If This is Our Future

Imagine this, if you can. A prestigious university in the United States, with deep roots in the American Jewish community, invites Israel’s ambassador to deliver its annual commencement address. But instead of expressing pride in the choice of speaker and in the country that he represents, the university’s students, many of them Jewish, protest. They don’t want to hear from the ambassador.(See this Facebook page.) He’s a divisive figure, the student newspaper argues, and the students deserved better.

Tragically, of course, there’s nothing hypothetical about the scenario. Brandeis University recently decided to award honorary degrees to Michael Oren, Dennis Ross and Paul Simon, among others, at its May 23 commencement, and Ambassador Oren, an extraordinary orator among his many other qualities, was invited to deliver the commencement address.

But the days in which Jewish students on an American campus would have been thrilled to have the Israeli ambassador honored by their school are apparently long since gone. Brandeis’ student newspaper,The Justice (how’s that for irony?), deplored the choice, writing that Mr. Oren is a divisive and inappropriate choice for keynote speaker at commencement, and we disapprove of the university’s decision to grant someone of his polarity on this campus that honor.

The ambassador is a polarizing figure? Why is that? Because, the editorial continues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a hotly contested political issue, one that inspires students with serious positions on the topic to fervently defend and promote their views.

This is where we are today. For many young American Jews, the only association they have with Israel is the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel is the country that oppresses Palestinians, and nothing more.

No longer is Israel the country that managed to forge a future for the Jewish people when it was left in tatters after the Holocaust. Israel is not, in their minds, the country that gave refuge to hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from North Africa when they had nowhere else to go, granting them all citizenship, in a policy dramatically different from the cynical decisions of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to turn their Palestinian refugees into pawns in what they (correctly) assumed would be a lengthy battle with Israel.

Israel is not proof that one can create an impressively functioning democracy even when an enormous portion of its citizens hail from countries in which they had no experience with democratic institutions. Israel is not the country in which, despite all its imperfections, Beduin women train to become physicians, and Arab citizens are routinely awarded PhDs from the country’s top universities. Israel is not the country in which the classic and long-neglected language of the Jews has been revived, and which produces world class literature and authors routinely nominated for Nobel Prizes.

Nor is Israel the place where Jewish cultural creativity is exploding with newfound energy, as the search for new conceptions of what Jewishness might mean in the 21st century are explored with unparalleled intensity, particularly among some of the country’s most thoughtful young people. No longer is Israel understood to be the very country that created the sense of security and belonging that American Jews and these very students now take completely for granted.

No, Israel is none of those things. For many young American Jews, it is only the country of roadblocks and genocide, of a relentless war waged against the Palestinians for no apparent reason. For everyone knows that Palestinians are anxious to recognize Israel and to live side-by-side with a Jewish democracy. That, of course, is why Hamas still openly declares its commitment to Israel’s annihilation, and that is why Hizbullah has, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, accumulated more missiles than most governments in the world.

None of this is to suggest that Israel is blameless in the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, or that the present government has a plan for ending it. Those are entirely different matters. The point is that even if these students hold Israel partially (or even largely) accountable for the intractable conflict with the Palestinians, even if one believes that it should have conducted Operation Cast Lead differently, or even if one disapproves of its policies in the West Bank, for example, it is a devastatingly sad day for world Jewry when those issues are the only ones that one associates with Israel, when mere mention of the Jewish state evokes not the least bit of pride from students graduating from a prestigious institution long associated with the very best of American Jewish life.

WHAT WOULD have happened had Brandeis invited President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address? Obama is, after all, not exactly a non-divisive figure. He is president of a country at war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, places in which (a small number of) American troops have committed their share of atrocities, a country in which civil rights issues are still far from resolved, in which the bounty of America is still far beyond the reach of millions of its citizens.

One suspects that the students would have been thrilled to hear Obama, despite the fact that many do not agree with his policies. They would have been honored to host him despite the fact that some must be disappointed that he has not lived up to his campaign promise to call the Turkish treatment of the Armenians a genocide, despite the fact that he is intent on pursuing the war in Afghanistan, to which many of the students must certainly be opposed. They would have been delighted by Obama’s presence because even if they disagree with some of his views or some of America’s actions, they understand that the US is more than Obama, and more than this war or that policy. And they are, quite rightly, enormously proud of what America stands for and what it has accomplished.

But that kind of instinctive pride in the Jewish state is, sadly, a vestige of days gone by, even for many American Jews.

Reading some of the reactions to Oren’s invitation, one is struck by an astounding simplicity, and frankly, an utter lack of courage to stand firm against the tidal wave of unbridled hostility toward Israel.

Jeremy Sherer, president of the Brandeis J Street U Chapter, wrote to The Justice, I am… bothered [by the invitation to Oren] because I disagree with his politics. That’s what education is now producing people who want to hear only those with whom they agree? I’m not exactly thrilled, Sherer wrote, “that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, of course, is now busy fending off members of his coalition who are far to the right of him, like Moshe Feiglin and Avigdor Lieberman, and whether or not one takes him at his word, he is the first head of the Likud to endorse a two-state solution, no small matter for those who know the history of the Likud. But Sherer makes no mention of that complicating data, for it doesn’t fit his overarching conception of the intrinsic evil of Israel’s right-wing government (of which the Labor Party is also inconveniently for Sherer a member).

The president of the Brandeis J Street U Chapter, who writes that he’s of “Israeli heritage” (whatever that means), did not see fit to say a single positive word about Israel. Not one. One wonders what the pro-Israel part of J-Street’s pro-Israel, pro-Peace tag line means to Sherer.

Ironically, though, some of the attempts to defend the invitation to Oren were no less distressing. A student representative to the Board of Trustees writes in a disappointingly anemic piece to the The Justice that Oren is being invited for his academic achievements, not his political ones, and then launches into a recitation of Oren’s many academic accomplishments.

Here, too, however, not a single positive word about Israel, or of the honor that having not only a world-class historian, but also its representative to the US, might be for the university. That sort of pride appears nowhere in The Justice’s editorial, the J-Street representative’s piece or the op-ed defending the invitation. For too many American Jewish undergraduates, it’s simply no longer part of their vocabulary.

Imagine that Sherer had written something like this: I disagree passionately with Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians, and welcome President Obama’s new pressure on Israel to bring the conflict to a close. But as a Jew who understands that despite my disagreement with Israel’s policies, the Jewish state is key to the Jewish revival of which my entire generation is a beneficiary, I honor Ambassador Oren for his service to a country of which I am deeply proud in many ways, and I look forward to welcoming him to campus.

Or if the pro-Oren op-ed had said, There is a radical disconnect between our generation and today’s Israeli government. Many members of my generation believe that Mr. Netanyahu and his government either do not know how to speak to us, or are uninterested in doing so. Ambassador Oren’s appearance on campus is a perfect opportunity for the Israeli government to address us and our concerns; I urge our campus to listen carefully to what may well be a watershed address at this critical period in Israel’s history and in the relationship between Israel and the future leadership of American Jewry.

Imagine. But nothing of that sort got said.

Indeed, the seeming refusal of any of the student articles to say even one positive thing about the Jewish state was all the more galling given other events that took place across the globe on the very same week that the Oren controversy was unfolding. At the University of Manchester, pro-Palestinian protesters tried to attack Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK, some holding Palestinian flags up to the windows of her car and others climbing on the hood and trying to smash the windshield. In Berlin, a Danish street art duo known as “Surrend” blanketed several neighborhoods with maps of the Middle East in which the State of Israel had been removed, with the term “Final Solution” at the top. The Scottish Labor Federation reaffirmed its support for a boycott of Israel, and the student government at the University of California, Berkeley fell just one single vote short in a bid to override a veto against a divestment bill; a similar bill was also debated at UC San Diego.

None of the writers to The Justice felt that they had to distance themselves from those views, even as they critiqued or supported the invitation to Ambassador Oren.

The student-thugs at UC Irvine, who disrupted Oren’s speech on campus in February, have won. They have set the standard for how one treats any mention of Israel on any campus. Israel is nothing but a legitimate whipping post even at institutions of higher learning, and sane discussion of its rights and wrongs need not be defended, even in communities ostensibly committed to civil and intelligent discourse.

Tragically, even these students at Brandeis, one of the great institutions of American Jewish life, had nothing terribly different to say to the world. Theirs are only more tepid versions of the delegitimization now spreading across the international community like wildfire.

One shudders to imagine a future in which they might be our leaders.

About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

94 Comments on "If This is Our Future"

  • WoldyWorld says

    All roads lead to Rome . . . this on-campus activity is a direct result of the tone and the substance coming from our country’s leadership. The Obama Administration’s approach to Israel, its callous treatment of the Israeli Prime Minister, and its positioning of Israel as the recalcitrant party in the dispute with the Palestinians is resulting in erosion of support for Israel, even among Jewish Americans. Tragic, but true.

  • martha says

    I am filled with horror just thinking about the fact that this generation now graduating university is the next generation of leaders. Never has there been a generation with so narrow a view and so intellectually dishonest.

  • Jerry says

    To believe that Israeli policy is the root cause of the Palestinians’ plight, given Arab animus toward Israel, is no different than believing that people were entering a work camp as they passed under the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

  • artcohn says

    In following and writing letters against the divestment votes at UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego, I have been struck by the PC arguments of the anti-divestment students Instead od arguing against the lies of the pro-divestment crowd, and and advocating Israel’s wonderful qualities, especially in comparison to its antagonists, these students argue that the divestment resolutions singles out their religion and/ or ethnic group which is against the tenets of Political Correctness to which all the students should subscribe.

  • Dr. Gordis’ touching account of the students’ reaction at Brandeis to conferring an honorary degree upon Ambassador Oren and asking him to be the commencement speaker misses the point altogether.

    Dr. Gordis ends by shuddering to imagine a future in which these students might be our leaders. Rather than hold the students accountable, we must look at the root cause of the situation (and I do not refer to the “Occupation”). Are we not responsible at all?

    One must first look at home: Recently, MK Danon visited Los Angeles on a fundraising trip for the primaries in his party. His only public talk was to a group of some 200, a day before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama.

    I expected the Chair of World Likud, the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, to say something along the lines: “I and Israel stand by our Prime Minister. At this crucial time for Israel, I ask that each and every one of you do the same: Pray for his success. Write to the PM. Write to the President. Tell them you support Israel and her PM. Let us stand united as tomorrow the PM is due to meet with your President, a meeting we know will be very difficult.”

    Instead we were treated – just prior to the pitch for $2,500 each – to a diatribe of everything the PM does wrong, from the aftermath to the Disengagement five years ago to the weekly meetings of the top cabinet members. Apparently, Danon is the only member who has the guts to stand up to the PM.

    How regretful that an elected official, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, does not even understand the ramification of – inter alia – disloyalty. He should have left the fundraising at home (yes, in Israel) and made most of the timing – STAND WITH ISRAEL. SUPPORT THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER.

    So how can we now come with claims against students who have seen no other example? Who usually stands up to speak? Have Israeli officials taken to campuses?

    One of the Israeli professors who spends part of his time at Brandeis heading a department or an institute (being funded by a philanthropist from Beverly Hills) and part traveling back and forth between Israel and the UK was a guest for dinner at the Beverly Hills Montage. The professor supports Ha’aretz many claims against the Jewish State, covering his pronunciations with an academic pretense, and has gone on the attack against anyone who thinks differently.

