‘Support campus Jewish institutions’

‘Support campus Jewish institutions’

It is wrong for a place of higher education to allow itself to be turned into a pulpit for radical revisionists to slander Israel in particular and the West in general. The Jewish community must unite in support of students engaged in Zionist and Israel activism on campus. This does not mean donating more unrestricted money to the institutions of Jewish community on campus; it does mean targeted donations.

For many reasons, none legitimate, the established institutions of campus Jewry have not dealt with Israel and Zionism in a meaningful way. Yes, they all recruit for Birthright, but it is used as a recruitment tool, comparable in moral value to the ever popular “alternative spring breaks.” Rather than create a connection with a living, breathing, often times flawed, but organic nation-state, Jewish campus institutions create an ephemeral experience with a far off fantasy land. Rather than educate Jewish students in the history of the Zionist movement and Israel’s miraculous modern day, students learn primarily of the matsav or “situation.” They learn about the disputed territories captured from Egypt and Jordan and the resultant international situation that has spilt onto campuses. Instead of the natural connection of the Jewish people to their land, their first collegiate level conceptual paradigm of Israel is war and conflict.

In and of itself this is problem. Coupled with the inevitable activist fatigue and the lack of Israel related programming during lulls in the campus situation, this is a dire threat. Tens of thousands of Jewish college students hear the word “Israel” most often when there is a conflict on campus or when it is berated in the international arena. The larger Jewish community may be unable to affect international affairs but it can change the campus dynamic by giving targeted funds to campus Jewish institutions.

The Jewish community should support campus Jewish institutions that create programs outside of their organizational walls. A campus Hillel that has a speaker in its Hillel building is preaching to the choir; one that rents a space in a lecture hall and works with allied campus groups is expanding the community. Moreover, the Jewish community needs to make some funding contingent on constant Israel and Zionist education. It is great that there are Jewish students and Zionist activists who answer the call when anti-Semites are defaming Israel. It would be even greater if there was consistent and constant Israel and Zionist education happening not merely at times of campus uproar but in times of calm as well.

Many campuses see pendulum swings in anti-Israel activity. For several years a campus may be a hotbed of anti-Israel activist as Rutgers was from 2000-2003 and as it again now. The approximately seven years of campus quiet was a lost opportunity to teach the greater campus community, both Jew and gentile, about Israel and Zionism in a meaningful way removed from the back-and-forth that again dominates many campuses. Indeed, had this been done there may have been larger campus response to the vicious rise of anti-Israel propaganda raising its shrill voice on campuses again.