Alumni of Valley Chabad’s Eternal Flame program gathered for a brunch over Thanksgiving weekend to discuss rising levels of anti-Semitism on college campuses, how the program helped them deal with it on their college campuses, and what has to be done to further empower current Eternal Flame participants.
The speakers addressing the 15 students included Ally Greenberg of Woodcliff Lake, a student at the University of Michigan, who said, “When the school passed a BDS resolution, it felt as though the Jewish student body was being marginalized.”
Rabbi Yosef Orenstein, the program’s director, added, “More than teaching youth about a tragic past, the program aims to give participants tools for the present and future. We not only teach students about Nazi persecution, we give them an understanding of global anti-Semitism and how it manifests in today’s day and age.”
Matt Feiler of River Vale, a student at Ithaca College, said he was surprised by the amount of anti-Israel activity on campus. “What’s needed are more initiatives to make more Jewish students engaged on campus,” he said.
To that end, one of the goals of Eternal Flame is to help instill a sense of Jewish pride with students, and to cultivate an interest in Jewish heritage and culture. This helps combat the ever-growing anti-Zionist and BDS movements, which often cross into anti-Semitic territory.
All the students who participated in the Eternal Flame meetup joined Jewish campus programs, including Chabad and Hillel. Eternal Flame helped them meet the challenges by forming strong communal ties and connecting with fellow Jewish students.
“This meeting was vital in seeing where we have succeeded at Eternal Flame, and where we need to improve and place more emphasis,” said Eternal Flame founder Bob Herzog, from the George and Martha Rich Foundation. “It was most gratifying to see and hear from the students about how much the program has helped guide them while away at university, and to see our investment paying dividends.” The Eternal Flame program also connects local teens with Holocaust survivors who share their stories and history.