    Our dinner, incidentally, did not fare well, as he did not like to hear my account (previously published in print) of one of the senior members of this respectable paper presenting to a delegation of California State Legislatures on their very first night ever in Israel that Israelis have become the new Nazis, burning Palestinians in their homes in “Occupied” (very occupied) territories (of Judea and Samaria). The presentation was about the House of Contention, and the reporter was conveniently seated at the home of this Palestinian family when the “Settlers” attempted to burn the house and its inhabitants (and Israeli journalist guest) alive.

    It is money of Jewish donors which enables professors the liberty to undermine the very existence of the Jewish Homeland. Then again, these “Post-Zionist” Israeli professors also call to divest and boycott Israel from the pages of the LA Times (Prof. Niv Gordon of BGU) following which letter the President of BGU rushed to Beverly Hills to meet with her top donors. Funny how money has a far-reaching influence.

    Dr. Gordis, before attacking those students, approach the Jewish donors. Possibly they will dictate a different course of action. It is their funding, before all, that enables such liberal approach and open criticism of the Jewish State.

    These Jewish students at Brandeis, tomorrow’s leaders, should actually learn not so much from the open criticism of the Jewish State by their professors but from the very successful action of “student-thugs at UC Irvine, who disrupted Oren’s speech on campus in February, have won.”

    For those who think that Ambassador Oren’s appearance at UCI was unique, allow me to point otherwise.

    I was there when Ambassador Oren was interrupted by the Muslim Students. I was there just hours earlier when he spoke at a Church (an event organized by the Israel Christian Nexus) across the street and enjoyed his speech very much. When I arrived to UCI, I knew exactly what to expect.

    The Muslim Students are organized, coherent and well prepared. They speak in unison. Incidentally, the protest was orchestrated by women (an interesting phenomenon which would have been quite unacceptable under Muslim rule). The majority of the audience was not part of the UCI student body.

    I was there, in the very same room, with Dr. Daniel Pipes some years earlier when the very same modus operandi was used. Why was nothing done during these years to counter the poison at UCI?

    What did the Israeli Consul General and his staff do during the weeks since Ambassador Oren’s appearance? Did they meet with the Regents of the UC system? Did they meet with the Governor (the UC system is subsidized by the State)? Did they convene a panel of experts, predominantly lawyers, to see what can be done?

    Ah, I forgot to mention, they spent last Sunday naming a tiny portion of a street in Beverly Hills “Hertzel.” It is ironic on many counts, not the least that this very portion of a street in nestled between the buildings of a reform temple that, under its Israel Program, prefers the likes of Jeremy Sherer which Dr. Gordis describes above.

    Is it not the Consulate’s job to act, not only to come along with the Ambassador to an event that should not have taken place at UCI in the first place? Coming without studying the ground, without any preparation and without being ready to do all it takes until the follow up is exhausted amounts to a dereliction of duty. This is NOT another gala event with the Ambassador as the guest of honor. This is a battlefield, and the Consulate clearly knew better.

    Dr. Gordis is amazed that the students at Brandeis do not stand up to defend Israel, highlight her accomplishments and call for a “fair treatment” of her top representative to the United States. J Street’s “Pro Israel – Pro Peace” voice is heard in no unequivocal terms. Where is the true Pro Israel voice? Look at UCI and learn from our mistakes. Then learn from J Street’s top representative who can articulate a position well enough that the very best find difficult to counter.

    Dr. Gordis, you are one of the most remarkable romantics I have had the fortune to hear. I am thirsty to read your writings. Yet, you sat along with a friend from yesteryears, Rabbi Wolpe, in front an audience of several hundred, and there, not many years later, sat your friend celebrating Israel’s 62nd birthday with a Muslim Cleric who had “courageously” appeared there and blessed the audience with ALLA-U-AKBAR. Your friend, to this very day, does not understand why community leaders Susanne and Dr. Robert Reyto are enraged by this act.

    Let us blame not the students. Let us look at ourselves first. The love of Israel, her very essence, her every breath, is in your and my DNA. I would stand and sacrifice all I have for the Jewish Homeland. Yet, those at the helm, our leaders, do not serve as the necessary examples – neither in Israel nor here in the Jewish community in the Diaspora.

    There are rare exceptions of course. I wrote about one Colonel [(res.) Benzi Gruber] and a Sergeant [(res.) Benjamin] who come to the USA to speak on campuses. They do not ask for money. They are not sent by the Israeli Government. They are individuals who realize those whose job it is to fight do not. They are true leaders, commanders who act and say “FOLLOW ME.” They do not wait to be called. The act. They are my heroes.

    It is time for Israel to fathom and internalize she is at war. This war is raging on not in Israel proper but in a different front: here in Los Angeles, in London and Paris, Stockholm and Melbourne, Auckland and Beijing. Israel fails miserably at the Public Diplomacy Front, and what does she do other than admit her failure? Nothing.

    In war one must act (or at the very least react), lest one finds oneself defeated. Israel’s public diplomacy suffers since Israelis have not yet articulated a coherent message that goes along the lines: ISRAEL HAS THE RIGHT TO EXIST AS THE JEWISH HOMELAND. Without the most basic understanding that we, too, have some basic rights, we are weak and crumbling from within.

    Until Israel does her part, we – her last defenders, soldiers in the front lines – are fighting a losing battle.

    We have not given up, nor will we, but we cannot win unless Israel herself participates.

  • The Brandeis students have joined the ranks of other anti-Israel/Jewish forces at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Columbia. Hamas and Hezbollah must be thrilled that now even Jews publicly delegitimize Israel.

    And for several generations we have collective guilt for making Judaism and Israel optional to life.

    I offer a modest proposal. Instead of having once-a-year Jews go to synagoges for Rosh HaShannah / Yom Kippur, we have them go on Purim and Simchat Torah, in addition to community-wide Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations. To see the greatness of Israel in the modern world, they should read http://www.Israel21c.com and Rabbi Daniel Gordis. And of course, visit Israel.

    On a personal level though, I am proud that that my daughter chose to make aliya and serve in the IDF.

  • Leslie B says

    My heart breaks when I read this. What are we to do. I feel totally hopeless about the whole situation and I am frightened about the future. I do not feel safe as a Jew anywhere anymore,and I am angry. Israel is gem, it gives more to the world than any other country. I don’t understand the world I live in and I don’t like it very much.
    This article does however make clear something I have not understood for a long time. This is Rahm Emmanuel, his brother and David Axelrod. I have not been able to understand how they can stand at the right hand of this anti-Israel President and not speak out. Now I get it.

  • Jardena says

    How sad! It hurts a lot coming from the future generation of our people. What to do: the propaganda, PR,lies and misinformation of “the other side” are much “better”. Can´t we do anything about that? I try to hope it is not too late.

  • Ben Dor A. says

    Hello Daniel

    What a sad moment for Jews, specially in the USA.

    Education starts at home, not in the universities.

    One might assume that after all the genocides, exiles, pogroms and Holocaust that the Jewish nation suffered during the last 2,000 years would make, at least Jews, study their sad history and think before they react or attack Israel and it’s leaders.

    Prof’ David S. Wyman wrote about The Abandonment of the Jews. This happened only 65 years ago. The book reviews and summarizes the US and British archives during WWII.
    I highly recommend the Jews in the US, specially students to read this book. They may learn something yet.a
    It can happen again. It may even begin in the US. One only has to open his eyes and mind to the way the tide is turning against the state of Israel and the Jews these last 10 years to understand what is going on.

    Obama is leading the way to a terrible disaster in the ME.

    This is a wake up call to the Jews in the USA. Don’t feel too smug!!!

    If Israel goes down, so would the Jews all over the world.
    A Jew is a Jew no matter even if he became a Catholic by force 600 years ago during the inquisition in Spain and Portugal, or fought for the German Wiemar during WWI. His fate is predetermined by the gentiles.
    150,000 quarter and half Jews fought for Germany in the Wehrmacht (Bryan Mark Rigg) during WWII. All were exterminated by Hitler.

  • These students are graduating from Brandeis?! Their professors (and, sadly, perhaps their parents) have earned an F for obviously failing to provide these students with any knowledge of history – and for their failure to instill any appreciation for the meaning of living in a democratic country.

  • DrDave says

    Did the faculty at Brandeis spend four years removing their students’ spines?

    It seems to me that having a polarizing figure who will force students to give deep and serious thought to a relevant contemporary problem would be exactly the sort of person a university should invite to give its commencement address.

    Wake up, kiddies. It’s a tough world out there with difficult choices to make. It’s even tougher when you realize that you have to live with the consequences of your decisions.

  • Anne Rothenberg says

    I tried to post Gordis’ article on the website of Brandeis’ newpaper without any luck. Perhaps someone more computer savvy than I could do so. The paper’s site is http://www.brandeishoot.com and an article you may want to read in it is http://thebrandeishoot.com/articles/8036

  • Whenever Israel’s situation is diluted down to dogma and lowest-common-denominator platitudes, we Jews lose. Our enemy is naivete. If these students had not thought simplistically, and had instead looked at the situation with nuance and discernment, they could not have helped but reach different conclusions. DG’s examples of what those on both sides could have written illustrate this. Shallow is easy, deep is hard. But deep is important.

  • Melodie Rosenfeld says

    An absolutely excellently written article. I will send it wide & far so that American Jews and Jewish educators can start waking up in order to do some exercises in values-clarification.

  • Elena says

    Sad. Disturbing. Scary.
    Unfortunately, students are not to blame. As many other Americans and Canadians, they are victims to the daily brainwashing by media and education system. And that’s the real issue – total misinformation, on the background of hundreds years of open and “closet” antisemitism.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have a good solution. More talented and honest writers/orators who is given an opportunity to speak? Apparently, it doesn’t work. Also, people have to visit Israel to start critically think and filter the tons of misinformation that’s coming to us in so called “free press”.
    Personally, I continue sending “Dispatches” to other people who don’t have enough information and is interested in learning more. That’s less than a drop in the ocean, though.

  • Gary Grad says

    The question is….why? Why is the attitude on campuses here what it is? I have college age kids. My sense is the problem is articulating an adequate explanation to them of why be Jewish…..why it matters. Why Israel…..why does she matter? A myth based on fragile existence, victimization, fear of annihilation…..simply does not resonate with the reality of their life experience. We must articulate a credible, personal purpose and destiny to our children….and ourselves…..regarding being Jewish and having a Jewish homeland. Surviving the holocaust, and the past decades of antisemetism and antizionism was the meaning, purpose and destiny of our and recent past generations…..Now what? Dayenu? Is that it? That isn’t enough for many American college kids anymore. There is a higher destiny and purpose we all share. We have the luxury of freedom, influence, affluence, and choice to reconnect to that destiny, as Jews, as Zionists, As Yerushalmists……Let’s contemplate, articulate in a better way the covenant of destiny we share as Jews, in galut or in Haaretz, religious and secular, young and old.

