Jewish students have swung the pendulum back
towards Israel at U.S. colleges.
Gabriel's freshman year
coincided with the begin-
ning of the Palestinian
Editor's note: This is the first in a series on the changing
intifada. Not knowing hOw
to advocate for Israel, he
relationship between American Jews and Israel
did what thousands of
other supporters of Israel
had been doing for
ommon wisdom has it that Jewish students
decades: He tried to con-
are facing a deep crisis as college campuses
protesters that they
across the United States burn with anti-Israel
didn't understand the situ-
Certainly there has been an outpouring of anti-Israel
Over time, he said, he
agitation at many campuses since the Palestinian indfa- ,
came to realize that he had
da began in September 2000. But some say the campus
little chance of winning an
scene is a source of hope and inspiration for the Jewish
community. At scores of schools across the country, pro- argument with someone
who was holding a poster
Israel students have mounted a dramatic effort over the
denigrating Israeli soldiers
University of Michigan students and community members protested a Palestinian
past two years to take back campuses from anti-Israel
"divest in Israel" conference at U-M in _October 2002.
That summer, Gabriel,
"We have spent the last two years trying to tip the
Frankenstein and Rebecca Simon, another Berkeley stu- Redford's comments. When she refused to apologize,
balance on campus in favor of Israel," said Alexander
dent, went to Washington to participate in the
the local JCC, which oversees Hillel, relieved Redford of
Ross Berger, 20, a junior at George Washington
American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Saban
University in Washington. He and others say they have
National Political Leadership Training Seminar, an
Some groups help students speak out against the
succeeded by targeting student leaders, the fraternity
intensive program for 250 college students from 60
Israeli government, though not necessarily against Israel
system and other campus opinion makers.
campuses. "We were given the tools to take back the
itself Recent Brandeis graduate Judah Ariel, 23, works
The turning point was spring 2002, when Israel
campus," Frankenstein said. "Not only have we taken it closely with students across the country as campus com-
responded to a wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks by
back — we own the campus now
mittee chair of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, a dovish group.
invading the West Bank. Palestinians claimed Israeli
Rather than engaging in shouting matches and refiit-
"A lot of students are very pro-Israel but their sympa-
troops massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the
ing every anti-Israel comment, poster or speaker, the
thies lie with Labor or Meretz, not with Likud or the
Jenin refugee camp. The fallacious charges sparked anti-
students were taught to promote their own agenda of
settlers," he said. "Brit Tzedek helps them find ways to
Israel demonstrations worldwide.
pro-Israel messages by networking with campus leaders.
express their Zionism and their support for Israel in the
At the University of California-Berkeley, students
Simon organized a campus visit by former Israeli Prime
way we believe is the only option for Israel."
returned from spring break to find that someone had
Minister Ehud Barak and used it to build relationships
Ariel said that on many campuses, Hillel and other
lobbed a cinder block through the glass doors of the
with a wide range of student leaders.
organizations welcome Brit Tzedek and other left-wing
Hillel building. Then came the campus' annual Deir
Many Jewish organizations have campus outreach
activists, though he notes that at Brandeis some stu-
Yassin rally, commemorating an episode in Israel's 1948
and support programs, but many observers believed
dents treated Brit Tzedek as an anti-Israel threat. "I wish
War of Independence in which Jewish militiamen killed
they wouldn't be able to cooperate. The Israel on
it were possible for the groups that make up the pro-
Campus Coalition, established in 2002 by the Charles
Israel community to be more open to the democracy
One Jewish student described the rally as "one of the
and Lynn Schusterman Foundation as anti-Israel agita-
and debate that is one of the great things about Israel,"
scariest moments of my life." The crowd called Israeli
tion on college campuses was growing, set out to coor-
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a Nazi, and people spat at
dinate multiple efforts to help students adopt a proac-
But many Jewish students are stumping for Israel on
anybody who seemed to question the anti-Israel senti-
tive approach to pro-Israel activity
campus. A year ago, three students from the University
of Oregon in Eugene went to Washington to attend
AIPAC's annual policy conference, which draws thou-
Some might say the coalition isn't diverse enough.
sands of activists — including hundreds of students —
But even at the height of the crisis, the situation was
many students have mobilized to support Israel,
from across the country.
never as clear-cut against Israel as it seemed. As some
others feel alienated by efforts to line them up behind
This year, 12 students from Eugene signed up, part of
1,500 to 2,000 anti-Israel students occupied a campus
Israeli government positions.
a contingent of 850 students from 150 campuses who
building during the Deir Yassin rally, thousands of
Earlier this month, a controversy arose over the
came to this month's policy conference in Washington.
Berkeley students were casting ballots for student gov-
Lach Litwer, 24, a senior from Portland, Ore., major-
ernment officers. When the results were published, Jesse removal of one student, Jilian Redford, as Hillel presi-
dent at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
ing in psychology and business, has played a key role in
Gabriel, who had been a member of the Israel Action
Redford sent an e-mail to the Israeli Embassy in
building the pro-Israel community on his campus.
Committee, had been elected student body president.
Washington, reportedly asking, "Could you please stop
Litwer was not involved in Jewish campus activities
Gabriel and Daniel Frankenstein, another Jewish stu-
sending me e-mail after e-mail about radical Zionist
until the day he went to Hillel for free pizza and was
dent, had spent the year as what Frankenstein called
recruited to join Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity
"the dynamic duo of Israel activists" in the student sen-
Hillel officials said they objected to the tone of
CAMPUS SUCCESS on page 16
Jewish Telegraphic Agency