“It should be remembered that any group that is willing to treat Israel and the Jewish people differently from any other and to deny it rights they wouldn’t deny anyone else is demonstrating prejudice.” Jonathan Tobin, “What Jewish Students Really Need”
Tag Archives: Israel
The post title refers to Anti-Semitism, while the poster above references anti-Israel propaganda.
There are plenty of debates back and forth about which is which, including examples of Anti-Zionism in the mix.
This purpose of this post is to enlighten us about how Jewish teens react to a scenario they might encounter on the college campus. We know that the college campus, usually a place that is open to the marketplace of ideas, does not always live up to that reputation. An annual review of Anti-Israel activity on college campuses around the United States, produced by the ADL will educate you.
The situation below was given to Jewish high school students by the Anti-Defamation League recently, and they discussed options in small groups and recorded their responses on large poster paper pasted around the room.
“Josh is a friend of yours from high school and a Jewish student activist on his college campus. He encounters a professor in one of his Middle East courses, who has a very strong opinion regarding what he describes as the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank. Josh has his own opinion of the situation and finds that he is the only person outwardly disagreeing with the professor. Josh’s term paper, worth 30% of his grade, is due next week. Josh is afraid to represent his opposing ideologies in his paper and possibly risk his grade. He asks for your opinion and advice. What do you tell him?
How do you think the teens you know will answer?
Assertively? Passively? Defiantly?
Here’s one response that I’d definitely place on the unassertive continuum, as it really skirts the issue entirely:
“If the professor grades Josh harshly because of his opinions, then the professor is being unprofessional.”
How would you evaluate the comment above? What would your recommendation be to this student?
If you’re curious as to how others responded, read on:
“Agree with the professor, but keep your own beliefs to yourself because you need to pass the class.”
“Do not be afraid of your own beliefs. Speak to your department head if it’s that big of an issue.”
“Notify the dean of students. See what they (would) grade you and what the professor (would) grades (sic) you. If it is worse due to the opposing side/idea, tell the head of the department.”
“Write your own beliefs and see what the professor does and take it up with someone higher.”
“Don’t do the paper if you don’t believe in it.”
The good news, is that some students were very comfortable asserting their rights–outside of class.
Inside class, is another story entirely…and according to what I’ve read about college campus behavior, these student responses mimics what actually does happen when students encounter professors with differences of opinion. The stakes are high for these students beginning in high school and continuing on to college. Openly disagreeing with a professor’s opinions is really tough to do.
I clearly remember one student who felt such a sense of accomplishment after being able to argue successfully with his history teacher, that he called it a ‘life-changing’ experience. Yet another student told us how she wished she paid better attention in her Israel class so that she could debate more effectively with students at her campus who were members of Students for Justice in Palestine.
We can use our time with our students to prepare them a bit more to talk through these situations and help them decide the right course for them, depending upon their priorities.
Denying that they will encounter either Anti-Semitism or Anti-Zionism does not serve them well.
- israpundit: An Israeli Soldier to American Jews: wake up! (israpundit.com)
- Racism, Coming To A College Campus Near You…Or Already There [Opinion] (oldschool1003.com)
- Jewish Actress Lisa Kudrow Talks Anti-Semitism, Her Son’s Bar Mitzvah in Revealing Interview (algemeiner.com)
- Jewish leaders condemn ‘anti-Semitic’ attack (sbs.com.au)
- Possible anti-Semitism in Boston Area Schools; ADL Silent? (israelnationalnews.com)
- Rep. Steve Cohen presses Turks on anti-Semitism (jta.org)
- Anti-Semitism, academic freedom and Brooklyn College (nydailynews.com)
Alicia Keys is getting pressure to cancel her performance in Tel-Aviv Israel. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters announced this past March that he would not be performing in Israel, as originally scheduled. He wrote Alicia Keys a letter stating
Please, Alicia, do not lend your name to give legitimacy to the Israeli government policies of illegal, apartheid, occupation of the homelands of the indigenous people of Palestine.
Others may try to persuade you that by playing in Israel you may magically effect some change; we know that this is not true, appeasement didn’t work with South Africa and it has not worked in Israel. “
I’ve decided not to go into all the reasons here why it is so obvious that Israel is not an apartheid state. Please refer to the many, many articles available on the web about that.
However, just based on all of the activity centered around boycotting, I was curious what would come up when googling this topic. When searching for “Boycotts of Israel” it produced “about 26,800,000 results in 0.32 seconds that were headed by a wikipedia listing. Say what you will about wikipedia, it’s an influential gauge of cultural information. This is from that page:
So, in fairness to wikipedia and the intelligence of the international community, (and of course Roger Waters), I decided to search for another country, one that would be ‘worthy’ of boycotting due to horrible, despicable acts.
Acts such as murder (even of children and women), decapitation, dismemberment, rape, fetal killings, etc. I tried searching “Boycotts of Syria”.
There was no wikipedia page listed on the first page of results, nor is there a listing at all. This is the response I received:
The page “Boycotts of Syria” does not exist. You can ask for it to be created, but consider checking the search results below to see whether the topic is already covered. For search help, please visit Help:Searching.
