Addressing Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus

Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger

Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger

Anti-Israel movements have existed since the founding of the Jewish state, but over the past 10 years, Israel supporters have had to confront a more sophisticated anti-Israel movement than previously seen. In 2005, 170 Palestinian organizations came together for the boycott,  divestment and sanctions movement, one that sponsors the  economic, cultural and academic isolation of Israel, calling for an end to the democratic homeland.

The BDS movement and the groups that align with it have unfortunately found their stronghold on our college campuses and in our social justice movements. As we send our teens off to college this fall, we know it  is essential to understand the challenges they might face.

Fortunately, our local universities have not experienced the level of anti-Israel rhetoric found at a number of colleges nationwide. But many of our college-age students will attend schools that have encountered challenging situations in the past. And unfortunately, many of them are woefully unprepared for the anti-Israel biases they might face.

Many times, students are surprised to hear anti-Israel remarks made by professors they once admired. Others don’t know how to respond when their friends demonize Israel after joining organizations hostile to the Jewish state or when groups they support pass resolutions that are anti-Israel. And some Jews admit they just don’t feel safe — especially after being harassed by other students.

Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization, is there to support college students. And, to ensure our local colleges and universities do not become a hotbed for anti-Israel rhetoric, The Associated funds Israel Campus Fellows, post-army young educators from Israel who provide a personal connection to the country. They build relationships, create  educational programming that showcases Israel and provide students with knowledge and tools to address anti-Israel sentiments from professors or peers.

We are committed to making every effort to prepare students before they set foot on campus with programs such as The  Associated’s Macks Center for Jewish Education-created Israel High, an after-school program in public and private high schools. Funded by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education, the session empowers students to understand topics such as media bias.

We’ve also begun hosting  programs for parents of college-age students so they can be prepared to talk to their kids about what they might encounter.

Anti-Israel movements are counterproductive to the goal of peace for the State of Israel. We must continue to educate ourselves and our children in order to make the case for  Israel and continue to stand  up to those who oppose her existence.

Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger are co-chairs of Israel and Overseas at  The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Peace Now Leader Wants End to P.A.

A veteran leader of the Peace Now movement is apparently calling on Israel to overthrow the Palestinian Authority. It may seem hard to believe, but that’s the plain meaning of an op-ed in the July 29 edition of New York Jewish Week by Martin I. Bresler, a former chairman — and current board member — of Americans for Peace Now.

Peace Now has long functioned almost as a defense  attorney for the Palestinian  Authority — vigorously demanding Israeli concessions to the P.A., while refraining from criticizing the P.A.’s sponsorship of terrorism and its constant  incitement against Jews and Israel.

Bresler’s op-ed began with the usual litany of denunciations of Israel’s behavior. “The occupation is evil,” he informed readers. “It is immoral. It is un-Jewish.” Israel has become “the oppressor of another people.”

But not to worry — Bresler has a solution. He has a six-step peace plan, and here’s step No. 1: “Israel can announce … that it recognizes that the  occupation must end at some point, that it will do so as soon as the security situation permits, and until that time it will administer the West Bank for the benefit of its Palestinian inhabitants and its own safety.”

Come again?

Bresler, in the name of Americans for Peace Now, wants Israel to “administer the West Bank for the benefit of its Palestinian inhabitants.”

Right now, of course, it is the Palestinian Authority which administers 99 percent of the Palestinian inhabitants of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank). The P.A. has been doing so since 1995, when then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the areas where nearly all of the Palestinians reside.

For Israel now to “administer the West Bank for the benefit of its Palestinian inhabitants,” as Bresler proposes, means that  Israel would need to overthrow and disband the Palestinian  Authority, and resume the  pre-1995 policy of occupying  and administering the  Palestinians.

One must assume that Bresler is a rational man and therefore is aware of the existence of the Palestinian Authority. If Bresler paused to think, he would have to acknowledge that the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, controls Palestinian education, culture, elections, the economy, and all other facets of Palestinian communal life. The P.A. police arrest Palestinian criminals. The P.A. sanitation department collects the trash. Just about the only thing the P.A. can’t do is import tanks and planes.

