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Guide for Jewish Students when Israel-Palestine Issues Roil Campus

Guide for Jewish Students when Israel-Palestine Issues Roil Campus

In mid-2014, following one parent’s anguished public remarks about her daughter’s intimidation and isolation on a campus roiled by political ferment over Israel, conversations among the rabbis and lay leaders of the Social Action Committee (SAC) at Congregation Shomrei Torah (Santa Rosa, CA) led us to the question, “What can we do?” With help from our regional JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council for the San Francisco Bay Area) and leads from the RAC, we developed a guide for students facing campus anti-Israel or anti-Semitic activities.

At the SAC meeting and in emails that followed, it soon was apparent -- no surprise – that our otherwise strongly cohesive group had diverse, passionate, well-informed and conflicting opinions about the Israeli-Arab conflict and attendant politics. That might have prevented our coming up with an answer. In steering around a looming tempest, we agreed on the need we could address: “How can we support a student and family at the moment when a campus is in upheaval over Israel-Palestine politics?”

We knew, judging from past campus events in California and elsewhere, that events can lead rapidly to isolation in a hostile environment, unfair treatment, political commotion and direct hostility. In turn, these can set the parental worry-machine at “max” without a clear direction to support.

It seemed at first that the North American Jewish community wasn’t up to speed. Despite a number of website tabs for “Campus Outreach” and well-written fact sheets and guides, not enough was useful in a moment of crisis, especially for students without Jewish connections on campus and unfamiliar with the array of organizations doing campus outreach.

The guide we developed relies on Hillel as the likely “first responder” in many instances and goes further in directing readers to other resources. Have a look at the guide, here. We’d be grateful for your ideas for improvement and pleased if you adapt our guide for your community.

Asher Sheppard is a member of Congregation Shomrei Torah, its Social Action Committee and Board of Directors, and a former member of the Commission on Social Action.

Published: 11/19/2015