When I went back to Google, there were articles connecting the word boycott to Syria. Here’s what one of the several on that page were about: ”Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group says it will not take part in the upcoming US-Russian-sponsored conference aimed at finding a solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria.”
This came to my Inbox, via the Israeli Consulate, and I thought it might prompt some action on the part of Jewish teens, and others who want to applaud Alicia’s decision:
“I want to let you know what YOU can do to help support Alicia Keys’ visit to Israel. While Alicia Keys has made it clear that she is not going to give in to the BDS propaganda and will perform in Israel, we think it’s important to show her just how enthusiastic we all are about her trip to Israel.
Comment on her posts on her Facebook page, Facebook.com/aliciakeys, tell her what her music and visit mean to the Israeli people
This isn’t about polls or petitions alone, but about sending a message that shows Alicia that her fans in Israel love her music as much as anyone else, and that no artist should be bullied out of performing in front of their fans.”
- Alicia Keys to Sing Her Heart Out for Apartheid (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
- Alicia Keys face-slaps anti-Israel bigotry (thecommentator.com)
- Roger Waters Urges Alicia Keys To Boycott Israel (contactmusic.com)
- Alicia Keys to perform in Israel despite boycott calls (timesofisrael.com)
Hebrew School may answer questions like “what do I need to know for my Bar/Bat Mitvah” but there are many questions Jewish pre-teens have about Judaism that most schools just don’t have the opportunity to answer.
I was teaching a class to eighth graders called “What Makes Me Jewish?” and for an opening ice breaker, I asked them (95% of whom ‘graduated’ a typical Hebrew school, 100% had become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah) to respond to ”A question I have about Judaism is…..” with one of their most pressing questions.
This exercise is interesting on two levels. One, it lets us know what students of this age wonder about. On another level, it demonstrates quite candidly, though from a very small sample, what Hebrew School can and can’t accomplish. It does help make the case for continued Jewish education.
The questions ranged from the very general to the very specific. Some are humorous, some reflective, some painfully poignant.
All are worth noting.
I have not left any question out. Here are their questions:
What does Judaism think about Heaven and Hell?
What is mysticism?
Why are tattoos bad (sic) in Judaism?
Why do we bow to the ark/G-d, if we aren’t supposed to worship idols?
How does the Jewish calendar work? When is the leap year and why?
Why are the jews (sic) always the scapegoat?
If we believe in G-d, why does the beginning of B’reisheet (Genesis) use the plural form of G-d? (this questioner clearly has done some studying of the Bible to ask this question)
What are the different values or points of view between the different types (sic) of Judaism?
Why do we have kashrut rules? (yes, this student wrote ‘kashrut’ instead of kosher!)
What is it like to be a teen in Israel? (interesting, this student’s question was not exactly about Judaism, but an inference made about Israeli teens).
How do we know that everything in the Torah is true? (notice that the questioner doesn’t write “if everything” but “that everything”)
How many religious Jews are there in Israel?
How many rules of the 613 do we actually follow these days? (immense credit is given for knowing the number of mitzvot – commandments!).
Why are we looked down upon as Jews?
What do kosher Jews (sic) think about Jews who don’t keep kosher?
What do you think of these questions? As an adult, how similar or different are the questions you have? Did you have these questions as a teenager?
Photo Credit: Flickr JP
With a nod to the TV show, I recently encountered a unique version of the restless young; amazing and energetic young adults staffing or attending an International Youth Convention. They are eager to change things up in the world of Judaism.
I needed this dose of inspiration because sometimes being a Jewish educator can slowly gnaw away at one’s naturally optimistic nature.
The people I met are committed to doing some great work.
A Harvard graduate, now in Israel attending rabbinical school, is the Rabbinic Intern at a synagogue south of the Lebanon border. He’s chosen this career over countless other opportunities. He leads parent and teen educational sessions, capitalizing on upcoming b’nei mitzvot as a natural interest builder. The parents are highly curious and very engaged in learning.
Jewish future? Score one win!
A graduate of our Jewish community high school who is now a college senior happily told me that beginning in August, he plans to make Aliyah to Israel. He will be joining Garin Tzabar, the organization that facilitates this process. He sees this as his next step after college. I also met up with the daughter of a colleague, finishing day school this year, who also plans on making aliyah through this organization.
Jewish future? Score another win!
Then I briefly met a young Rabbi of a synagogue in central New Jersey who I remembered from my days at Camp Ramah, interested in dynamic ways of reaching out to congregants and whose wife is working professionally in informal Jewish education. What a young power team.
Jewish future? Score!
I suddenly felt as if I was attending a Jewish education movie preview where I was on the red carpet, interacting with our team’s all-stars.
I then met that Rabbi’s brother, also in Rabbinical school, serving as kitchen kashrut (kosher) supervisor (mashgiach). He made sure that he connected and made friends with the kitchen and hotel staff because they need to know that in Jewish practice, everyone is important.
Jewish future? I’m still counting wins!
I forgot to mention that the college senior’s sister, also a graduate of our program, is now spending the year in Israel. On my way out, just when I felt that it couldn’t get better, I met another graduate of our program, who is teaching in a day school.
Wins? For sure. It seems from my small vantage point that the collective we are doing something right when just these few young adults have been inspired to change things up.
They are young. They are restless to get started. Let the Jewish future begin!