  • Harriet Flashkenburg says

    How sad. What has happened to Jewish education? What has happened to truth.What have we done to our children? Israel is so right in protecting itself and owning all the land captured in ’67. That which was given to form a “Palestinian State” has been disgraced by the Palestinian leaders. Jordan keeps quiet. Egypt and Jordan never were made responsible by the rest of the world to take in the refugees to their countries as Israel has taken in refugees not wanted by any other country.

  • Harry Waizer says

    As a parent of three Brandeis students, I can tell you that those who protest Ambassador Oren’s presence at Brandeis are not representative of much of the Jewish student body – in fact I sense they are a distinct minority. My children forwarded a petition to me that has been circulating, one that I happily signed, supporting Ambassador Oren’s presence at Brandeis. Unfortunately, as we have seen here with the Tea Party phenomenon, a small number of vocal protestors can get a disproportionate amount of press.
    I am not a right winger – on Israel or otherwise. I believe Israel has made mistakes and continues to make them. Can anyone name any country, or for that matter, any organization or individual, of whom this is not true? But I stand with Israel, as I think many of us quietly do. One can be to the left on the political spectrum and share the view that it is right to support Israel even as we raise questions about particular policies. We don’t support family because they are always right; we support them because they are family and, as Mr. Gordis points out, in this case family in whom we have so many reasons to feel great pride. But one point I do take to heart in Mr. Gordis’ article is that the defense of Israel and Ambassador Oren by those who support them has been too anemic. I do plan to share that concern with my children and their friends.
    As for Brandeis, please remember, the university invited Ambassador Oren and stuck to its guns when the noisy few protested. I say Kol HaKavod to Brandeis. My children and I, together with many other students and parents, look forward with pride to seeing him and hearing him speak at the commencement.

  • bruce sommers says

    We have seen the enemy and it is US. As each succeeding generation of Jews assimilates into the main fabric of American life, we dilute our Jewish heritage through intermarriage and the casual attitude of parents (us) towards the cultural and religious life of our families. Is it any wonder, therefore, that our kids have little relationship with Israel? The future can only devolve toward total apathy regarding the State of Israel and Judaism in general if we continue down this path.

  • Norman Singer says

    I also wonder what messages their Professors have been giving them over their 4 years of ‘study’.

    Does anyone have any insight into this?

  • Judith Eisner says

    When I was about 17 or so, Ambassador Abba Eban came to our shul and spoke to the congregation.

    I was thrilled to have an Israeli ambassador visit with us, and even more thrilled to have Abba Eban speak. It was a very “up close and personal” moment for me.

    Many many years later I can still remember the day and what he said.

    How sad that the Brandeis contingent has such little respect for Israel, for its goals and for those of us who support Israel wholeheartedly. I do not have many good things to say about liberal Jewish thinking of late and this just emphasizes all the bad. have even less good to say about the universities that are “supposed” to be teaching the younger generation. Brandeis should hang its collective heads in shame.

    The more history is repeated the more likely we are to suffer the consequences.

  • Brandeis U.has not been noted for emphasis on recruiting Jewish students.Many years ago when my son visited the campus we were not impressed by the individuals who greated us and provided campus info.They weren’t even Jewish.So we were very disappointed and my son attended M.I.T instead.
    What kind of student body does Brandeis now have?Does Hillel exert any influence on student attitudes towards present day Israel?Perhaps
    knowledgeable Israel friendly oriented former Brandeis graduates should be encouraged to counteract this anti-Israel sentiment in the Jewish student body at Brandeis.
    Arriving in Haifa in 1949 with an American shipment of dairy cattle I witnessed the terrible conditions of the Sephardim who were expelled from North African countries just for being Jews after Israel won their War of Independence.With compassion,these Jewish brethren were placed in marbarot,cared for,and then sent to homes.
    No compensation was ever demanded from those Muslim countries that expelled these Jews.
    How did the Palestinian Muslims fare from their brethren?They were dumped into camps and the United Nations was forced to feed and care for them even to this very day.The rich oil-rich Arab nations have not provided any humanity aid except weaponry to cause death and destruction for the Jewish nation.Let us concentrate on placing the welfare of Israel foremost on our agenda.Anti-semitism is a world disease and cannot be eradicated and must be fought with vigor wearever it appears.Now it is appearing in Western European nations in the form of Muslim radicalism,well-organized and
    on campuses and retail businesses that are being boycotted.
    Let us all be aware of what is happening world-wide and expend our energies in fighting anti-semitism whether articulated by non-caring,disloyal Jews to Israel or enemies of the Jewish State.

  • Alan Lasnover, MD says

    Here is just another fine example of America’s current generation of spoiled-rotten children!

  • Phyllis Kopp says

    For years it has been painfully obvious that Israel’s story and successes are absent from our media which is filled with irrelevant rantings about celebrities instead of hard core news. What are the schools teaching about Israel? Where is our lobby to stand STROJNG and get the message across that Israel is a great nation? We still have time to turn this negativity around, unless, of course, there is censorship somewhere. If it is any comfort, I belong to several citizen groups supportive of law enforcement. Amnong most police personnel, Israel is held in high regard. Maybe it is generational. We Jews have a duty to educate our children about the facts and fill them with pride in their religion, their history, and in Israel.

  • Kenneth Katz says

    The beginning of wisdom is realism. And it is realism to understand that the American Jews of 2010 are not the American Jews of 1970.

    Most American Jews are liberals. They are pro-Israel, but to be honest it is a low priority. If tossing Israel to the wolves is the price for gay marriage, for partial birth abortion, for sticking it to the conservative Christians, for getting into the swanky universities, then to the wolves Israel will go. To understand that, replace George Bush with Barack Obama in the article, and just imagine how the Brandeis students would go ballistic.

    Many American Jews are leftists. To them, Israel is at best an embarrassment and at worst demonic.

    Israel has a strong base of support in the United States; it just doesn’t include most Jews. Until people understand that reality, then discussing where to go from here is pointless.

  • Leslie Martin says

    How ironic. As a Brandeis student, ’72-’76, it was often difficult to engage students in social justice issues OTHER than those involving Israel, to my great disappointment. Unless it involved Israel, many turned a blind eye.

    I have always believed that Brandeis should require first-year students to take a class in the history of the Jewish people, including Israel and the founding of the university itself. I doubt that many students are aware that Jews left everything behind when forced to flee (name your North African or Middle Eastern country here). Or how Hadassah built the health care system in the Middle East. Unless a student of history or Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis, it’s quite possible to graduate knowing none of this.

    So, Brandeis, take a stand. Require the class. Teach this diligently to our children.

  • miriam biskin says

    How sad that so many young people are ignorant of the fates of their own fellow Jews in our long past and recent present.

  • Michael Kligfeld says

    As an alumnus, a parent of an alumna, and a lifelong supporter of Brandeis, I am shocked, saddened and disgusted by the incredible ignorance and intolerance of the Brandeis Justice in its words about Ambassador Oren. If the Brandeis “liberal” tradition (we were freedom riders in my generation) means swallowing the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda and judging Israel by a double standard, then the proud university which I attended has sunk to a terrible low.

  • I made a phone call to “The Justice” and have sent an email to the editor-in-chief requesting that he publish your article with the link (I don’t care about getting sued!)..It is tragic that the propaganda arm of the Palestinian extremists is so successful..At any rate- I hope he will publish it- at the very least- I had a very intense and long conversation with the student who answered the phone, and she was excited about the fact that “someone cared enough to bring the other point-of-view to the paper. My own take is yes- it is our fault that the PR out of Israel has been so weak and is only now beginning to “wake up” ( the Ministry of Tourism’s commercials are excellent)–But..the campus issue is really important and it should be up to the Hillel groups to face it and become more pro-active on campus and become more of an “or lagoyim”…

  • Neal Gendler says

    Amen to Ari, above. The situation makes two problems stand out.

    The one easier, but more costly, to reduce is to continue and enlarge programs in Israel for young people. Even Birthright’s brief trips appear to be a good value in increasing young people’s awareness of and interest in Israel. My sons, in their 20s are, like me, are political liberals and strong supporters of Israel. One reason is that my wife and I skipped a lot of self-indulgences to send the boys to Alexander Muss’s seven-week summer high school in Israel, where they learned the 3,000-year history of Jews in the Eretz while traveling and hiking through it. I wish there was a way to correlate young Jews’ appalling opposition to Israel with their having visited it. I think that nothing makes young people supportive of Israel more than going there — especially meeting young Israelis.

    The cheaper but more-difficult problem is the Israeli idea implanted by Ben Gurion that “it doesn’t matter what the goyim think, only what Jews do.” Sadly, the opposite is proving true; no matter what good Israelis do (and in the medical field alone it’s enormous), the notion of Israel as a source of evil continues to grow.

    Some of the smartest people in advertising and public relations are Jews, and I am confident that many could be recruited to develop superb plans to help Israel better sell itself to the world (as Israel 21c is working to do). But my impression is that Israelis aren’t much interested. As a nation, Israel doesn’t seem to grasp the need to get its story out — and in crisis, out in the same news cycle as the event causing the crisis. I agree that only Israelis have the right to determine Israel’s policies, but they should less-often shrug off ideas that weren’t thought up there.

    One area in which Israel could improve its image greatly at no cost is by shunning news media, academic and politicans who abuse freedom of speech to the point of sedition. Yes, each of us has a right to an opinion — no matter how stupid — but the rest of us have the right to ignore them. We also can shun arrogant, chutzpadik North Americans who think they have a right to tell Israelis what risks to take with their lives and the lives of their children. That’s why I consider the behavior of organizations such as J Street not only wrong-headed but even immoral.

  • Moishe (Thomas) Goldstein says

    Shachor ani – Israel may be

    V’ – nevertheless, Israel is so


    Enjoy a Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach and a relaxing and pleasant Mother’s Day weekend.


  • Bernard Shuster says

    This most disturbing situation, among Jewish students, and indeed amnong many young Jews may well be due to the fact that they accept Israel as a fait accompli.They base their views on the strength of the Israeli military and the Israeli economy.Their main philosophy is why doesn’t Israel take a chance,they can always win the next war.The problem with this position, is that Israel’s existence remains at play.God forbid that Iran should get it’s hands on nuclear weapons.We need to make young people more aware of what the world was like before 1948,all Jews were in a more perilous situation, then, and would be more so,would Israel ever be defeated,God forbid.

  • ken stein says

    how little education there is in a “college educations.” how many history credits are required to graduate? worse, who are the teachers of history? what do these young people know about the 20th century? perhaps they believe there is something egalitarian about denigrating one’s own; perhaps it masks their insecurity. i wonder. when one looks at the achievements of the jewish people over the centuries, despite all odds, one can only conclude that they are the eighth wonder of the world; .2% of the world’s population have received 20% of all the nobel prizes ever awarded (reminder: they are given by the swedes for significant contributions to humankind). how many nobel prizes went up the chimneys of europe.
    one can only conclude that at brandeis, as is so often the case elsewhere in our wonderful country, a degree is awarded for “showing up” and not much more.
    perhaps the israeli way is better; first serve your country for a few years. i’m sure that very few, if any, of these people have ever served anyone other than their friends a beer.
    given this level of discourse, would anyone hire a brandeis graduate?

  • Bar Giora says

    It is most likely that in 100 years, all Jews will live in Israel; there will be no Jewish leadership in the Galut, no real diaspora (prophecy was of course given only to the deranged after the destruction of the Temple).

