May 10, 2017

GUEST ROOM | My Hope for CU Jewish Community

Print More

A few years removed from college, I can still remember the uncomfortable, awkward and somewhat silencing experience of attending a Cornell Hillel Israeli Independence Day celebration while my fellow classmates stood outside, protesting the event and what it stood for. I was told that our Israel Day celebration was “apolitical,” and that celebrating the country’s birth was by no means taking a stance on the political situation there. Something about this didn’t sit right with me. But I did not speak up, because I was not willing to jeopardize my relationships with my friends and community.

Desmond Tutu, the South African social activist, once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  As I move through life and continue to reflect back on this experience, I have come to the conclusion that in being neutral in this situation of injustice, I had chosen the side of the oppressor.  So this past Tuesday, when I opened my Facebook feed to find out that something similar had occurred at this year’s Cornell Hillel Israeli Independence Day celebration, I was moved to respond.

I write this column today as someone who is proud to say they served on their Cornell Hillel Student Executive Board, who developed a deeper spiritual connection to Judaism through Hillel and who made some of their closest friends at Cornell through Hillel. I also write this column as someone who is proudly anti-occupation and is committed to a fairer and more just reality for all Israelis and Palestinians.

The situation in Israel and Palestine is by no means an easy or simple one. At every turn, it appears complicated and nuanced. And in my experience, one narrative can oftentimes dominate at the expense of another. Learning and engaging with the issues is the only way to face them, and the more I have learned about the situation, the more I am motivated to work for freedom and equality for all Palestinians and Israelis. Working on this issue feels inherent to my own Jewish identity because so much of what happens there is done in the Jewish people’s name.

I believe Jewish students on campus who are grappling with the situation in Israel and Palestine deserve a space to do just that. It is central to Judaism to struggle with a question, and we are continually encouraged to do so as a Jewish people. I believe Hillel and its limiting tenants around conversations about Israel do college students a disservice by not creating a diverse Jewish space on campus for students to wrestle with the situation in Israel and Palestine. And in not looking at the issue with a critical eye or elevating under heard narratives, we will have chosen the side of the oppressor.  We as a Jewish community need to be having conversations about what we can do to work for justice in Israel and Palestine, and college campuses seem like a very appropriate place to begin these conversations.

Since college, I have had the opportunity to organize with fellow young Jews around Israel and Palestine and work toward a fairer reality for all Israelis and Palestinians. I don’t think I realized how much I needed this until I found it, and it has been a life-changing experience to organize with my Jewish peers around this issue. Having had many similar experiences growing up and in college, we are able to create both deep and welcoming dialogue that continues to fosters my views and motivate me towards action. And in doing this work Jewishly, I demonstrate that I am proud of my identity and want to use the power in that identity to work for what is right.

I hope that Hillels and college campuses can become a place where Jewish students are welcome to be proudly Jewish while engaging with their varied views on the situation in Israel and Palestine. I hope that where I am in my Jewish journey, there would still be a place for me at Hillel, and in the broader Cornell Jewish community, today.

12 thoughts on “GUEST ROOM | My Hope for CU Jewish Community

  1. Well I hope you won’t be celebrating July 4th. Another self-loather.

    Here’s my challenge to you:

    Go to Israel for a month. Live among the Jews and Arabs. Then go to any of Israel’s neighbors–you know, where Jews aren’t welcome. Live there for a month. Then talk to me about “oppression” and “justice” and “blah, blah, blah”

    • This has nothing to do with what she’s talking about. This is an issue of colonization, oppression and genocide.

      • It has nothing to do with genocide. I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word. By your definition, the Palestinians engage in genocide whenever they bomb an Israeli pizzeria, blow up a bus, attack a shopping center, hijack a bus and kill passengers, ram with trucks, and stab with knives. Their hands are covered in blood. I remember the proud Palestinian who showed the crowd his blood-soaked hands after he murdered an Israeli. And the PA encourages, endorses, and rewards this activity. They teach it to their children.

  2. Thank you for speaking your truth. It is to important to recognize the nuance of this issue. Americans Jews shouldn’t be expected to blindly support everything Israel does, just as Americans are not expected to blindly support everything America does. We can support Israel’s existence and celebrate our Judaism, WHILE ALSO criticizing of Israel’s actions if we do not agree with them. A truly inclusive Jewish space would allow Jews with ranging political and social beliefs to engage in debate. I applaud you and your courage to write this piece- great job!

  3. The Bible, Old and New testament, refers only to “Israel.” It refers to “Palestine” only once (see Bible concordance).

    It was the occupying British who called Israel “Palestine.” For decades Arabs objected to being called “Palestinians,” because it meant they were subjects of British occupation. It was only after 1964, when Arafat showed up in his phony military garb and stirred up Arab nationalism and terrorism against the Jews, that the Arabs started calling themselves “Palestinians.”

    Objectively, there is no “Palestinian” people. It is a political fabrication.

    Anti-Israel activism is often just poorly disguised anti-Semitism, esp. when referring to Israeli “occupation” and “apartheid,” and supporting BDS. Common hideouts for this kind of closet anti-Semitism is the Left, such as the British Labour Party and Black Lives Matter.

    Marine Le Pen, who got 35% of the French vote in the last presidential election, isn’t a closet anti-Semite. Her anti-Semitism is out in the open. She denial of Vel D’Hiv is tantamount to Holocaust denial. Imagine if David Duke got 35% of the American vote …

    According to the ADL, all Arab Moslem countries exhibit a rate of approx. 85% anti-Semitism. Iran is remarkable for having only 50% anti-Semitism. Recent poll indicates that 50% of Muslim immigrants in Germany are anti-Semitic. The claim that Islam is a “religion of peace” is a lie. Islam is particularly dangerous for Jews. The Koran exhorts Muslims to kill all Jews, infidels (non-Muslims) and apostates and blasphemers.

    Got to love Trump for calling out PA leader Abbas for incitement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *