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May 22, 2014 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-05-22

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for college students by college students



Focus On Israel

WSU student's Israel advocacy grows

after Israel Fellowship program.

Shugmi Shumanov } jewish@edu staff writer


rom the time I was a young student at Akiva Hebrew Day School
to my days as a Wayne State University student, Israel has always
been near and dear to my heart. I was fortunate enough to be a
member of Hillel of Metro Detroit's Taglit-Birthright Israel Community trip
three summers ago and had one of the best experiences of my life.
I had traveled to Israel previously, but it was different having the
opportunity to experience and explore the country with peers. When
our group landed, I felt strangely at home. It was absolutely incredible
being in a country so deeply rooted in history and a land responsible
for shaping the Jewish people.
I have always been fascinated that Israel, a country that houses
roughly a 10th of a percent of the world's population, gets such an
incredible amount of international notoriety. As a graduate of WSU, I
have run into my fair share of students protesting Israel. At that time,
I chose to stay silent because I was not well versed in Israel's political
scene or its impact on the global community. I knew I would have to
educate myself to become a better advocate for the State of Israel and
defend it when people attempted to tarnish its image.
I applied to participate in HMD's Israel Fellowship to do just that. As I
was sitting in class during the first session, I once again felt strangely at
home, as if I was supposed to be there. The Israel Fellowship did a fan-
tastic job of educating my fellow peers and me about Israel's rich history,
its successes and shortcomings, and the many issues the country faces.
Throughout our journey, we covered many topics not often covered in
media outlets; such as Muslim IDF soldiers that consider themselves to
be Zionists, the bevy of medical and technological innovations Israel is
responsible for, and the incredible humanitarian work Israel does.
The guest lecturers were an absolute treat to listen to and broadened
our knowledge of Israel and the role it plays at home and abroad in a
manner that was easy to digest. They included WSU Professor Howard

Focus on page 41

Shugmi Shumanov and Lenny Radomski,
president of the WSU Jewish Medical School


May 22 • 2014


May 22, 2014 / 22 Iyar 5774

Differences Aside

GVSU's Shabbat dinner brought
Muslim, Jewish students together.

Audra Gamble } jewish@edu staff writer


y grandmother tells this
story about how a rela-
tive of hers who lived in
Israel asked her, quite
intensely, whether she was an American
or a Jew. She didn't know what to say; why
couldn't she be both?
For many American Jews, including me,
this question is ridiculous. I have no prob-
lems with the intersecting parts of my iden-
tity. I can identify as Jewish, as American, as
a college student, as a Cleveland Indians fan
and a whole host of other things without any
But for those who fight for their identities
and the validation of them, it is not so easy.
When your life is full of uncertainty and
fear, it makes sense to desperately cling to
the identifying factor that you are fighting
for. That thing begins to define every aspect
of you.
So, the question posed to my grandmoth-
er by a man who lived in a place rife with
GVSU sophomore Cameron Saghaiepour,
conflict was not so preposterous for him.
West Bloomfield; senior Amina Mohamaed,
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates;
It is impossible for Jews anywhere in the
senior Nargilya Turkmen, Ashgabat,
world to ignore events in Israel, and it is
Turkmenistan; and senior Noah Zucker,
foolish to turn a blind eye on the violence —
West Bloomfield
from both sides — of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. There is a deep, rich history of
Sitting Together
conflict, and thus hatred, between Muslims
The evening began like any other Shabbat dinner, with
and Jews.
But that hatred is not inherent. Each Muslim and Jew
Shabbat prayers recited by those who knew them. We
has the ability to love rather than hate. Each Muslim and all shared some grape juice and challah, and then we
Jew has the ability to hug rather than hit. Each Muslim
grabbed plates of Mediterranean food and sat down at
and Jew has the ability to chat and laugh rather than yell the same table.
and fume.
I sat across from two young women from the MSA
And the decision to love and laugh is exactly what
and asked how their Islamic Awareness Week was going,
happened at Grand Valley State University. On March
and they were happy to report that it was turning out
14, the GVSU Hillel hosted its second annual Shabbat
well. We then chatted about the normal college things:
dinner welcoming the Muslim Student Association
our majors and our classes, then groaned about those
(MSA) in honor of Avi Schaefer, a young advocate for
professors who never stop talking.
peace between Israel and Palestine who was killed by a
We also talked about our shared struggle when the
drunk driver in 2010.
rest of our class understands a New Testament reference
Though West Michigan might not be known for its
and we do not.
religious diversity, the GVSU students decided to put
About halfway through the evening, a girl from the
aside any differences, perceived or real, for an evening to MSA I had been chatting with leaned forward in her
come together for conversation and a meal.
seat and said, "OK, I have to ask. Are you married?"

Differences on page 41

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