    What is wrong with an Israel with 7-8M Jews and few charedim communities here and there?

    NILI. -BG2

  • Raymond Karnes says

    I am not Jewish nor am I that knowledgeable of Judaism for my friends of that faith are few. However, I could shed tears in learning of this idiocy. Have these children done no research? Have they not read any history? Are they ignorant of the holocaust?
    Sadly, it seems to say a lot about the modern campus environment. Meek administrators more concerned with PC than knowledge and students easily led, revealing a shallowness that bodes poorly for Judaism and democracy in general.

  • Brandeis Student says

    Hi, I just wanted to comment on this as a current Brandeis student. I do not have a personal stance on this issue, and I definitely do not speak for everyone on campus. But I did want to point out many mistakes in this piece and comments. Many on campus are very pro-Israel, in fact, we just had a celebration for Israel Independence Day. Hillel is very active on campus and we have a kosher dining hall. Many of my friends are firm supporters of Israel and others are Israelis themselves.

    People are not against having Michael Oren on campus in general. The very nature of Brandeis means that events involving Israel or the Middle East seem to create even more tensions than in other places. There was a campus event involving the Goldstone Report earlier in the year attended by both sides of the issue. Students welcome debate even in this divisive subject. I think people would really support having him speak at his own event. The main concern at Brandeis is that having a high-profile figure representing a controversial issue will change the nature of graduation. It upsets seniors that their graduation may be upstaged by a debate on Israel or Oren’s policies. It also upsets them that the administration probably knew that people would have issues with this, but did not seem to care. To the best of my knowledge, it is the issue that creates the most tensions at Brandeis, and addressing those at graduation may not be the best bet.
    I hope this clears up some concerns.

  • Brandeis Student says

    I’m sorry I also wanted to add another comment.
    There is a difference between having an event for Michael Oren and having him as a graduation speaker. Students who do not agree with him can choose not to attend an event. They can’t choose not to attend their graduation. This puts people in a very difficult position in one of the most contentious issues at Brandeis on one of the most important days at Brandeis.
    While I support Michael Oren’s right to free speech, and at this point agree that protesting against it is not useful or helpful, I also think that the administration needs to think harder about their choices in the future.

  • Larry Weinman says

    There is a problem with lack of identification with israel among jewish youth it begins at age 8 in the home not at age 18 due to radical influences on campus. and a pr campaign by smart jews in advertising wont change things…we need to look in the mirror. More jewish involvement in the pre college years = more identification with Israel. Dont blame the radical profs or the muslim student org on campus they dont have much impact on kids with strong jewish backgrounds coming into university.

    And no the muslims at UCI have not won at US universities. Amb Oren spoke on the same so cal trip to UC San Diego and LMU with respectful audiences and UCLA was disappointed he didnt visit. Pre Ambship Oren was a visiting scholar at harvard yale and gwu Anti Ahmanejidad jewish students far outnumbered any supporters when he came to columbia. UCLA just appointed an israeli prof to an endowed chair in israel studies. UC Berkeley jewish students mobilized and defeated the anti divestment proposal. There are problems but the muslim students of UCI have not won,

  • Yossi says

    The pain, feeling of isolation, worries about the future of Israel are all sad, very sad indeed. They are all part of the Jewish psyche that refuses to remove the shackles of the past. I am glad to see that people hold Israel to higher moral standards than some Palestinian organizations.

    No mention (except in passing) is made of the atrocities (yes, atrocities) that some of the settlers subject poor (yes, poor, 60 year old beaten unconscious on his way to his olive grove) Palestinians. Just as one says (true) that Israeli society is not monolithic, so is Palestinian society.

    Instead of lashing out at this or that (Israeli at some American Jews and the converse): Stop wining; look inward; strength does not come from rhetoric, self pity and righteousness. It comes from inside, self examination, self criticism and inner morals.

    Forget about Jewish students in the US, about Hamas not recognizing Israel, and on and on and on.

    Look inward, hold yourself to high standards and do right. Regardless of the rewards. That is strength!

  • Miles says

    I have not yet heard who Brandeis has chosen as a substitute for Ambassador Oren; however, I think Capt. Kangaroo or Ronald McDonald might be apt choices. Perhaps they could explain the concept of Cognitive Dissonance to the Brandeis student body. It is something every college graduate should understand but apparently it is missing from the Brandeis curriculum.

  • Jane Idell says

    I’m not surprised. When my daughter was looking at colleges in 2002 we visited Brandeis. Looking at the postings on the bulletin boards for left causes and just hearing the talk of the girl who led the college tour was a big turn-off. Neither my daughter or son, who are only a year apart, felt compelled to even apply to Brandeis.
    They are losing their base of support.

  • A. Singer says

    I am a senior senior who remembers the pre-Israel Hitler era well. I cried after reading your article, knowing full well the Jewish blood cost of achieving the Jewish Homeland and the on-going cost of keeping it viable.
    What is happening on college campuses among Jewish students shows the ignorance of their own history. Their traitorous behavior can be explained as stupidity. But, where are their parents? Sending children off to college does not abrogate parental guidance. We must all emphasize the many good qualities of Israel to counter the enduring hatred taught Pale-stinean children.
    My lifetime of Jewish history will never be repeated as long as Israel exists, and its existence is dependent on all Jews.

  • Barbara Starr says

    The motto of my alma mater, UCLA, is
    “Let there be light” but it appears
    this is simply an empty slogan for
    Brandeis, UCI,UCB and UCD. The students seem to prefer darkness to enlightenment.

  • Saul Rapkin says

    I think the saddest comment above is from the Brandeis student who has no strong feelings about the issue, but thought that the debate would somehow detract from the graduation! Perhaps s/he is not Jewish and accordingly does not see the importance of Israel as an issue. That, itself speaks volumes about how little s/he understands the world in which we live. This individual is in for a rude awaking when s/he has to deal with real world situations after graduation.

  • nathan shuster says

    Think Gaza, assasinations, displacement, evictions. appropriations, creating facts while ostensibly negotiating and you will understand why Israel is in such dire straits in the international community. It might be of little importance if Israel is an island. But it is not and that why what is happening is of such importance.

  • israp says

    In the year 2010, most Jews both in Israel and outside, realize that Israel’s purpose for world Jewry was to provide a sense of national pride and security as well a reduction of anti-semitism. Well it certainly heightened Jewish self esteem but in the area of security it has failed in spades. In the past Jews suffered immensely from mainly European antisemitism and now that poison has metastisised to Asia, Africa and just about everywhere else on the globe. The existence of Israel didn’t make life safer for Jews in the world. If anything, it made life riskier. It didn’t decrease anti-Semitism; it probably increased it. Israel as the lifeboat, a safe haven, has turned out to be mirage.

    In 1947 when Israel was created there were 30 milion Arabs and some 600,000 Jews in the Midlle East. Now there are barely 6 million Jews and some 360 Milion Arabs. And supporting the Arabs are 1.6 billion Muslims. The demographic time bomb is ticking. If in the improbable likelihood that every Jew in the world immigrated to Israel, it would hardly make a dent in the imbalance. Israel needs peace through reconciliation like an infant needs its mother’s milk. Israel has been successful in wars against Nation states. It has lost both encounters with a non conventional foe, namely Hizbollah.

    Israel has not decades to spare, that is not a luxury that is available to it. Israel must restart the peace making engagement as soon as possible. That is a vital imperative.

    There are few people indeed that believe that the Palestinians are the devils incarnate and Israel is wholly on the side of Angels. Least of all anyone well informed in current history. The last time pressure was applied on Israel in a concerted manner, the efforts led to the Egyptian-Israel treaty. Obama now must emulate this model to save both Israel and the Palestinians from an endless cycle of war and violence . Most Jews instinctively realize that Obama is no enemy of Israel. He remains Israel’s last real hope for peace. The demonizing of Obama as anti-Israel and antisemitic is wholly fallacious. Every American President since Eisenhower had in its mid-east policy the hope for a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israel conflict . Obama has been acting in line with this policy.

  • Mike Winakur says

    I have been reading Dr. Gordis’ dispatches for several years. His words have always been inspirational, thought-provoking, and informative. This essay, however, made me sick to my stomach. Reading the words above from the Bradeis student only made the nausea worse.

    We have failed to transmit our history and our values to our children but we are not totally to blame. Like the tiny country of Israel, we struggle to speak the truth while the huge leftist media machine drowns out our voices. We send our impressionable young people to college campuses where they are exposed to constant leftist propaganda. We are fighting a losing battle. Our children’s Jewish identity has been the first casualty. The survival of the State of Israel may be next.

    Kol HaKavod to Dr. Gordis for speaking the truth. Jewish parents wake up. “Liberalism” may be a Jewish tradition but today’s leftism is our enemy.

  • Ben Dor A. says

    Gary Grad – wrote
    The question is….why? Why is the attitude on campuses here what it is? I have college age kids. My sense is the problem is articulating an adequate explanation to them of why be Jewish…..why it matters. Why Israel…..why does she matter? A myth based on fragile existence, victimization, fear of annihilation…..simply does not resonate with the reality of their life experience.

    I do not have all the answers but I’l try my best to relay my thoughts:

    Circa 3,800 BCE our Forefathers made a covenant with God:
    Genesis Chapter 15: 18 In that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates;

    Circa 3,300 BCE God gave us the 10 Commandments.

    According to dating of the text by Orthodox rabbis, though some place it earlier, that the revelation of the Torah to Moses occurred in 1312 BCE at Mount Sinai. Contemporary secular biblical scholars date the completion of the Torah, as well as the prophets and the historical books, no earlier than the Persian period (539 to 334 BCE)

    The Tanach is the most significant, important and might I add magnificent book ever composed and written by human beings, yes our forefathers – Jews.

    They brought monotheism to the world, law & order, science, medicine, poetry & wisdom. From Judaism 2 other monotheistic religions derived – Christianity and Islam. All 3 faiths believe in God and our forefathers.

    To really appreciate the beauty and greatness of the Bible, one needs to read and study it in it’s original Hebrew text.

    I’m not going to repeat here how many Jews received the Nobel Prize and their achievements. You can look it up.

    I will also not bring here all the scientific and medical inventions Israel brought to this world since its inception. Imagine what the results would have been with another 6 million Jews. (Just calculate the amount of terrabites lost 65 years ago.)

    To understand better the phenomena in the US, suggest you read the following article:



  • June Levy says

    Wonderful article.
    Wonderful replies.
    So many words.
    Wonder who reads them all.
    Perhaps Israel needs Hasbara like in a the pasdt Myth and Fact thing on the web some many years ago.
    As in What Israel Wants versus the other side’s wants
    What Israel does versus what the other side does.
    It’ll be long list.
    It should be easy to read any place anywhere.
    Just some plain facts.
    And thats enough.
    We’ll survive anyway.

  • Just to mention–those on the facebook group in support of Oren, at this point (May 9th, 2010) outnumber those on the page against:

  • Gary Grad says

    Ben Dor writes “education starts at home.”

