Fighting Fires at Home and Abroad


As the lights of the Chanukah candles burned, students took time from studying for finals to help deal with fires of a different sort on campus and in Israel. Anti-Semitism, anti-Israel activities, and the devastating impact of fires in Israel all intruded on pre-exam schedules.

Turns out that a little Chanukah candle-lighting – not to mention latkes and jelly donuts — can sweeten the effort and go a long way to lifting spirits.

Fighting the Carmel Fires on Campus

Students all over are taking steps to help Israel address the huge impact of the recent fires. Hillel Israel helped to find places for students evacuated from Haifa University which was in the path of the fire. Hillel Israel is also planning several national days of service in the coming weeks to help rebuild the fire-damaged areas.

At Brooklyn College, students will raise money for the Yemin Orde orphanage, which was completely destroyed by the fires. Binghamton University and Duke University’s Duke Friends of Israel held events for JNF’s Carmel Relief fund while CUNY Baruch College raised money for Jewish Federations of North America. Orange County Hillel at the University of California, Irvine, started a Web site for donations.

Menorah Vandalism in Indiana, Florida, and Ontario

A string of anti-Semitic incidents have popped up on campuses. At Indiana University, Bloomington, a number of incidents occurred starting before Thanksgiving, including rocks thrown through windows at Hillel and Chabad. Hillel’s “Bloomington United” organization mounted a response and the community — from the mayor, to other faith communities, to individual students — have all expressed support for the Jewish community. Rabbi Sue Laikin Silberberg, the executive director of Indiana Hillel, was presented the game ball and named honorary captain at halftime during a Hoosiers basketball game. Read more in USA Today, the Chicago Tribune , the Indiana Daily Student, the IU Hillel Web site and the Indiana University Web site.

These incidents, along with similar episodes at the University of Florida and University of Ottawa, led Kenneth Marcus of the Anti-Semitism Initiative at the Institute for Jewish & Community Research to call for a more effective enforcement of the national policy on civil rights to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism.

Conflicts over the Conflict

As the Obama administration shifted gears this week in its push for Israeli-Palestinian peace, the conflict is once again a major news across the country. At Columbia University, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine staged a mock checkpoint demonstration — and were met with a strong response from the pro-Israel community. At Princeton University, an attempt to end campus dining services’ use of Sabra hummus was defeated in a student referendum. The controversy, and a similar push at DePaul University, received international attention.

Tufts Hillel declined to co-sponsor an event with Students for Justice in Palestine stating: “It doesn’t make sense for Hillel to co-sponsor with SJP is that SJP chapters around the county have been the address for the movement to boycott, divest from and impose sanctions on Israel."
The Jewish Week also has a piece on high school students’ preparations for anti-Zionism on campus. Read it here.

Centrist Israel Groups Shift Focus

According to a piece last week by the Jewish Week’s Julie Wiener, centrist Israel-on-campus groups like Hillel, the Jewish Agency, and the David Project have begun to shift their focus away from pure advocacy towards critical engagement. Borrowing from Peter Beinart’s recent piece on liberal Zionism and the American Jewish establishment, Wiener says that groups are opening up avenues for discussion about the many issues Israel currently faces.

Chanukah rocks!

Students came together all over the world to celebrate Chanukah this past week. Check out how students at Central Florida University, the University of Illinois, Georgetown University, Ohio State University, Stanford University, and the University of Arizona commemorated the Festival of Lights.

If you have Jewish friends on your Facebook account, you’ve probably heard of the Maccabeats. If not, here’s your chance. They’re an all-male a cappella group at Yeshiva University and Internet celebrities who performed on the morning national news programs. Finally: a Chanukah song worth showing off to your friends (no offense to Adam Sandler, whose “Chanukah Song” says almost nothing about the holiday itself, in this writer’s opinion).

At the University of Southern California, Hillel and Chabad co-sponsored a candle-lighting on the first night of Chanukah that featured the school’s marching band performing a melody of Chanukah songs.

And with everything happening on campuses, it’s no wonder that Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone’s Chanukah message called on viewers to “Increase the Light of Civility.”

Happening on Campuses around the Country:

· Hillel of Silicon Valley has broken ground on its new building in San Jose.

· Gallaudet University Hillel, has received a donation of $125,000 that will allow it to continue to provide programming for the campus’s Jewish students.

· CUNY Queens College Hillel recently dedicated its new $430,000 state-of-the-art media lab that will be used by all students to document the experience of current immigrants.

Reports from the GA

Looking for information on the student experience at the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America? Over 600 students attended the conference, which was held last month in New Orleans. Hillel has compiled a handy collection of articles and sources on the conference.

David Meyer is a sophomore at the University of Maryland.