A New Year for Jewish College Students on Campus
Standing to the sound of the final blow of the shofar; I hold my prayer book wide open and shut my eyes. Feeling the vibrations of a sacred Jewish tradition as it shakes my siddur, I relish the sound that sends me back through thousands of years of Jewish history and forward into our new year – a year hopefully more peaceful, hopefully more sane, and hopefully more understanding of the threats faced by our beloved Israel. But then, I open my eyes to the reality.
I am unnerved. I am baffled by the utter senselessness of a world where the defensive actions of a tiny state in an inflamed region could overshadow the murder of 300 passengers aboard a commercial airline, the continual massacre of Syrians, grisly beheadings in the name of jihad, and the countless other atrocities outdoing one another everyday in the Arab and Muslim world.
Most Americans will not give much though to the atrocities of this region, and if they do, it will usually only take the form of a televised, sound-bite, followed by YouTube’s latest kitten/baby cuddle-fest. And yet we wonder why many of today’s college students appear so naive in their perceptions of international affairs and conflict.
Last month, I welcomed the Jewish New Year- even knowing that this would not be the year where Jewish college students could finally safely and comfortably walk around their their campus community wearing an IDF shirt or a Star of David. “What if my Sociology graduate TA who grades my papers sees me?” I overhear as a Freshman friend of mine wearing an IDF shirt shuffles by an anti-Israel protest, avoiding potential harassment by this authority figure.
I welcomed the Jewish New Year even knowing that thousands of students, Jewish and non-Jewish, would read the latest Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) opinion piece, espousing a mendacious narrative that is sllowly being accepted and welcomed into academic circles. “They have some valid points,” I hear, watching usually apathetic college students walk by fake-blood-splattered TAs welcoming students back on their first day of class while holding pictures of Hamas’ human shields (though, of course, portrayed as Israel’s purposeful civilian targets).
I welcomed the Jewish New Year even knowing that this year, one of my best friends- and one of the most dedicated Zionists I know- will be publicly shamed (again) by SJP members, not only because he is a Zionist, but because he is a religious Jew. Joshua Seed attends Binghamton SJP meetings weekly. Not because he agrees with anything that is said within the doors of the Graduate Student Association, not because he agrees with a tenured Binghamton Professor who regularly cites the Electronic Intifada, but because he truly believes in what SJP deceptively claims to fight for – the open and free flowing exchange of ideas. Josh Seed will not let hatred stop him from seeking knowledge, from challenging himself, from strengthening his Zionism.
Abraham and Sarah. Moses and Miriam. Esther and Mordechai. Joshua, Hannah, Ruth. Maimonides, Rashi, Isaac Luria. Herzl, Henrietta Szold, and Channa Senesch, David Ben Gurion, Chaim Herzog, and Golda Meir. Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Primo Levi. Today, we Zionists are lucky enough to be able to stand on the shoulders of great men and women, all of whom faced – and, in their own ways, overcame – great challenges of their time.
With these fighters, scholars, and liberators as my examples, I can offer the following:
Wherever and whenever the existence of the Jewish State is attacked, no matter in what context or environment, so too is the existence and integrity of the Jewish People. So, in this New Year, full of challenges and bigotry, in any and every such occasion, I will yet rise to the challenge. I will say “Hineni. Here I am.”
Justin Hayet is an alumnus of the Campus Fellows program with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). This piece was originally published in CAMERA on Campus’ blog, In Focus.