    I can only speak from my experience. My children went to day school through high school. They speak fluent Hebrew and can study tanach in Hebrew. They have travalled to Israel many times and some have spent prolonged time there. They identify proudly as Jews and as Zionists. And yet….though they beam with pride about past Jewish accomplishments, their sense of destiny, of future Jewish purpose, is diluted by a persistence of seeing our sole purpose as survival only for the sake of survival, in a world against us. Diluted by seeing denominations in America making the survival of the denomination more important than a common Jewish Destiny. Institutions are built with the expressed mission of getting Jewish kids to marry Jewish, not with a sense of purpose of being Jewish. Our kids want to make the WORLD a better place. What we teach makes them better Jews, or conservative Jews, or orthodox, or reform Jews. Until we emphasize a common destiny, a common purpose, that we have a mission for the world, we are and must be “or l’goyim” in a real tikkun of the world beyond ourselves, I am afraid they won’t completely buy in. Our generations may have been about “if we are not for ourselves…..” They now ache, on a global scale, for the “if we are only for ourselves, what are we. At the Seder we say beach year, “next year in Yerushalyim!” For thenpast many generations, that resonated as a passionate prayer for a literal, physical hope and vision. For our kids, it’s an easy airplane ride. The desperate passionate plea and hope just doesn’t resonate as such for them. We must articulate a hope and purpose and desire that they can proclaim the same each peach whith as much passion and hope and ache, as did the literal for many generations. Next year b’yerushalayim…..as the literal, but also as a metaphor for a different world, a better world, a kinder world, a world coming together, not apart. That is what college kids seek on a spiritual level. It is what being a Jew is ultimately about. It is nothing new. But we now have the ability to reemphasize that purpose. We can’t blame the kids or the schools for kids clinging to anti zionistic or anti-Jewish ideology. We must articulate an ideology for Judaism and Zionism which resonates viscerally and deep for them just as survival itself did for us as a post-holocaust generation, and so many before us.

  • M says

    Dear Mr Gordis, thank you for your article. As i have said in previous occassions in this forum, although obviously misunderstood by some of the replys to my statement, American interests donot always clearly dove-tail with Israeli interests. Let me get more specific. American Jewish interests do not always seem to align with Israeli interests. For me, my Jewish connection is deeper than my American, Australian or other nationalities, deeper than being human, deeper than being a man. This is because, I think, my Jewish identity is written in my soul. And, Eretz Israel seems to me to be connected to my soul as well. However, I did not realise this until I visited Israel for the 1st time, at age 45, 18 months ago. How could that be possible? I attended Orthodox ‘Hebrew School’ as a child in LA, from Brooklyn, wore Tzitsis to public school so i wouldnt have to change after school, but at home my parents didnt even light candles and my father only went to shul when pressed on High Holidays. We were not very observant. Contradictions abound. In any case, every year i watched hundreds of Americans send money to Israel for trees and the like, many of us living in very poor accomodations with little money. (I’m not sure if many Israeli’s now even realise how poor people in America sent and send money to Israel; i don’t think poor Israeli’s think much about poor Jews in Los Angeles with no jobs or health cover; do they?) In any case, only 35 to 40% of American Jews have even visited Israel. That’s it. As compared to almost 85% of Australian Jews. Many American Jews have by in large lost a connection to Israel; that is, if they ever had one in the 1st place, that went beyond their prayer books. If they ever opened a prayer book. Most of the ‘reformed’ Jews I grew up with were happy to completely neglect the holiday commandments and actually enjoyed immensley trying to get chametz into me during Pesach–it was a joke to them. I have read many of your books. They fed my hunger on return from that 1st trip to Israel. We are hopefully returning soon–this time for maybe 3-4 months with our 9 yr old. But, i still dont think you have spelled out what you most probably think is the bleeding obvious: Why is Israel important and irreplaceable to the American Jew growing up in New York, LA, San Francisco, or Austin Tx for that matter? What aside from your meaningful employment in Jerusalem, kept you glued to the land in your 1st 10 years, during the intifada, while your kids grew up and went off to do their service? Why didn’t you return to the states to live–did you ever get close? How did you persoanally make that choice to stay the course? What are the 5+ million Jews in America missing out by not moving to Israel? By not even understanding what Israel means in the world. Let alone the stellar diplomat and historian, Mr Oren.

  • Chanah from Israel says

    Though I also find this disturbing, I also remember back on my college days. We thought we were so smart, demonstrating against this and that. In my day at my American university, it was civil rights for blacks AND the Vietnam war. This was the time of the Kent State University massacre, so we were incensed and a huge group protested. Our demonstrations closed down the school mid-May 1970, my senior year, so I didn’t have finals, but graduated anyway. I also was an anti-Semitic Jew, because I was really very naive about the true nature of the world. I remember being pro-Palestinian too. Now I’m an ultra-Conservative Israeli! I’ve learned a lot since then. Our education seems to start AFTER graduation, since we get such a poor facsimile of a liberal arts education at colleges in the USA.

    I think this reveals the shallowness of the education in today’s universities (and even back in 1970). These kids are obviously not learning how to think, how to search for truth, how to evaluate what the media says. I only had access to the liberal media back then, being a normal Jewish liberal. No one stood up for Israel in my small shallow community, even the Jews in it, which were small in number.

    Fact is, somehow, then and now, youth are NOT being encouraged to study both sides of the issues. They only see the liberal spin. And of course, our campus and I assume most campuses today had their share of middle eastern students, spreading their lies of persecution by Israel. Hillels and other pro-Israel groups (Caravans for Democracy, I think) are trying to balance the scales a little for Israel, but I guess not at Brandeis.

    Here’s a question I haven’t heard anyone bring up:

    If the so-called Palestinians (a farce and fabricated people group) really want their own state so much, how come they’re asking that all the “refugees” who left Israel in 1948 should be welcomed back by Israel? Why wouldn’t they all want to go live in the New Palestine? These Arabs are banging on the door of Israel to let them live here, when they are supposed to be getting their own state. It makes no sense to me, except that it proves that the Muslims don’t want a new state so much as they want to destroy Israel and the Jews…. And after the Jews, the Christians and the rest of western civilization.

    Well, Men plan, G-d laughs… and regardless of what is going on, Israel is still – and will be – the best and safest place for Jews. Our economy is going well, our banks are doing well (even though we all complain that they keep our money and give little back, but charge us every time we walk in their doors), and we get along on a lot less income here. Life here is a miracle, which gives us hope that things will turn around and we’ll prevail, as Torah says.

  • Russell Gaddin says

    So sorry to offend – but it’s a religious matter. I’m not suggesting it’s a Haredi or Chabad or Aish versus the totally secular, but it’s not that far off either.
    The old joke about the immigrant son from Eastern Europe, explaining to his mother why he doesn’t keep Shabbat anymore, being asked by his traditional Yiddishe Momma. “are you still Brissed (circumcized)?
    American Jews have become too rich – too successful, too don’t give a damn, too pompous to even understand there’s a problem.
    So what if I marry “out” and our children have no religious anchor. Judaism is more than Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv. More than Kippa and Tallith more than High Holy days – it is a value system!
    American Jews are more concerned today about not offending their non Jewish friends, partners, neighbours, teamates etc than they are about protecting, remembering, passing down and teaching Jewish values.
    The Left wing “JStreet’ers” are the enememy at our gates. It is no doubt Progress/Reform based. For those who doubt this and exclaim – “My family are P/R and don’t conform with this view” – wait another 5 or 10 years and your families too will be lost to the Jewish people.
    At the end of WW2 there were 13 and a half million Jews in the world and today the number is similar. The numbers are a increasing Liberal- Left (mostly in the USA) with a growing extreme Right, who don’t support Yom HaShoah, Yom Ha Zicharon, Yom Ha’Atmaut, the prayer for the State of Israel and the singing of Hatikvah.
    This is not the crazy’s but Chabad, Aish, Ohr Sameach – your friendly neighbourhood Jewish fundraiser.
    So where do we Jews as a people and our wonderful state of Israel go from here?
    It’s not just the fault of the poor PRO of the Israeli Government, who cannot even defend the country fom the Blood Libel of the disgraceful Mohammed Al Dura affair (which most of you wouldn’t even remember unless you saw the picture of the supposed poor Palestinian youth sheltering from Israeli bullets behind his “actor” father).
    The Israeli’s are a wonderful, decent, intelligent and moral people with a moral army who could completely destroy their enemy neighbours in a day or two if they were not so.
    Perhaps we are destined to remain a tiny minority of people, victims of everlasting anti-semitism, blamed for the ills of the world.
    I do not see myself as an Orthodox Jew in the true sense of the meaning and certainly not Progressive. I am a Jewish Nationalist whp believes that without an Israel, Jews will sooner or later not exist as a people.
    The solution lies within each and every one of us and not by looking for someone else to do the job. You and me are todays carrier of the flame – do not drop it.

  • Danny, As usual I agree with your comments. It is scary and unfortunate that Brandeis students couldn’t come up with the types of responses that you suggest, and that even pro-Israel students cannot confidently articulate their positions. But I want to interject a ray of hope into the conversation.

    American University recently hosted Michael Oren to speak on our campus about the U.S./Israel relationship. The visit was widely cosponsored, not just by our Center for Israel Studies, Hillel and Pro-Israel Student group, but by 3 colleges in the university. Predictably, an anti-Israel protest was planned, and students from other area colleges invited to protest before and after the speech. There were a few dozen vocal anti-Israel and pro-Israel demonstrators outside the building where he spoke.

    However, in this case I saw an audience intently listening to this effective orator explain his government’s position about the long multi-faceted history of U.S./Israel relations and current issues in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Ambassador Oren was introduced by (Pakistani) Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, chair in Islamic Studies, who talked about the need for dialogue amongst all brothers of the Abrahamic heritage. In particular he talked about the need to listen to one another in order to move toward peace. The Muslim chaplain of the university was also in the audience, and all of the Student Life staff spoke with students throughout the week regarding how to effectively articulate their positions. Ambassador Ahmed did not pull punches when he asked Oren about Jerusalem, and several Muslim students asked tough questions about deportations and occupation, but the questions were thoughtful and so were the answers. Clearly not everyone in the audience agreed with Oren. In fact, four times during his speech he was disrupted by students who stood up quietly with anti-Israel signs for several seconds and exited silently. As the third group was exiting, Ambassador Oren said he would prefer that they stay and ask questions, which drew wide applause!

    All in all the response was exceedingly warm, and students came away I believe with a greater understanding of the many aspects of the U.S./Israel relationship and the countries’ shared values. It is unrealistic to think that Israel will overcome its challenges overnight or win over all its detractors. I am proud that this university continues to present an effective model of civil discourse on challenging foreign policy issues and appropriate first amendment dissent. American University has a history of open dialogue. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first international chapter of One Voice was started at American University and that pro-Israel and pro-Palestine students engage in “town hall” meetings to better understand one another and move to overcome the prejudices they have been taught. You can read about Ambassador Oren’s visit at http://www.american.edu/cas/news/detail.cfm?newsID=2BDD420B-9D77-B6CA-4D6CF0FA85266E09

  • Michal C. says

    First, I think that your previous column – on the decline of the “peoplehood” concept, should be read in conjunction with this one.

    Second, re: “No longer is Israel understood to be the very country that created the sense of security and belonging that American Jews – and these very students – now take completely for granted.”