To pretend that Israel is still “occupying” the Palestinians is absurd. It’s time for the Peace Now camp to emerge from its time warp and stop living in a pre-1995 fantasy world that no longer exists.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa  Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

Prelude to a Pogrom

Very recently filmmaker Ami Horowitz documented how Portland State University students reacted when being asked to pledge money to purchase explosives to bomb  Israeli schools, hospitals and synagogues. Far from recoiling in shock and horror or immediately placing calls to Homeland Security, the students reacted in a different way: They happily signed on, many of the open-minded academicians punctuating their support for the idea with fist-bumps and high-fives.

The film ran on nationwide television on Fox a few weeks ago, and for those who wish to dismiss this as hardly indicative of what left-leaning leaders think, the “Get the Jew!” emails exposed on WikiLeaks a few days ago directed at Bernie Sanders should cause any American — Jewish or Gentile — to be extremely concerned. Jewish-American leaders had nothing to say about it, but strangely that’s really not out of the ordinary.

Perhaps, though, now that the acrimony and rhetoric has reached such a level that liberal progressives can now openly congratulate people who say in public they wish to murder Israeli civilians, Jews in America will finally have had enough.

Very few segments of the American electorate have supported the progressive agenda with as much fervor and reliability as Jewish Americans. While Jews have steadfastly maintained all the admirable qualities that are and have been the hallmarks of their culture for millennia — hard work, patriotism, religious piety — the political leaders they support have installed planks in a platform that scream just the opposite.

One can certainly cast historical scorn on Cossacks who conducted pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe, Spanish monarchs who expelled them en masse or even go back as far as Roman proconsuls who demolished their holy places and cast an entire people into Diaspora. These enemies, however, plainly identified themselves. The supposed liberals, on the other hand, have been warmly smiling at their Jewish comrades, clasping their arms around their shoulders  before every election.

Now, however, these elements aren’t even bothering with trying to maintain the previous façade properly, so certain are they that Jews in America will meekly follow them wherever it is that the political insanity leads. And speaking of insanity, as concerns the hard-working, honest, law-abiding salt of the Earth that is the Jewish-American community, Euripides warned best: Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.

David Nabhan is a Pittsburgh-based science and science fiction writer.

Five Things People with Disabilities Wish You Knew

Eighteen years ago, my best friend gave birth to a baby boy with Down syndrome. I was already very familiar with people who have disabilities, but I had no idea what to say to my friend who had just given birth to a child with severe disabilities.

A week later I sat down with a mutual friend who has a brother with Down syndrome to discuss how I could best support the new mother. She told me what not to say and I was horrified at how many mistakes I had already made! I felt so awful that I stopped visiting and asking about the baby for fear that I would say the wrong thing. But during that time I lost out on the opportunity to support my friend who really needed me.

Similarly, some people are so afraid to do the wrong thing that they avoid people who have special needs. They are losing out on befriending so many extraordinary, fun and funny people in an effort to be “thoughtful”. To help clear the smoke between sensitive and insensitive, here’s a list of five tips of what most people feel is OK and what is not so OK when interacting with a person who has a disability.

1. When talking with someone who has a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or interpreter. Instead of stating, “Ask him how he is feeling,” make eye contact and ask the  individual “How are you feeling?”

2. It’s okay to use common expressions, such as “see you later” or “got to be running along” that seem to relate to the person’s disability, such as a visual or mobility handicap.

3. It’s okay to offer your help, but don’t just assume you’re assistance is needed. Ask first, or wait for someone to ask you for your help.

4. It’s okay to ask people about their disabilities and it’s also okay for them not to talk about it. Like all of us, some people love to talk about themselves. Others are by nature more private. Gauge your questions by the personality of the individual.

5. Invite friends with disabilities to join you in daily  activities and special occasions. Most people are not mean, they just don’t think of it.

At the end of the day, you should love your neighbor as yourself. Treat people with disabilities the way you like to be treated.

From these ideas we can  deduce that the best thing to say to a new mother of a baby with disabilities might be something like, “Congratulations! How are you and the baby feeling?”

Yael Zelinger is a Disability and Inclusion Associate at the Macks Center for Jewish Education. She can be reached at yzelinger@cjebaltimore.org or  410-735-5023.

