When Eric Schorr arrived at Columbia University three years ago, he wasn’t looking to be a Jewish activist. After serving as president of United Synagogue Youth’s Hagesher region in the Greater Philadelphia area and a year in the Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel, he was feeling “burnt out” and wanted to concentrate on his studies. Then came a visit to Israel for winter break, which coincided with Israel’s Operation Cast Lead incursion into Gaza in early 2009.
Schorr had planned to join the Israel Defense Forces — his mother is Israeli — after a semester at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but friends convinced him not to defer his acceptance to Columbia. Some of his Israeli friends, however, took part in the battle against Hamas.
So when he returned to Morningside Heights to find pro-Palestinian protests on campus denouncing Israel, it was personal.
Before long he was organizing counter-protests with the campus activist group LionPac, and taking on the role of public relations director, publishing a spring op-ed in the campus paper titled “No partner for peace,” which analyzed the Palestinian view of Israel’s birth as a “nakba,” or catastrophe. He was recently elected president of LionPac. “My passion stems from a lot of ability to get up in front of others and speak out. The fact that my mother was born in Haifa and I have dual citizenship is a big part of it. I’m born of two worlds and caught between them.”
Schorr still has plans to serve in the IDF after college, but not in a combat unit. “Nothing is guaranteed, but I’d like to serve in the spokesperson’s unit. Israel needs more Americans speaking on its behalf. We need American student activism infused into the IDF and that’s what I hope to bring.”
Silver tongue: Schorr speaks advanced Arabic, is fluent in Hebrew, proficient in Spanish and also knows a bissel Yiddish. Think tank: He wrote a policy paper on U.S. detention procedures at Guantanamo Bay for Columbia’s Roosevelt Institute, which was published in the spring of 2009.