    Perhaps because Israel didn’t create that sense of security and belonging; American Jews created it by their own hard work and contributions to American society which predated the existence of the modern state of Israel.

    I think you miss the point. This isn’t about the Palestinians and how Israel treats them. This is about an Israel where Reform and Conservative Jews are not welcome, where corruption is rampant, where weary taxpayers work to support the ever growing, non-contributing haredi sector, where women are detained for wearing a tallit at the kotel, where the government feels free to ignore Bagatz rulings but kowtows to Badatz rulings. Jewish American students are not naive enough to buy the image of Israel as automatically deserving of their blind support. Either address their concerns with seriousness, or don’t be surprised when they choose to spend their energies (and funds) elsewhere.

  • alan goldstein says

    If some of these kids grew up in the 50’s or 60’s, when I grew up, they might feel as pround of Israel as I do. I grew up with Israel, lived through the wars and hardships, and can not believe how wonderful a place it is. I just finished reading the book StartUp Nation, and I think if they got a chance to read it, their views would be different. The students who are against Israel are way too comfortable in their ivory towers, and have life too easy. They might not have experienced antisemitism as I have, and it’s pretty easy to be so liberal when their parents support all their activities. Also, remember, that liberals are very consumed with the rest of world liking them, and they are quite insecure in their Jewish identity. I would like to see if they would change their attitudes if, heaven forbid, there were a progrom here. That might set them straight. I can’t stand it when Jews shoot themselves in the foot, and boy oh boy, some of them are real good at it.

  • Fred Schoenberg says

    These students do not realize that to the gentile world there is no differentiation between an Israeli and a Jew. Being Jews, in the final analysis, their contemporaries see them as Israelis by proxi. In order to be sure they aren’t seen that way they are buying into the terribly false premise that they themselves are so objective that they see the plight of the so called
    “Palestinians” and that it is at the hands of the Israelis. It used to be that Brandeis students were among the brightest and most inquisitive. I defy any one of these students to study the history of the people and the land that is now Israel and come to any conclusion other than the Israelis ie. Jews, have every right to be there and that the “Palestinians refugees” are nothing other than an Arab created group being used specifically to rid their corner of their world of Democracy. These students are buying into the concept that they are truly different than their bretheren and want the world to know it. This is not dissimilar to the Jews of Germany in the 30s that cooperated with the Nazis believing that they would be accepted as not being “that kind”. When these students come to learn that they are aiding and abeting their own enemies it may be too late. Hitler was able to perptrate the “big lie” and the Arab/Moslem/Anti-Semetic world is doing an even more comprehensive job. They are even able to convince Jews themselves that they have no right to an existence. They do not have the slightest notion that it is the tiny State of Israel that has given them the ability to feel so comfortable to be a member in good standing in all countries (except Moslem ones) as a Jew. Sadly, that is rapidly becoming not the case. I weep as I witness the rapidity of the acceptance of the latest big lie against the Jews. Remember after all is said and done, to the non Jewish world Jew=Israeli=Jew=Israeli.

  • Larry Weinman says

    I just got off the phone with a current student at Brandeis and my conversation with her mirrored second hand reports I have gotten from parents of other current students. Students in favor of the Amb’s visit have organized themselves with a facebook group, informational literature and a petition with over 1000 signatories all in excess of the “anti” group. As is the case at columbia, berkeley, UCI and UCLA there are committed, involved zionist students on our campuses . This doesnt fit the “all is lost” narrative that paints everything in black and white. Rather than regarding on headlines from 1000s miles away, writing off a generation or blaming outsiders on the lack of jewish /zionist committment among young jews we should work from within to do the hard work of building such commitments with education that begins far earlier than freshman year at college.

  • Ruth Farber says

    Dear Dr. Gordis,
    I found your article about the way the students at Brandis acted worrisome. I think that partly to blame is that the students have never known a world without an Israel and they have begun to fall for what is being written about Israel without really knowing the true story of Israel. What really worries me about the liberal left is that they will not listen or allow anyone to give an opinion that is different from what they believe. I wathced the encounter that Ambassador Goren had in UC/Irvine in California and what struck me the worst was that those who were against his speaking were rude and not willing to listen to what he had to say. I have heard him speak and know how well he can explain what is happening. The students at Brandeis are mmissing a chance to really learn what the true situation in Israel is and what the country of Israel has achieved.
    I find your columns most enlightning.
    Ruth Farber

  • Dan Nussbaum says

    I am not so sure that the Brandeis students would not have protested by speech by President Obama.

    I am also curious as to Dr. Gordis’ opinion of J street.

  • Clive Ginsberg says

    History has taught us not to trust in humanity when it comes to truth and morality.
    Secular Zionism played an important part in the return to Zion. It was not easy to start anew in a hot arid desert, or clearing out mosquito infested swamps,or making peaceful overtures to others sharing the land. But it persisted and succeeded in ways beyond expectations. Many gave their lives and their wealth to provide a homeland and self-esteem to Jews around the world.
    Now it is time to recognize that times change and that all this was for a higher purpose. It is time to reflect and humbly credit G-d for these miracles. And in offering this credit to where it is deserved, our nation needs to come together in this and devise a course that unflinchingly says to the world: “we are G-d’s people, we are all G-d’s people-us Jews, our Moslem cousins and our Christian friends. Even those with at this time, a different way of worship, are G-d’s children. But just as we are all His children, so is He our father and His Bible is His blueprint for peace in this world. In it, He has given us Jews this Promised Land to live on. So today, we come together, all us Jews and we appeal to the world, let us have this land-on it we will continue to build a model society in His Light. Help us help you bring peace to the world. For centuries we humans have fought each other-from today, let us make a simple compromise for peace. This timy piece of land, nothing compared to the lands surrounding us, is all we need. Show a gesture for peace. Take back your anger. Take back your destructive ways. Let us follow G-d’s will and together make peace.

  • Brandeis student says

    I’d just like to point out that not every student at Brandeis is a Jew. Many of us aren’t.

  • Robert says

    The thing that should distress you is Israel’s tone-deafness to the world’s view that its treatment of Palestinians is unacceptable. Is Zionism acceptable if it means expropriating even one Palestinian’s land so a road can be built to an illegal Jewish settlement in the West bank? The world press reports that the PM has no interest in peace at this time. How do we protest this?

  • Hinda says

    I have read a biography on Justice Brandeis who was if anything a strong Zionist as well as a purveyor of Jewish values. What is ironic is that today’s administration of Brandeis should perhaps either leave or set up a school called “Arafat’s” since their sentiments mirror “J Street” and other way out there views against Israel and against what is a Jew. I come from a family who’s father was denied work at Westinghouse due to being Jewish but was one of the first in WWII to enter the concentration camps to assist in taking photos of the carnage that the Nazis and the Muslim Brotherhood (Haji al Husseini – uncle of Arafat) had incurred to many innocents – not just Jews. My father was not even 17 when he volunteered in 1941/1942. We as a whole should not be ashamed of being Jewish and supporting Israel. Israel is not murdering the Arafaters/Hamassvillans but is trying to appease the world by giving in (as in the expulsion [ethnic cleansing] of the region of Gaza in August 2005 – of which the world has forgot). The Arafaters/Hamassvillans have done nothing in the name of peace at all since the Oslo Accords which was the nail in the coffin for Israel. The bombs were still forthcoming which made Israel build a security fence; the world condemned Israel on that. Today missiles are coming from both ends and the “neighbors” are claiming it is Israel’s fault. Desalination plants and the wastewater treatement plants have stopped working long ago and it is Israel’s fault. “Arafater/Hamassvillan” children are still being taught how to murder a la the Hitler Youth. The world including this country’s Administrations have been sending money to regimes that do not give to their own people but would buy weapons of destruction to be used against Israel. Israel has stated a few times to the world for it to take off it’s blinders and see the truth. However, like the world in the late 1930s – so what if Jews are murdered. Even the self-haters (Jews who hate Israel and would stand with the terrorists) would also be targeted but hey – what’s a shaheed for Islamic terrorism? Just another and the perpetrator gets to go to the Muslim version of Penthouse in Heaven. Go Figure.

  • Hinda says

    By the way – I do not recognize the term “Palestinian” as that would give the nephew of the Nazi partner alot of credibility. Those who follow the leadership of the PLO/Ham-Ass are who I termed Arafaters/Hamassvillans.

    Thank you.


  • Miriam Marcus says

    Glad to hear that there are Brandeis students in favor of the Ambassador’s visit. Let’s hope they are disseminating the “informational literature” & this Gordis article. Now, if we could get the JStreet people to read Daniel Gordis–that would be terrific!

  • Steve Berman says

    I have long been a fan of yours but maybe this time we should consider that some of this might not have happened if Michael Oren had spoken at the J Street convention. This useless stunt alienated a large swath of American Jews with little to have been gained.

  • Harrison K says

    I urge everyone to please calm down. Your children are fine.

    I am a master’s degree candidate in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis, and I also did my undergraduate education at Brandeis. Reading through the responses, I have seen people blame various things, from the Brandeis professors (of whom I cannot speak highly highly enough), President Obama, themselves, and one reply even suggests that our generation is ignorant of the Holocaust. As a Brandeis student myself, there are a few ways of approaching “If This is Our Future.” The easiest approach would be to go defensive: insist that the Justice editorial does not speak for every student, and we as a school are still dedicated to and in turn supported by the Jewish community. I could beg people to remember that Israel is still a top priority at Brandeis, and I believe if you were to ask other students, whether they support Mr. Oren speaking at commencement or not, they would agree. All of this is true. Of course the editorial doesn’t speak for the entire student body by any means, of course we have a strong connection to the Jewish community, and of course Brandeis in general is an advocate of Israel. However. The editorial does speak for a lot of students who do not want their commencement taken over by what they perceive as a political cause (and all of this attention is proving them right). While I do not have any sort of problem with Mr. Oren speaking, please do not assume that the students complaining about his selection are somehow trying to shut themselves off from everyone and everything. After four years at Brandeis, it is impossible not to be exposed to some aspect of Israeli society, history, culture, or politics, and I don’t think any student would refute that.

    One person questioned whether the Brandeis student who wrote above was Jewish. The answer is…probably (given the ratio here!). But the right-right answer is it doesn’t matter. The same person lamented the student for not having strong feelings about the issue. I don’t know about the other student, but I do feel strongly about this issue. I feel strongly that people need to respect the fact that there are a myriad of opinions at every serious institution of learning. And now I turn this to the second person plural. It’s disingenuous for you to say (correctly, in my opinion) that college is a vital learning experience and environment for youth, and then turn around and fault students for taking a stand for something they believe in, simply because it’s not what you believe in. Don’t tell students to gather information and think for themselves, and then tell them that they’re wrong when they do. Am I opposed to Mr. Oren speaking at commencement? Not at all, and I hear he’s a wonderful orator for an important cause. But please stop expecting Brandeis to be your perpetual rubber stamp. Israel is too important to accuse people opposed to a member of its government speaking at a commencement of forgetting the Holocaust. That’s absurd. Your children are fine, Brandeis is a fantastic school, and I have to admit it really would have made my day if Paul Simon were the one speaking!

