Updated Feb. 7 at 11:55 a.m.
Re: “Alsheikh: Hillel, End Birthright” (Feb. 2, 2023)
As Jewish student leaders at Dartmouth, we were disappointed to read an opinion piece from Ramsey Alsheikh ’26 about Birthright Israel trips. This piece depicts all Jewish students as a monolith, purports to speak for the entire Jewish community on campus and includes a number of inaccuracies.
In reality, our Jewish community is diverse. There is no single model for what it means to be Jewish, yet this piece overrides our community’s expression of multitudinous Jewish identity and denies each student the agency to define what it means to be Jewish. Alsheikh did not include a single opinion or comment from a Jewish student at Dartmouth, or any student involved with Hillel. He made assumptions about how Jewish students feel and about the intentions of Jews who travel to Israel. This is dangerous — especially at this time of ever-worsening antisemitism in America.
Hillel offers students multifold pathways to Jewish identity formation, including participation in Birthright trips. As a minority group on this campus and in our country, forming a strong connection to Israel — the Jewish homeland and the largest Jewish community in the world — is meaningful and necessary to cultivating Jewish identity.
This December, 32 Dartmouth students went on Hillel’s Birthright trip. Some students entered with a strong sense of their Jewish identity and relationship with Israel, while others were connecting with their Jewish identity for the very first time. On the trip, we engaged in deep conversation about Israel’s role in the region, the experiences of the Arab and Palestinian populations and the often-overlooked efforts to create peace. One highlight was a visit to Sindyanna of Galilee, a nonprofit led by Arab and Jewish women that sells fair trade olive oil from Arab producers. We asked questions and heard opinions from people trying to foster peace. Birthright provided a space for us to openly engage in challenging conversations that have continued long after the trip concluded.
We, the Hillel student board, respectfully invite Alsheikh to attend a Shabbat dinner and engage with our diverse and inclusive Hillel family. Hillel welcomes all students and invites the important and difficult conversations that promote civility and mutual understanding.
Peter Mikhlin ’23, Ari Garnick ’24 and Jonas Rosenthal ’25 are members of Hillel.