Pope Francis Must Insist Auschwitz Church Be Moved

Last week, Pope Francis made a pilgrimage to Poland, visiting Auschwitz — the notorious death camp in Poland where 1.1 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Auschwitz is comprised of two camps: Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, also called Birkenau. Birkenau is the actual “theater of death,” where the vast majority of Jews were murdered.

At Birkenau, there is a large church in what once was the Nazi commandant headquarters. The church is in direct  violation of a 1987 agreement signed by four European cardinals and European Jewish leaders that declares “there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.” Pope Francis must recognize this affront and ask that the church be moved.

Its very existence at this  sacred Jewish space is inappropriate, misleading and a  violation of Shoah memory. If the church structure remains, its large cross casting a shadow over Auschwitz II, the site could suggest to the uninformed that the Holocaust was either an attempt at Christian genocide or that the church defended Jews at that time — when in fact the church turned its back on the large-scale attempted annihilation of the Jewish people.

If humans are to learn from our history, to strive for a better future, we need to know what has passed before us. Otherwise, we perpetuate the possibility that the atrocities of the past will repeat in the future and  untold suffering will prevail.

It’s up to people of moral conscience to raise a voice for the sake of Holocaust memory and declare loud and clear: A church has no place at Auschwitz II. Pope Francis — who has shown himself to be a great friend to the Jewish community — has the power to order the Birkenau church be moved. The building should become a museum, specific to Birkenau, showing how the Nazis carried out their atrocities there. The large crosses in front of and on top of the building should be removed. The memory of the Jews murdered there — murdered because they were Jews — must be  recognized with historical  accuracy.

With each passing year, fewer survivors remain. The time is not far off when there will be no living witnesses to share their part in this story, to say: Yes, this happened, and this is how. We cannot allow evidence of the Holocaust to be co-opted by other groups for other purposes.

Rabbi Avi Weiss is the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale-the Bayit, and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Journey to Open Orthodoxy.”

Don’t Believe Hype: BDS Is Marginal at Best

Ever since the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel began picking up steam three years ago, its proponents have brazenly declared the movement’s inevitable triumph. In April, for example, a pro-divestment group at the University of Chicago issued a statement proclaiming that by the school’s student government passing a BDS resolution, the university “finally put (itself) on the right side of history.”

BDS proponents interpreted the momentum in progressive circles, such as student government and academic bodies, as a sure sign from the political gods that BDS will gain acceptance in wider and wider swaths of American society. Eventually, they assert, Americans will realize that their supposed ally Israel is an apartheid state and will cease their support.

Could there be, as the BDS proponents alleged, an unfolding historical dialectic at work here — one as unmistakably foreseeable as the eventual triumph over apartheid South Africa — that would culminate in Israel’s ultimate delegitimization in American society? Is it just a matter of time?

Not so fast. In the past several months, the tables have turned. Anti-BDS bills have passed in state legislatures by huge margins and BDS resolutions have gone down in defeat at several progressive institutions.

At last count, 19 states have passed anti-BDS bills in this past legislative session alone. Some of the legislation merely condemns BDS and encourages a negotiated solution. And some measures place companies that accede to a BDS campaign on a state no-buy list, forcing them to think long and hard before pulling out of Israel. In the Illinois House of Representatives, the anti-BDS bill passed by a vote of 102-2, and in the Florida Senate, it was 38-0 with two abstentions. In every state legislative body that had a roll call taken, the anti-BDS bill passed by decisive if not overwhelming margins.

The state-level anti-BDS onslaught demonstrates that BDS is a marginal phenomena, confined to the extreme left. BDS proponents have picked their battlefields carefully, looking for places where they have a shot at winning. But once the battlefield is widened to state legislatures representing mainstream sensibilities, BDS not only fails to persuade, it is utterly repudiated.

These wins show that when the Jewish community effectively organizes, builds strong ties before the vote with key people in the institutions targeted by BDS campaigns, and appeals to the sensibilities of people sitting on the fence of the BDS debate, it can prevail over Israel’s detractors. Strategic advocacy and relationship building actually work.

