jewish campus life is dangerous for Jewish students, and the Jewish community as a whole. Here’s why.
Plus, a homelessness protest in Jerusalem (see cover image), a Jewish American Girl doll, Reb Schneerson skips the Acid Test, an original comic, reviews, and more.
You can subscribe to the print edition of the only national, independent student magazine for free. Enjoy!
The Union ofÂ Progressive Zionists announces “Final Status Taboo” in a clever pun on my all-time favorite game, Taboo, in which players attempt to describe final status issues, such as Jerusalem, right of return, etc., without loaded words like “holy,” “Dome of the Rock,” “wall,” “Israel,” “capital” or “religion.”
“While the premise of these events is play, this game has serious ramifications for our ability to move forward as a community in advocating for vigorous U.S. leadership in the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations necessary to ensure Israel’s prospects for peace and security in the future,” says Tammy Shapiro the Executive Director of UPZ.
Indeed, this is a variation of a game I play with myself all the time — “Zionist” taboo. I don’t use the Z-word word. I won’t use it around any group. It’s got too much baggage. However, despiteÂ how I refuse to call myself a Zionist, IÂ put so much of my time and effort towards a two-state solution, one could argue that I’m more actively supporting the existance of Israel than many so-called Zionists who either (a) take a passive interest but don’t do anything about it or (b) believe that prolonging the unclear status of 6 million Palestinians under Israeli jurisdiction isn’t likely to backfire.
In either right- or left-wing Jewish settings, or especially among non-Jews, the Z-word has too many meanings, too many conflicting connotations. Heroic or villainous, it’s not worth the time of deconstructing my vocabulary, so I just do without it. “Two state” is the wording of choice, “a secure Jewish state alongside a viable Palestinian state” seems to avoid the troublesome yelling matches which occur when people read into my language something I didn’t intend in the slightest.
This offends a few commited left-wing Zionists, including people I greatly, greatly admire, because they believe so strongly in taking back the Z-word from the Messianists, the Likudniks, and the Christians. That fight is laudable, sure. But it’s not worth my time to make a pit-stop to save the Z-word on the way to fighting for peace in the Holy Land. And it has the added benefit of making it easier to get along with all kinds of people.
Sorry, Z-word, it’s just another reason to leave you behind.
Full info on UPZ’s project below. More »
Bodies — legal and illegal — is the theme of the latest issue of New Voices magazine, the only national magazine by and for Jewish college students.
This month’s features look at the endangered state of women’s health at Stern College of Yeshiva University and the story of outlaw Jews involved in the Jewish mob. Continue reading to learn about Harvard students starving for workers’ better wages, obscure Jewish teachings on fingernail hygiene, a sex-panic in 1920s Boston, and a handful of other topics.
Also, a big welcome to Liz Alpern and Joshua Nathan-Kazis as the incoming director and editor for 2007 – 2009. Kudos to Ilana Sichel and Sarah Braunstein as they conclude two years at the Jewish Student Press Service — the magazine looks more beautiful than it ever did, covers the edgy news that Jewish students want to read, and the organization has once again survived through another debacle of speaking truth to power (read all about it in The Nation).
New Voices is free free free — subscribe here. Under two years out of university? Then become a contributor here. Want your synagogue’s students to receive it for free, too? Rock on.
Eyal Press asks, in The Nation:
What happens when a student magazine committed to fostering dialogue and to featuring a diverse range of opinions opens its pages to critical views on Israel? The sobering consequences were brought home recently to the staff of New Voices.
Full story and useful commentary.