  • Erica N says

    I am a student and graduating senior at Brandeis University, and one that takes great pride in the academic excellence and the social openness our campus is allowed to express. Unfortunately, I feel that many people, including the author of this article, has not looked into all of the facts of this disruption on campus. Of course he and others are entitled to their opinion, but I would simply like to clear up some facts about why Michael Oren is going to be such a divisive force on commencement day.

    Firstly, I would like to note that many people have attempted to make this a freedom of speech issue, when this is certainly not the argument the opposition is making. No one is contesting Oren’s right to free speech, or even his right to speak on our campus – I know personally, I would go to hear him speak if he came to our campus to address the students. But there is a clear and important difference between inviting him to speak at Brandeis and choosing him as the keynote speaker at my commencement.

    As many people have said before, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is something that is discussed daily on our campus, and many students, Jewish and others alike, have varying opinions on the matter. Having such a large population that is Jewish makes this topic even more emotional and passionate for many of our students. So by choosing Michael Oren to speak at a COMMENCEMENT, the administration is attempting to appeal to donors at the cost of further dividing its graduating class.

    Furthermore, it is crucial to point out that Brandeis is, despite its historical ties, a secular university. At present, less than half of the university’s students are Jewish, and those that are also have varying views on the activities in Israel. As a Catholic who came from a high school with one Jewish student, I have defended Brandeis for four years against people who have told me that I didn’t necessarily belong here. I have never felt that this was not my school until this time; from the beginning I was curious about Jewish culture and asked my Jewish friends about their religion and practices, and they welcomed the conversation with open arms. While it is impossible to ignore the Jewish influence in the administration, I have never felt alienated or marginalized by the school until this point.

    I have, and will, leave my views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict out of this comment, because I don’t think they are particularly relevant to the argument. It is not about what Michael Oren has to say, it is what the administration is saying by bringing him here to speak on the most important day of my academic career to date. Contrary to Oren’s supporters, I would feel the same way if the administration was going to bring a Palestinian speaker for commencement. The day is too important for the class to be divided politically along either line; regardless of beliefs about the conflict, our graduation should be about us, celebrating together as an entire class. I will not allow the choice of commencement speaker to dictate my commencement day, but I will also not hesitate to express my disappointment that my university has failed to represent all of its students on this final and exciting occasion.

  • Clive Ginsberg says

    Every Brandeis student who considers Michael Oren’s choice as divisive, clearly misunderstand what the concept of Israel is all about. You unfortunately have had the wool very deftly pulled over your youthful eyes by the media-savvy political strategists attempting to create an Islamic state in order to destroy the Jewish state in stages. Israel is about freedom of religious expression, tolerance of ideologies, free speech, opportunity and democracy. It is about the little guy doing “good” against all odds. These qualities and attributes, super motivating for a Commencement day, are what Michael Oren would have inspired you about. But the intolerant forces of anti-zionism have misled you into believing that when it comes to Israel, it has to be seen in a political light. You should be embracing the amazing Israel story and using it for your own benefit. Wake up while you still have boundless mental energy and much to offer our world.

  • E. Vera says

    Bad reactions to Israel these days are sadly inevitable. The Israelis consistently shoot themselves in the foot, and everywhere else, with the worst Public Relations I’ve ever seen. Look at what they did with VP Biden and Hillary Clinton. Announcing new settlements and stopping peace talks. Another was letting the Ultra Religious Right tell American Jews they did not considered them Jewish, a few years ago.

    With stupid blunders like these it’s understandable why the Arabs get better PR, and they do nothing to help. On the contrary, every time they get a chance to move ahead they blow it and take two steps back.

    Considering we live in a 24/7 news cycle; Public Relations and image matter more today than ever before. I think its time for Israel to hire a top notch Madison Ave. PR firm; many of which are run by very smart, creative Jews. They have a good ad agency. But, all the great ads in the world won’t counter-act their ‘we’re going to do what we want and screw the world’ attitude.

    The question is: Will Israel listen to them? Given their history, I doubt it.

  • Ben Dor A. says

    Author: Robert
    The thing that should distress you is Israel’s tone-deafness to the world’s view that its treatment of Palestinians is unacceptable. Is Zionism acceptable if it means expropriating even one Palestinian’s land so a road can be built to an illegal Jewish settlement in the West bank? The world press reports that the PM has no interest in peace at this time. How do we protest this?

    Hello Robert

    Have you ever considered that what you read, see or hear on the media about Israel is politically motivated and most of the time, manipulated and false?

    When you state, as a fact, that a Jewish settlement in Judea & Samaria is illegal – what basis do you have for such a statement?

    What do you know about how the Arabs treated and still treat the Jews? What do you know about Islam and its treatment of infidels?

    What do you know about ME history?

    Here is an excellent stage to protest. What would you like to protest about?

  • Fred Schoenberg says

    Israel’s “tone-deafness” pales in comparison to the worlds blindness to the truth of the “Palestinian” and Arab war on the Jews. The unsupported allegation that “even one “Palestinians” land has been expropiated” to what you say is an illegal settlement is preposterous. To make this absurd statement is one thing but to do so and to ignore death and destruction of Israeli (read Jewish) civilian women and children at the hands of your “defensless “Palestians”” is hypocracy at its zenith. And you say who is the impediment to peace? The Jews whose hand has been out in peace for over 60 years or the “Palestinians” whose bombs have been dropping for the same time?

  • Rochelle W says

    I have read Mr. Gordis’ article and many of the responses and I am trying to be sypathetic. After all, I have lived in Israel, was married there and have family there. I have read Ambassador Oren’s books, fiction and non-fiction and I respect him highly as a writer, scholar and speaker. Yet, what I see in Mr. Gordis’ article and the responses is simply a confirmation of the fears of the students who are protesting Mr. Oren’s appearance. If I remember correctly, there were similar protests when the head of the International Monetary Fund was asked to speak at my son’s graduation at MIT (that son, by the way, now lives in Israel). There are many students today who might protest a commencement speech by President Obama and certainly many who would have protested a commencement speech by President Bush several years ago. I believe that the truth of the matter here is far less complex than Mr. Gordis would have us believe. Students may talk politics 24/7 but on the day of their graduation all they are looking for is fun,happiness and lunch. They want an event that’s memorable in a non-challenging way. It is no doubt an insult to Ambassador Oren, who is incredibly qualified to deliver a commencement address, but this is not an exitential threat to the State of Israel. If we feel it is, then commencement is probably not the best time to be addressing it. I assume that there are students at Brandeis who cannot disassociate Ambassador Oren’s literay work from his political position and disagree with that position. Is it any different in Israel? We who want peace so badly, should be able to understand that these students want a peaceful commencement. Their commencement is not about celebrating Israel, it is about celebrating themselves and the people they will grow to be. They are our kids and poentially the next generation of Israel supporters. Let’s make sure we do everything – after commencement – and on campus in the future to ensure they love Israel the way we do. And let’s not assume that their protests are any different than the protests that take place in Israel every day!

  • Mike Winakur says


    I wonder how you would suggest making peace with people who are committed to your annihilation? Israel is far from perfect but she has shown a willingness to make difficult concessions to achieve peace. The Palestinians have not. The last great gesture was the removal of every Jewish body from Gaza. That concession achieved the opposite of peace.

    You speak about the demographics as if numbers alone will dictate the final outcome. Does not history and values have some sway in this equation? If the Arab world cannot live with a small minority of Jews in their midst then I guarantee you they will soon outnumber those of us in the West and they will not be able to live with us either. Don’t you think it’s time for us to take a stand?

    Israel has shown time and again that she is willing to make great sacrifices for peace. The fact that President Obama fails to see these facts shows his myopia and indicates his ideological biases.

    If the Jewish people cannot or will not support our brothers and sisters in Israel then no one will.

  • Hallie says

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

  • michael says

    Dr. Gordis:

    Another comment stated: “…This is about an Israel where Reform and Conservative Jews are not welcome, where corruption is rampant…where women are detained for wearing a tallit at the kotel, where the government feels free to ignore Bagatz rulings but kowtows to Badatz rulings…”

    I agree. But the antagonism extends to this country…even into our houses of worship.

    As in the current American political climate, “liberal” Jews are often the target of nasty, mean-spirited comments. These often question one’s commitment to Israel or even to our faith. Worse yet is the casual use of the term “self-hating Jew” for any who dare to question the policies of the Israeli government.

    I am currnetly saying Kaddish for my father, but there are local shuls I cannot pray in now, having heard comments from devout minyonaires about what a great idea it would be to “drop the bomb” on Iran. In my mourning, I have heard these comments in temples across thhe country.

    And why am I not surprised when many of these same devout, shul-going, pro-Israel folks pepper their criticisms of President Obama with thinly-veiled racist comments?

    So, Dr. Gordis, please guide me. My sons seem to think that many Israelis would trade even more land for peace; that many Israelis believe that two states with a shared Jerusalem is inevitable; that many Israelis do not not support more settlements in the West Bank.

    These young men are now seniors in college and high school. They attended day school. I taught them to read Torah and to practice its teachings. We have been to Israel. But they also read the news, and they seek opinions from many views.

    What shall I tell them?

  • Stella Goldschlag 11' says

    As a Brandeis student, I am proud of my fellow students protesting the presence of Oren on our campus. Lets put it straight. In a post-national world, zionism is an anachronism that embarasses us. At a time when the rest of the world has moved beyond hard power, only zionists and Hutus use force to resolve conflicts. Our official explanation is that Oren is too polarizing. Our real explanation is that like a demented relative with a foreign accent, isreael embarasses us and stigmatizes us

  • clive g says

    Someone going by the name of “Stella Goldschlag” wrote this:-

    “Lets put it straight. In a post-national world, zionism is an anachronism that embarasses us. At a time when the rest of the world has moved beyond hard power, only zionists and Hutus use force to resolve conflicts”

    Let me see if I understand what Stella seems to understand. Post-national world means nations states and nationalism are passe, right Stella? So, if that’s the case then why is the world so bent on forming yet another Islamic state in the middle east, already crawling and infested with too many artificial Islamic states? Why is America, of which you are so unembarassed about, so bent on uniting the disparate clans and tribes in Afghanistan to solidify a national state in that part of the world?
    Just two examples of many around the globe if one cares to read broadly and intelligently.
    Then you wrote that “only zionists and hutus use force to resolve conflicts”. Well I’ve got news for you, Stella dear, the hutus kinda stopped fighting in 1997! That is let’s see, 13 years ago, probably when you were 8. If you need to look for people who use force to resolve conflicts, perhaps you’d be enlightened when googling “hamas”, or “hezbollah” or “Fatah”, or “Al Aksa”, or “Islamic Jihad”, or “Taliban”, or “Al Qaida”.

  • You may not like it, but I am extremely encouraged by where young people, in particular young American Jews are taking us. A new generation is taking a fresh look at Israel today, and it doesn’t like what it sees.

    On one hand we learn about the American civil rights movement, about separation of church and state, about a progressive immigration policy, about multi-cultural multi-ethnic society, and about the rule of law. We learn to cherish and defend these principles especially as Jewish minority, especially after our experience in the Old World. And then we go to Hebrew school, where first we are lied to (“a people without a land, for a land without a people”), and later we are told to love Israel, an ethnocentric state where one set of laws does not apply to half of it’s population, where a secret police reigns supreme, where it views 1/5 of it’s population at best as a blight in the landscape and at worst as a fifth column or a “demographic time-bomb”.