David Bernstein is president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

ORT’s Day Schools Offer Lifeline to Millions

As we mourn the passing of Elie Wiesel, we also worry for the future, how we will be able to remember the Holocaust without survivors and, in turn, how we can remind the world of this greatest of crimes and its consequences.

But Wiesel’s compassion and insight were not limited to the Holocaust, although that is a subject vast enough to command the attention of several lifetimes. Rather, he used his personal experience of loss, pain and rebirth as a lens through which he empathized with and fought for victims of injustice everywhere.

Among them were the third of world Jewry trapped in the Soviet Union. Denied access to their heritage and made convenient scapegoats in Cold War regional power plays, many Jews lost all connection to their identity save their surname and the discrimination that it attracted.

His 1966 book “The Jews of Silence” brought the plight of the refuseniks into popular consciousness with its thunderously gentle call to action: “What torments me most is not the Jews of silence I met in Russia, but the silence of the Jews I live among today.”

Twenty years after “The Jews of Silence” was published, 250,000 people rallied in Washington, D.C. in support of Soviet Jews, leading to mass emigration to Israel and beyond. Twenty years from now, there may be precious few left of the 1.7 million Jews who remain.

This is where ORT comes in.

Through its network of 16 pluralistic day schools, ORT has built a reputation for academic excellence which, together with its superb facilities and career-savvy focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), attracts thousands of students from families that are not affiliated to the community. But there is more at play than the head start in life that an ORT education cam give ambitious Jewish boys and girls. The pull of peoplehood is powerful and finds celebratory expression in ORT schools’ Jewish Studies programs and activities including weekend and summer camps and trips to Israel.

ORT students come home at the end of the day not only enthused but also enriched with Hebrew and a love of Israel. And it is also not uncommon for students to reintroduce Jewish practice in their family homes, reversing what had seemed an inexorable slide into assimilation.

Such an impact is a tribute to the support ORT receives from Jewish Federations and friends, such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. As president of World ORT, I am proud of what we do in the FSU — and in Israel and 35 other countries. And I thank every contributor who makes our work possible.

Conrad Giles is president of World ORT.

‘Religionization’ of Israel Is Troubling

Religionization! Religionization! To read the newspaper headlines in Israel, to view its documentary films and attend its expert panels with academics, a stranger might think that upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport, he or she will have  arrived at nothing less than a Hebrew-speaking version of Iran.

According to those who fear for Israel’s Jewish and democratic future, religionization (ha’datah) is everywhere. The reality, however, is clearly  different from this perception.

 

Just as Israel’s  Jewish image must be cultivated, so must its  democratic character.

Tel Aviv is not Tehran.  Neither is it Jerusalem. The IDF is fighting for the country and its people, not God.  Israel’s educational system is not rediscovering religion en masse. And while the Israeli public is most certainly changing, it’s actually doing so in the direction of secularization. The status quo in the country  between religion and state is long since dead. Commercial and leisure activities during the Sabbath are more widespread today thanin the past, and  homosexual couples are receiving official recognition. All this in spite of the fact that for 30 years there has existed an ultra-religious veto, overtly or covertly, within the government.

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. I, as well as many citizens, religious and secular, believe that these two characteristics are critical to the country’s existence. Just as Israel’s Jewish image and identity must be cultivated, so must its democratic character and liberal and humanistic values. Only by listening to one another and being willing to understand the value of creating a synthesis between these two values, and acknowledging the need to sometimes compromise. Only then will it be possible  for the unique and valuable  combination — a Jewish and democratic state — to thrive.

Nevertheless, critics of religionization talk about it as if it is a demon uniquely threatening Israel’s culture and society. Yet, demonizing religion comes with a price. And the price is high. The price is the suppression of all public debate on this and related issues. The price is the stifling of every  serious attempt to address in an open and comprehensive manner the topic of religion and state, and the relationship  between Judaism and democracy.

The hysteria over this issue is dragging us straight to the bottom. Instead of dialogue, we are being subjected to a  cacophony of screaming from all sides. This demon must be put back in the closet, which should then be buried deep in the ground. In place of this demon, the public sphere will be filled with serious and meaningful dialogue on the Jewish and democratic values of Israel.

