Mobilizing Jewish Students
Besides a self-deprecating sense of humor, he has
a kind of "Aw, shucks" vocal delivery and a Jimmy
Stewart sense of decency, as in "Mr. Dorfman Goes
to Washington." He has been to Israel six times, his
observance is Orthodox, and his thoughts of Israel
are strong, absolute and long-held.
"Not one time in our history have the Jewish
people lived comfortably in a foreign land without
eventually being persecuted or expelled," he says.
"Had Israel existed in 1938, I don't believe the
Holocaust would have happened. I feel so strongly
about Israel because supporting her contributes to
the continuity of the Jewish people on both a spiri-
tual and literal level."
He attended Hillel Day School of Metropolitan
Detroit in Farmington Hills. "They give you a pret-
ty solid Zionist background," he says.
He also strengthened his Zionism through activi-
ties with NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue
Dorfman and Adi Neuman, an activist friend from
West Bloomfield also attending U-M, had formed
Michigan Student Zionists, a small pro-Israel group,
earlier in the year. They decided to start a counter
protest that ended up attracting about 500 people and
getting national exposure.
"It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but there
wasn't anyone else standing up for Israel during the
divestment conference," he says now.
Before he knew it, network news shows were calling.
He called the CNN interview "scary."
"I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't find anyone
else who wanted to do it," he said.
During his appearance on the Mitch Albom Show
on the radio, Albom "was making fun of me all the
time during commercials," Dorfman says. "I was real
nervous, and he said I was making too many noises
squirming in the swivel chair."
Dorfman isn't used to the public eye yet and the pit-
falls are evident. "You can screw a lot of things up," he
said. "You have a lot of potential to do something real-
ly good, but you have the potential to do something
He said he learned organizational skills and what his
limits are during the October rally. There, he first met
U-M Regent Andrea Fischer Newman and other
Jewish community leaders.
"I also learned how to better approach situations like
position as a precinct delegate in the 2002 state
convention, where he met local politicians, has
opened the door to More political opportuni t ies.
that he stops by Hillel almost every day. "I just
don't always agree with their [sensitivity over truth
tactics when it comes to] Zionist activities."
cized for saying that. Before I leave I want to try to
Make a mark and . make that more of a mainstream
argument because a . lot of the facts back that up." Ei
U-M student Rick Dorfman is learning
how to deliver his message.
HARRY KI RS BAUM
ichard Dorfman's resume reads more
like someone twice his age.
Co-founder and president of
Michigan Student Zionists. 2002
Democratic State Party Convention delegate.
Recipient of Ivlachon L'Torah/The Jewish Learning
Network of Michigan's "Guardians of the Legacy"
award in 2001.
Dorfman also has appeared on national television
on CNN's Talkback Live and Pat Robertson's 700
Club and on the Mitch Albom Show on WJR Radio.
Not a bad track record for a 20-year-old senior
studying sociology at the University of Michigan.
What propelled him into the spotlight as an
activist to watch was his role with fellow student
Adi Newman in quickly mounting a counter rally
to a conference urging U-M divest-
ment from Israel held on theh Ann
he Palestinian Authority doesn't want to make peace or want a state — because all they want to
Arbor campus last October.
Walking across campus on his
o is destroy Israelit seems like you're ostracized for saying that." —RickDotiman
way home from class, Dorfman
speaks to the Jewish. News on his cell
this when they come up in the future.
"There's not much to me; I'm a pretty
Unfortunately, there was a big learn-
simple guy," he says.
ing process because we didn't have
His father, Dr. Michael Dorfman of
any help from Jewish social institu-
West Bloomfield, tends to disagree.
tions, from Federation or Hillel," he
"His passion is Israel and Zionism," Dr.
says. "We were basically going at it as
Dorfman says. "Watching him the last
two 20-year-old kids trying to do
few years, putting together rallies, and
watching him speak in front of hundreds
Now he is the Midwest regional
of people is just incredible. He was always
coordinator for the North American
concerned, but he didn't take a leadership
Jewish Student Alliance-Big Ten
role until he went to Michigan."
region. He explains it's a "grassroots,
Rick's mother, Shelli, is a staff writer at
student-led, student-run, more
the Jewish News.
activist Jewish organization in North
Dorfman attends U-M with his
America to stand next to Hillel. It's
younger sister, Stephanie, a freshman, and
for students who are a little intimidat-
older sister, Kim Schon, a first-year law
ed by the bureaucratic structure
student. Brother-in-law Bryan Schon is a
Before he graduates, Dorfman said
A 2001 graduate of Andover High
he'd like to "push some PC [political-
School in Bloomfield Hills, Dorfman will
ly correct] barriers, and expose the
graduate from U-M this summer, earning his col-
Youth) when he was younger and now through U-
Mideast conflict for what it is, to make people aware
lege degree in a little more than two years. He says
M's Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
that Israel is dealing with an entity that doesn't want
his short-term to-do list is to find a job and a wife
His strong convictions and depth of knowledge-
to make peace," he says.
and pass his Hebrew class — not necessarily in that
about Israel led to a fundamental disagreement with
"It's not really acceptable to say something like that
U-M Hillel's position on the pro-Palestinian divest-
these days — that the Palestinian Authority doesn't
After graduation, he'll take his LSATs and begin
from-Israel conference at U-M in October.
want to make peace or want a state — because all they
the search for a law school "someplace warm." .
"Hillel does great things," Dorfman says, noting
want to do is destroy Israel. It seems like you're ostra-
He says that politics is in his future and that his