    We are lucky that this new Jewish generation is not outright schizophrenic, but overall has understood these contradictions in its education.

    “Pro-Israel” advocates will try to re-brand and encourage the narrative of a pluralistic, secular, gay-friendly and technologically advanced Israel that is contrasted with its dark, backwards, violent, and poor neighbors. This is meant to appeal to democratic and progressive ears, but it is nothing more than veiled racism that simply rekindles our fear of the unfamiliar, of the brown, and of smelly poor people.

    You say “the only association they have with Israel is the conflict with the Palestinians”. A good observation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict rightly eclipses every other aspect of Israel’s image. It cannot be overstated, any attempt to trivialize it is simply dishonest. Even the word “conflict” deceives, as it implies the clash of two equal parties, where the reality is of an occupying power and a (increasingly) dispossessed and disenfranchised population.

    Judging by the comments on this post, it seems like your readership is mostly middle-aged and concerned about their children’s attitude towards Israel. I just hope your kids manage to remind you what it’s all about and help you snap out of the euphoria and delusion you have been in since ’67. Your children’s expensive education does not teach them to agree with you, even though you are footing the bill.

  • Gail Abramson says

    Ms. Goldschlag, those who forget history – especially Jewish history – are doomed to repeat it. What disturbs me so is that I am not at all surprised by the incredible naivete of many younger Jews. One need look no further than Irene Nemirovsky (have you heard of her Ms. Goldschlag?) for a tragic example in another place, and another time of those who had no use for Jewish nationhood. And, btw, Ms. Goldschlag, the apostrophe goes before the 11, not after.

  • Rebecca says

    ” it is a devastatingly sad day for world Jewry when those issues are the only ones that one associates with Israel, when mere mention of the Jewish state evokes not the least bit of pride from students graduating from a prestigious institution long associated with the very best of American Jewish life”

    Indeed it’s a sad day when Israel’s history of human rights violations, it’s refusal to meaningfully participate in a peace process have not only caused American Jews to turn away but have left the world understandably more sympathetic to Palestinians despite their own history of the same. At the end of the day Israel is responsible for a generation of Palestinians that have never known freedom or self determination and Israel will have to deal with the consequences.

  • yliberon says

    I attended the 1998 Brandeis U graduation. the keynote speaker that year was Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany. I wonder if his invitation created as much vile protest on campus as Ambassador Oren’s has. just curious.

  • Eddy says

    Why do you expect J-Street to defend Israel? That’s not their mission. On the contrary!
    It is sad and hard to admit, but let’s call it as it is: American Jewry is the first case in history of a DECREASING Jewish community (in numbers)NOT due to violence on the part of the gentiles. For MOST Jewish youth, Jusaism is no more than the Chanukka Menora, maybe a feast with that weird cracker around April (AKA Seder) and also they heard something about a day on which Grandpa used to fast when he was still in Europe…That’s it. Why does anyone EXPECT people with such views to defend Israel? If one’s sole mission in life is to assimilate, why is he even EXPECTED to act otherwise when it comes to the hottest political debate in the world (it’s actually a fact. The UN devotes about 25% of its time to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (and please note: that’s the proper order of that phrase!!!) and of course blame it all on Israel)?
    Mr. Gordis, are you worried about the future of American Jewry? Please worry not. THere is no future to the American Jewry!! In less than 50 years there will be less than hald the American Jews currently in existance. Not due to vilent reasons. They’ll just disappear. Should we be saddened? Yes. Should we be bothered? Yes. Csn it be changed? No. What CAN be done is facing the facts.

  • MM says

    “Stella” also had this to say on a Brandeis U student website: “In order to stick it to the ziocons, we should invite Faisal Shahzad to speak. His values are much closer to those of Brandeis than the murderer Michael Oren.” I assume it’s deliberate that she has chosen the pseudonym of a notorious Nazi “catcher” (cf. Peter Wyden’s Stella)

  • Alissa from Brandeis says

    I am a Jewish student at Brandeis and I find some of the accusations made in this article unfounded and troubling. From my own personal experience at Brandeis, the students’ knowledge of Jewish history and persecution in Jewish history (even before the existence of the Israeli nation-state), of the history and development of Israel as well as its religious importance, and of current Israeli social and political issues is greater than I have seen anywhere else. I do not know every student at my university, but in opinion when referring the Brandeis Jewish community at large I would never agree with the statement “For many young American Jews, the only association they have with Israel is the conflict with the Palestinians.”

    The main thing that this article fails to do is distinguish between the current Israeli government and Israel, the land of our ancestors and the nation that could once and for all free us from the violence of religious persecution. I think it is outrageous to say that the controversy among Brandeis students regarding Ambassador Oren as keynote speaker is a manifestation of a lack of support for Israel, especially based on ignorance of Israeli issues beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I would like to address the paragraph:

    “No longer is Israel the country that managed to forge a future for the Jewish people when it was left in tatters after the Holocaust. Israel is not, in their minds, the country that gave refuge to hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from North Africa when they had nowhere else to go, granting them all citizenship, in a policy dramatically different from the cynical decisions of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to turn their Palestinian refugees into pawns in what they (correctly) assumed would be a lengthy battle with Israel.”

    First of all, Brandeis has one of the most respected Near Eastern and Judaic Studies programs in the country (not to mention our Peace, Conflict, and Co-Existence Studies Major.) We are aware. Secondly, a large portion of Jewish Brandeis students are of Ashkenazi heritage and have relatives that came to the US after fleeing prejudice and pogroms in Eastern Europe and/or have relatives that survived or were killed in the Holocaust. Not to mention Jewish students of Sephardic heritage from Syria, from North Africa. We are aware. At Brandeis, Israel is the most popular country in which to study abroad and so many students choose to go on Birthright every year. We are aware. And have you seen the amount of Zionist activism on campus? I also can not count the number of times that I’ve walked into a new friend’s dorm room to be confronted with a large Israeli flag covering a portion of one wall. We are an extremely aware student body when it comes to Israel.

    We are also a student body that is generally very politically active on most fronts. It’s not that Jewish Brandeis students (from my experience) do not support Israel in an ideal world. It’s that we, along with most of the rest of the world, don’t know how Israel can peacefully co-exist with Palestine. Furthermore, not all, but many Jewish students at Brandeis disagree with the way that the Israeli government is dealing with the conflict. These students oppose the university’s choice of keynote speaker because they support Israel, they want it to succeed, and they believe that the Israeli government’s policy is a step in the wrong direction. They oppose the university’s choice of keynote speaker because they care. To these students, Ambassador Oren represents the Israeli government, not Israel as a whole. This is a distinction that needs to be made and should be considered by the author of this article, Mr. Gordis.

  • Ben Dor A. says

    Alissa from Brandeis wrote:

    “These students oppose the university’s choice of keynote speaker because they support Israel, they want it to succeed, and they believe that the Israeli government’s policy is a step in the wrong direction.”

    Can you please elaborate what you mean by ” the Israeli government’s policy is a step in the wrong direction.”?

    “It’s that we, along with most of the rest of the world, don’t know how Israel can peacefully co-exist with Palestine. Furthermore, not all, but many Jewish students at Brandeis disagree with the way that the Israeli government is dealing with the conflict.”

    Can you show us the right direction?
    Can you point us the light?
    What do you think should be the right direction?
    What is the Israeli Government doing wrong in dealing with the conflict?
    What do you think the direction should be?

  • Ben Dor A. says

    Rebecca wrote:

    “Indeed it’s a sad day when Israel’s history of human rights violations, it’s refusal to meaningfully participate in a peace process”

    I wonder where you get your information from? What human rights violations are you talking about? UN? HRW? AI? Adallah?

    Peace process? What have Israel been doing since its inception if not looked for a meaningful peace with its neighbors?
    Who exactly initiated so many wars against the state of Israel?
    Who is fueling 120 years of terror against innocent civilians? a
    Where do you get your information from?

  • Ben Dor A. says

    Eitan Isaacson wrote:

    “And then we go to Hebrew school, where first we are lied to (“a people without a land, for a land without a people”)”

    Please refer to Mark Twain: Journey to the Holy Land or
    Henry Baker Tristram’s visit to the Holy Land at the beginning of the 19th Century or
    P.E.F. map of Western Palestine Sheet No. VI or
    Robinson Smith, Vol. II p. 174 or
    P.E.F.Q. 1873 p.150 or
    Royal Commission Report, p. 259 or
    The Dutch explorer Van De Velde p. 157

    and many more who all describe how desolated, deserted and devastated the Holy Land was during the Ottoman rule.

    There were less than 250,000 people in this barren land most of them nomadic Bedouin tribes.

    There was no dispossession. In fact most Arab immigration to the Holy Land started with the immigration of Jews in the late 19th Century.

    Do you know how many Arabs in Israel participated in terror and support of terror groups since 1948?
    Do you know how many Arabs in Israel spied for terrorist groups and the Arab states around us?

    “where a secret police reigns supreme”

    Where do you get this kind of hogwash? Do you know how many police officers are tried and charged every year for criminal felonies? Even our former Prime Minister and former President are standing trial not to mention former members of Knesset.
    Very few people here escape justice. I haven’t seen this kind of treatment in the States.

    “where one set of laws does not apply to half of it’s population”


  • Levanah says

    [NB: I am coming to this conversation more than a year after the fact, through a recent link to the original post.]
    Reading the entire thread, I am struck above all by two overriding observations:
    (1) the students who write seem, with only one (unfortunately- and youthfully-hyperbolic) exception, far more balanced and insightful than the great majority of the (apparently older) non-student responders; &
    (2) the meta-issue of divisiveness is completely drowned out by a demonstration of the accuracy of that very concern, as manifest by an argument about Israel & Israeli policy (usually without any distinction) and even the true “Jewish-ness” of those who hold a differing (&, generally, a less-polarized) position.

    To Eitan Isaacson: thank you for representing those of us in “the older generation” who celebrate the ability of our offspring to grow, to see clearly, and to challenge full-heartedly.

    To Alissa from Brandeis: “The main thing that this article fails to do is distinguish between the current Israeli government and Israel” – Thank you for the clarity of your words; many on both the Right/Middle and the Left are difficult to speak with for the same reason.

    To Rochelle W. and Erika N.:
    “Students may talk politics 24/7 but on the day of their graduation all they are looking for is fun,happiness and lunch. They want an event that’s memorable in a non-challenging way.” & “The day is too important for the class to be divided politically along either line; regardless of beliefs about the conflict, our graduation should be about us, celebrating together as an entire class.”
    You both – representing two generations – have articulated the central issue: it is a day than calls for uniting the entire graduating class and its families. Look how the rest of the conversation here has gone directly for the opposite: disagreement, division, and conflict…unable even to *acknowledge* an issue that transcends which “side” anyone holds. I dearly hope that the actual graduation day was kinder, gentler, and more celebratory and inclusive than this column and thread!
    Blessed be all.

  • Levanah says

    To Daniel Gordis:

    I hope you are reading my comment, posted above, as well; perhaps it will help you expand to a more “both/and” – rather than such a solidly “either/or” – way of holding and processing the world.

    Blessed be.


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