Shuki Friedman is director of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Center for Religion, Nation and State and a law professor at the Peres Academic Center.

Why Infertility is a Jewish Issue

Growing up, I always dreamed of being a mom. Even as a kid I would brainstorm baby names, tell my dolls bedtime stories and swear that I would be a cool mom and let them eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It all seemed easy enough — until it wasn’t.

When my husband Matan and I experienced difficulty getting pregnant, we worried that our lifelong dream of  becoming parents might never happen.

We decided to try in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, which is a grueling process but boasts high rates of success. When we began the process, we were shocked by the costs associated with this medical procedure. On average, each cycle costs around $12,000, plus medication, which can run another $3,000 to $5,000. And there are no guarantees. After four rounds of emotionally and physically draining IVF treatments, I gave birth to our son, Samuel, in December 2013 — our modern miracle.

After weighing the many approaches to helping others overcome infertility, in 2014 we created the Making Miracle Babies Fertility Fund — an  interest-free loan program  designed to offer loans of up to $18,000 to individuals or couples in South Florida who need costly IVF to realize their dreams of parenthood. Matan and I determined that an  interest-free loan would enable people to proudly borrow the funds and repay them within a time frame of three years. In addition, the dollars would be used to create families in perpetuity; as each loan is repaid, the same dollars can then go to help build the next family.

After all, there can be no “Jewish continuity” — nor  assimilation or intermarriage to worry about — if we don’t have Jewish children in the first place.

In recent years, the Jewish community has taken notice of this: IVF and adoption funds are available throughout North America with other agencies affiliated with the  International Association of Jewish Free Loans. In New York, for example, the Hebrew Free Loan Society’s Fertility Treatment Loan Program provides interest-free loans of up to $25,000 for residents of the New York City’s metro area. In Los Angeles, there is the Feit 4 Kidz Fertility Loan Fund through the Jewish Free Loan Association.

And now, in South Florida, we have the Making Miracle Babies Fertility Fund.

Our aim is to help as many people as possible experience that same sensational  phenomenon  — that spectacular journey called parenthood.

Michelle Ben-Aviv lives in Miami Beach with her husband Matan and two children.

Democrats Must Be Held Accountable

The 2016 election cycle is of particular significance for the pro-Israel community. Aside from being a presidential year, it marks the first election since the signing of the Iran deal that has turned out to be a debacle of epic proportions and has only encouraged more terrorism.

Voters in key races across the U.S. will be deciding this fall whether the Democrats will be penalized for the egregious manner in which they essentially railroaded a dangerous agreement down the throats of the American people.

In Maryland’s Senate race, Democrat Chris Van Hollen’s support for the Iran deal is a central component of Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga’s quest to defeat the Montgomery County congressman. Szeliga, a staunch supporter of Israel and Maryland’s Jewish community, recently said that Van Hollen has taken Israel for granted and used poor judgment in supporting a deal in which “$100 billion has been released to a nation that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and a gross violator of human rights.”

Unlike Van Hollen, Szeliga fully understands that this deal has caused an indeterminate amount of damage to  Israel’s security. Even Secretary of State John Kerry finally admitted that the Iranians have used some of the $100 billion it received from the deal to fund terrorism. According to terrorism expert Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project, Iran has also used some of the money to enhance Hezbollah’s weaponry. Now Hezbollah, Emerson says, may be able to launch its upgraded weapons on Israeli population centers and potentially not be subject to interception by the Iron Dome and the David’s Sling.

Szeliga is also correct in alluding to Van Hollen’s history of not being trusted to support Israel. In 2006, Van Hollen criticized Israel’s self-defense tactics during the second war in Lebanon in a letter to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

However, unless there are serious political consequences for Van Hollen and the Democrats’ cavalier disregard of Israel’s security needs, the Democratic Party will unfortunately continue to abandon Israel with impunity if it is in its interest to do so. It is imperative for pro-Israel supporters to vote out of office any Democrat who supported the Iran deal. When pro-Israel voters make their voices heard on Nov. 8, these Democrats will finally come to the realization that it is not acceptable for them to play Russian roulette with the lives of innocent Israelis.

Brad E. Kauffman is an attorney and a pro-Israel activist.