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January 09, 2004 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-09

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Israel's Campus Image


wring the 2002-2003 school year
on Michigan campuses, events
and situations detrimental to
Israel's cause led the Jewish Community
Council to increase its consultation and
programming assistance to Jewish stu-
dent groups.
A national pro-Palestinian conference
at the University of Michigan, anti-Israel
campus newspaper columnists and letter
writers, anti-Israel speakers on tour and
other activities revealed that opponents
of Israel here in Michigan decided to
focus on students of higher learning.
Their goal: To win the minds of college
students, staff and faculty to their way of
thinking on the Arab/Israeli conflict.
We needed to respond.
The JCCouncil set up an initial series
of meetings with the staffs of Hillel cam-
pus organizations and with student lead-
ership to assess needs.
The passion and inspiration of pro-
Israel students was impressive. The needs
they cited include more education on
Israeli history and current events, more
techniques for effective advocacy, and
more skills for coalition building with
other student organizations and relation-
ship building with the government,
administration and press on campus.
The Council now gathers and reviews
materials and Web resources produced

Allan Gale is associate director of the

Bloomfield Township-based Jewish
Community Council of Metropolitan

by several organizations to confront these
needs, which are national in scope. We
work with a small, but knowledgeable lay
advisory group to determine a response
tailored to Michigan. We initiated and
maintain this response through funds
granted to us from the Max M. Fisher
Foundation and the Irwin and Bethea
Green College Life Fund.
During the past couple of semesters,
we have held several successful campus
consultations based on advocacy and
community relations principles.
When anti-Israel professor (and child
of Holocaust survivors!) Norman
Finkelstein visited Western Michigan
University, we advised both the Jews on
campus and the Kalamazoo Jewish corn-
munity to:
1) urge the news media to provide a
pro-Israel perspective in their coverage;
2) distribute pro-Israel materials out-
side the lecture hall;
3) attend the lecture, take notes on
what was said (to be composed later into
a report to be shared with national
Hillel) and pose pro-Israel questions.
When a peace group at Michigan State
University, an African-American group at
Wayne State University and a graduate
student group at the University of
Michigan planned pro-Palestinian pro-
gramming, we encouraged the Jewish
student organizations to reach out to
those groups, explain the pro-Israel view
and seek a common understanding of
the Israeli position.

counselors at Michigan's Jewish
When a student newspaper
overnight camps.
consistently gave too much
A statewide Israel
weight to the pro-Palestinian
education/advocacy weekend
perspective, we communicated
retreat for college students, an
to the administration, asking for,
Israel-themed trip to
and later receiving, more views
for high school stu-
to be presented on the opinion
Uti dents, and statewide campus
tours for an Israeli diplomat, an
With regard to programming,
Israeli journalist and others are
and knowing not all students
on the drawing board.
have tolerance for another lec-
It's a "Ell class load" for us,
ture, we have tried to be creative.
one that should reap bene-
We sought out cultural, arts and
fits both in the near term (an improved
interactive programs that we could
image of Israel on campus) and the long
enhance with some component of teach-
term, namely enhancing the Israel educa-
ing about Israel or advocacy.
tion and advocacy effectiveness of future
We subsidized student attendance at
Jewish community leaders.
an Israel-themed theatrical performance
and to an out-of-state student advocacy
We brought Israeli college students
"Israel On Campus: What the
here for one-on-one meetings with their
College Handbooks Don't Tell
peers. We brought two Israel advocacy
You" is a Seminars for Adult Jewish
trainers here to train students. And we
Enrichment (SAJE) course
distributed a large qUantity of materials
designed for high school seniors,
especially designed for the college student
college students, and their parents
who wants to be an effective advocate for
or grandparents. The course, to be
co-taught by David Gad-Harf and
In the coming semesters, we plan to
Allan Gale of the JCCouncil and
Miriam Starkman of Hillel of
1) Jewish faculty members on campus
Metro Detroit, will be offered on
toward pro-Israel activity;
Tuesday evenings for four weeks in
2) Israel education and advocacy pro-
January and February at the Jewish
gramming for Jewish high school stu-
Community Center in West
Bloomfield. For information, call
3) similar programming for college
the SAJE office at the JCC, (248)
students who spend their summers as


ROTH from page 25

would not be so discriminatory (in the
connotative sense) — so what about
chairing such committees? Which, of
course, leads to the next rung — board
positions and then, of course, officer
and then, of course, president. After all,
there is no logical, defensible rationale
to be discriminatory (in the denotative
sense, this time). Such is the classic slip-
pery slope concept exemplified.
Or does the JN contemplate having
the non Jew connected and welcome,
but inform them, politely and sensitive-
ly, "We welcome you, but since you are
a gentile, you cannot really do anything
but sit in our services." (At least there
will be one quiet congregant out there.)
The entire premise is non-workable and
will simply create tzuris.
As for its proven ineffectiveness, I
refer you to a 1997 study by Bruce
Phillips for the American Jewish
Committee (not known for its conser-
vative leanings). It is cited extensively in
Professor Jack Wertheimier's article in
the March 2001 issue of
Commentary tided, "Surrendering to

1/ 9


Intermarriage," a most persuasive argu-
ment against this type of keruv by the
provost of the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America.

Weigh Outreach

Keruv has been around for a couple of
decades. The study demonstrates the
fallacious assumptions of the approach.
The bottom line is that the overwhelm-
ing majority of intermarried families do
not want themselves or their children to
identify unambiguously as Jews. We are
better served by directing our limited
resources to those efforts which have
proven to be effective.
Intermarriage cannot be "confronted"
by continued unproven attempts to
accommodate it. The response must be
made in a preventive mode on two lev-
Firstly, our children must be inculcat-
ed with our considerable tradition and
the fostering of a relationship with
God. This must be provided through
role modeling in our homes and/or

through Jewish day school education
(K-12), participation in Jewish camps,
Jewish youth groups and trips to Israel.
Studies confirm that by the time such
children become of marrying age,
endogamy is a natural choice in high
Secondly, we must resurrect the social
unacceptability of the practice. This
means reviving a notion among Jewish
parents that prohibits the practice of
interdating! There has been no inter-
marriage that was not preceded by
interdating. We have no difficulty
imposing strict prohibitions on person-
al self-destructive behavior (drinking,
drugs, driving limitations) — why not
on behavior which is collectively self-
Does our existence as a people mean
so little? Once it becomes "okay" in
high school to date a non-Jew, how or
why does it become suddenly treifthree
or four years later when the likelihood
of falling in love and choosing a mate
for life becomes a real possibility?
When the 23-year-old comes home

with a non Jew and states, "I am in love
and getting married," it is clearly too
But according to the Jewish News, I
guess it is time to welcome them into
the fold, make them comfortable and
connected, and give them opportunities
for a synagogue leadership position.
That will encourage the younger sib-
lings and other congregational children
to stand up and take notice that inter-
marriage is unacceptable! If it were not
so tragic, it would be laughable.
The concepts of tolerance and inclu-
sion should not, in a misplaced context,
supersede our core values.
As Jews, Conservative or otherwise,
in America we are free to choose. The
openness of our society does not com-
pel us to commit collective suicide by
intermarrying or acquiescing to it as a
norm. It does allow us to choose or, at
our peril, ignore, to live by our obliga-
tions to God and to that unbroken
chain from Sinai.
We must have the collective will to
make the right choice. ❑

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