Hillel votes to take pro-Israel stance

by Tracy Landers | 5/15/02 5:00am

Dartmouth Hillel members voted last night to submit a pro-Israel advertisement to The Dartmouth, making a campus-wide statement with which some among the roughly thirty-five students present at the meeting strongly disagreed.

The advertisement, reading "Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel," is a statement supported by many Hillel International-affiliated organizations across America and is intended to encompass the variety of opinions held by "Diaspora Jews," Rabbi Edward Boraz said.

Some students said that the statement is an important expression of support for Israel, but others suggested it could alienate Jews who do not agree with Israel's current political policies.

"This has the potential to be something less than peaceful," Jessica Goldberg '03 said. Her concerns about the political nature of the statement were shared by others, including Marina McClure '04.

"I'm sad that this will be published ... By making a political statement the potential for Jewish students to be uncomfortable will be higher," McClure, a Jewish student who went to a Hillel meeting for the first time last night, said. Both McClure and Goldberg said they voted against the advertisement.

Many students present at the meeting were strongly in favor of publishing the advertisement and taking a public stand in support of Israel.

"I think it is important that Hillel makes this statement. If we, as Diaspora Jews, do not voice our support for Israel, no one will," Jeff Murphy '02 said. Others emphasized that showing support for a Jewish nation was an essential part of their faith.

"One of the basic tenets [of Judaism] is support of a Jewish democratic homeland. Public support of this is assumed," Ana Bonnheim '03 said.

Addressing the concerns of students such as McClure, Hannah Meyers '03 said, "Jews will always be welcomed [at Hillel] and will always be encouraged to participate. This changes nothing about the legitimacy of being Jewish on this campus."

"Alienating students is always a concern because Hillel is here for every Jewish student on campus to come and share deeply held convictions," Boraz said. Nevertheless, McClure raised concerns that some Jewish students would not feel comfortable associating with Hillel if not in agreement with its political views.

With no alternative Jewish center or synagogue nearby, students who choose to disassociate with Dartmouth Hillel may be left with little other opportunity to practice their faith.

Even those who disagreed with the advertisement, though, said they recognized the need to make a statement showing their support for Israel.

Goldberg and others said the statement could be interpreted in a negative way. Even students who supported the advertisement expressed similar concerns about the statement's ambiguity.

"People will think we don't like Palestinians. People will assume the worst," Meyers said. At the same time she said, "this is not a strong statement, it's just obvious."

Michele Nudelman '05 said that although she had problems with supporting the advertisement, she chose to vote for it because it was the only option offered.

"It was alarming how little we could agree on," Nudelman said. Later on she added, "Despite everything, I think this will lead to healthy discussion."

Participants said the atmosphere of the meeting was one of openness and mutual respect despite students' strong opposing opinions.

Hillel President Rebecca Kurzweil '03 said she was pleased with the "good process" of the meeting, which "leads to good decisions." She said she was disappointed that relatively few Hillel members came out to vote.

The roughly 35 students present represent less than one-tenth of the 400 to 450 Jewish students at Dartmouth who, active or inactive, are considered members of Hillel.