Forward Thinking

Israel Outreach Effort Comes to Columbia

By Naomi Zeveloff

  • Print
  • Share Share
Naomi Zeveloff

With the Palestinians poised to make their bid for statehood at the United Nations, another diplomatic effort was taking place on Columbia University’s manicured campus five miles uptown.

Hillel, the national Jewish student organization, erected an open-air tent on September 21 with the words “Talk Israel: Join the Conversation” on a blue banner on Columbia’s Hamilton Lawn. Inside, there were two TV screens, one featuring video clips of Israeli bands and movies, and the other projecting Talk Israel’s Facebook page. There was also a large square table, around which half a dozen Hillel members and Columbia and Barnard students sat to, well, talk about Israel.

“The wider message is that stuff should be achieved via dialogue,” said Tor Tsuk, Columbia Hillel’s Israel Fellow, a new position created by the national Hillel to conduct Israel programming on campus.

The Talk Israel tent at Columbia is one of 20 Hillel tents popping up on campuses in the U.S. and Canada this week timed with the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. Columbia is considered a “hot campus” by Hillel officials since it has been the site of clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel student groups.

“I don’t think we have a formal stance,” said Tsuk when asked what Hillel made of the U.N. vote. She said that Hillel supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, but beyond that, it takes no position on the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The day’s agenda was posted on an oversized notebook resting on a painter’s easel, which kept getting blown over by the breeze. The morning would begin with a student led discussion of the “General Conflict History,” followed by a conversation about “Technology and Politics” and then one on immigration. Conservative author and blogger Micah Halpern was scheduled for the 3:00 slot to discuss the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. He would be followed by Hillel President Wayne Firestone and Brad Rotschild of Ameinu, a dovish Zionist organization.

When class was dismissed at noon, students began filling the quad and a few wandered over to the tent, where a Hillel member was about to begin speaking about Israeli technology.

“I saw something that seemed pro-Israel and I came in,” said Dani Gorshein a freshman at a joint Jewish Theological Seminary-Columbia program.

Three students wearing black shirts and keffiyehs walked just inside the tent, but stopped at the edge. The students at the table looked up at them. “You can come join us,” said one. But the three hung back.

“I keep thinking, if this were in Israel, as a Palestinian, I would not be invited to the table,” Tanya Keilani said in an interview afterward. “That is something that needs to be talked about.”

Then she walked out of the tent and joined a small group of students from Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter who had gathered several yards away.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: palestinian, israel, hillel, columbia

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.