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Fighting for Israel and Remembering the Holocaust

Fighting for Israel and Remembering the Holocaust

A controversial vote at the University of California, Berkeley, and Holocaust commemorations around the country are keeping Jewish students active in the days between Holocaust Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day.

Berkeley Student Senate Uphold Veto of Divestment Measure

After nearly eight hours of debate that ended at 7:30 this morning, the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley (ASUC) Senate upheld a veto by President Will Smelko of a bill passed in support of divestment from companies with ties to Israel’s military.

The debate resulted in a vote of 12 to override the veto, 7 to sustain the veto and one abstention. 14 votes were needed to override the veto. Because the vote was “tabled,” ASUC can reconsider the measure at each of its next two weekly meetings before the current term expires. Berkeley Hillel plans to continue to work with senators during this period.

“Hillel at Berkeley expresses its gratitude to the senators who helped to sustain President Will Smelko’s veto of the anti-Israel divestment measure,” says Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Adam Naftalin-Kelman. “President Smelko and the senators demonstrated sensitivity, wisdom, strength and courage. We will continue to work against this proposal and to educate the campus about Israel as it really exists and not as it is portrayed by its detractors.”

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life President Wayne L. Firestone added: “We are pleased that the anti-Israel divestment measure has been rejected in this way. This vote demonstrates that the more campuses learn about Israel, the better they understand the country’s commitment to peace, democracy and human rights. We salute the student activists and Hillel professionals, led by Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, who have worked so hard on this issue. We are confident that Berkeley Hillel will continue to demonstrate extraordinary leadership in the coming weeks while the divestment measure continues to be under ASUC consideration.”

International attention has been focused on the bill, which was first passed on March 17 by a vote of 16 to four, but vetoed by Smelko a few days later. Since then, student senators have been flooded by messages from supporters and opponents. Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel wrote a letter opposing divestment while fellow Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu and linguist Noam Chomsky both sent letters supporting it. “I have witnessed apartheid and fought it wherever I spoke throughout the world,” Wiesel wrote. “I ask you to believe me: Any such comparison is malicious and untrue.” Other Nobel laureates who protested the divestment measure were: Roald Hoffman, Walter Kohn, Claude Choen-Tannoudji, and Steven Weinberg.

Groups who wrote in opposition to the measure include the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council. The South African Board of Rabbis wrote a letter rejecting divestment as a tactic, saying: “We agree with leaders and liberators of our great country, President Nelson Mandela, President Thabo Mbeki, current President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress who reject that divestment will contribute to peace in the region.”

On the day before the debate, Berkeley Hillel organized a seminar titled "Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State: Challenges and Perspectives," to educate the campus about Israel and to fulfill the university’s mandate as a venue for high-level discussion. Renowned Israeli jurist Ruth Gavison delivered the keynote address. The seminar was coordinated by Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow Chaya Gilboa, Prof. Hanan Alexander, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor at UC Berkeley. It was cosponsored by Center for the Study of Law and Society of Berkeley Law School, Haifa University’s Center for Jewish Education, the Berkeley Jewish Student Union, Berkley Hillel and ASUC.

Remembering the Shoah

In the weeks around Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, students took time to honor victims and remember heroes. On Wednesday April 14, Hunter College Hillel co-sponsored a screening of Paper Clips, a film about middle school students in Whitwell, Tennessee and their studies of the Holocaust.

A few universities, including Kent State University (KSU) and the University of Maryland, College Park, read the names of Holocaust victim aloud during 24-hour Holocaust vigils. “By reading their names aloud, our hope was to perpetuate the memories of Holocaust victims as individuals,” explains Joel Abramson, of Orlando, Florida, a programming intern at Hillel at Kent State and coordinator of the event. “By reading names for a full 24 hours, we gave many people the opportunity to participate in this unique project to help restore the identities and the dignity of those who perished.”

Also at KSU, Eva Schloss, the stepsister of Anne Frank, spoke to a campus crowd of several hundred at The Kiva on Thursday, April 8. The 81-year-old Holocaust survivor who now lives in England is the last living connection to the young girl whose diary chronicled her life in hiding during World War II.

The Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College hosted a Yom Hashoah ceremony produced by students from six college campuses. The ceremony featured keynote speaker Francis Irwin who recounted her inspiring story of liberation from Auschwitz and a student production of I Never Saw Another Butterfly. The Hillel also sponsored a Holocaust-themed art exhibit. The program was coordinated by Shira Boshnack, who works for Hillel as part of the Orthodox Union’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus.

Students at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation turned three metal storage pods into recreations of a cattle car, a concentration camp bunker, and an original memorial, which were accompanied by 24-hours of reading the names of Holocaust victims. Students also created a video that played for the 24-hour period that featured survivor testimonials and archival footage. The Arizona Daily Wildcat featured a front-page story.

Check out these links to read about how other students commemorated the Holocaust:

Elon University

University of Massachusetts

Virginia Tech

Penn State,

Northwestern University

Oklahoma State University

Binghamton University

Sign of the Times

Rebecca Dubowe, the country’s only deaf female rabbi, is currently on sabbatical from her synagogue — Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, California — and is on a speaking tour of the country. She recently came to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Incidentally, Gallaudet has appointed its first Jewish president Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz.

“Lost” No More

Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison hosted alumni Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the co-writers and co-producers of the ABC show “Lost” on April 15. The TV men discussed the show, which is now coming to a close, and their careers since graduating from the school in 1993. Read more about it in The Badger Herald.

In and Around New York

At NYU, David Rittberg has been appointed the new Executive Director of the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life after a long, successful career with Hillel including two years as a Steinhardt JCSC Fellow and more recently as Associate and Acting Director at the Bronfman Center.

On April 22, Hunter College Hillel will be sponsoring the Bombshell Film Festival which is a New York-wide student film festival on the Holocaust and WWII, culminating in a screening on April 22nd, 2010 at Hunter College in TH105 at 6:30P.M. Current graduate and graduated students were invited to submit their short films. Bombshell Film Festival is sponsored by Arts on the Move, Hillel, the UJA Federation, B&H Photography, and “Hello World Communications.”

Hillel at Baruch is holding launches Israel Week @ Baruch this week to bring Israeli culture, learning and appreciation to their campus. Leading Israeli food critic, TV personality, and great-grandson of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who is credited with restoring Hebrew as a living language. Gil Hovav will be speaking to highlight Israel culture.

Hillel at Syracuse University held its third potential bone donor drive on April 15 on behalf of the Gift of Life Foundation. Read more about it here.

Read here about Jewish students at Cornell University who attended an alternative break in New Orleans.

David Meyer a first-year student at the University of Maryland.

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