The following letter was sent by Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Adam Naftalin-Kelman to the Berkeley Hillel community.
Dear Berkeley Hillel Community and Friends,
Berkeley Hillel hosted a tent in which students could discuss their perspectives on Israel.
The year at Berkeley Hillel has been filled with exciting initiatives that have continued to build upon the vibrancy of the Jewish community at Cal. I wanted to update you on the Israel climate on campus and the Israel initiatives that took place during the Spring semester, which ended much differently than last year with no anti-Israel divestment bills. I’ve summarized below key elements of Hillel’s Israel-related education and advocacy efforts in the spring 2011 semester and included at the end of this email a timeline of Israel-focused events on campus this past term.
Our pro-active work, relationship-building and strategic approach to Israel programming on campus has contributed significantly to achieving our goals of improving the atmosphere related to Israel and to broadening support for and understanding of Israel. To reach beyond those students who are already committed, we target our programming to a broad cross-section of students within the context of Hillel’s Israel programming guidelines. Berkeley Hillel is highly successful in attracting large numbers of Jewish students into a community supportive of Israel where they freely discuss current issues.
Three core principles underlie our approach to Israel programming:
- We are passionately committed to a flourishing Jewish and democratic State of Israel.
- We actively work to provide students with a broad spectrum of opportunities and experiences to help them develop a deep, meaningful, mature and loving relationship with Israel as the Jewish homeland.
- We are proud of our commitment to the principle of freedom of speech upon which our country was founded and which is a bedrock principle of the UC Berkeley community; we believe that this atmosphere both attracts students to Berkeley Hillel and encourage the maturing of their Jewish identities.
Israel Activities Spring 2011
Jewish Agency Shelichah: One of our goals is to help Jewish students connect with citizens of Israel. This year we were blessed again to have a Shelichah from the Jewish Agency of Israel to help support students develop a strong and positive relationship with Israel. Gila Hashkes was recognized by the Jewish Agency with the award of “Shelichah of the Year” for her work at UC Berkeley. Our new Shelichah, Einat Dror, will be joining us for the next year. In August we hope to introduce her to the whole community and call upon all of you to join us in welcoming her.
Israel Groups that are part of the Jewish Student Union: The Jewish Student Union (JSU) is an umbrella organization comprising 15 different groups of Jewish students. Berkeley Hillel supports these groups by helping them think strategically about their missions and providing meaningful and engaging programming to the Berkeley campus. Four of these groups are directly focused on Israel:
- Bears for Israel – Berkeley’s Israel lobbying group that works in cooperation with AIPAC’s
Leadership Development department.
- Israel Action Committee –IAC is the oldest Israel group at UC Berkeley. Engaging with the living and breathing aspects of Israel. Focusing on the culture, innovations and artifact, which are produced by the people of Israel.
- Kesher Enoshi – dedicated to engaging directly with social change organizations and activists in Israel.
- Tikvah: Students for Israel – is a group of students at UC Berkeley dedicated to advocating for Zionism - the national movement of the Jewish people for self-determination in their homeland, Israel.
Hillel staff works with all of these groups, who are all individually part of the Jewish Student Union (JSU), to help them think strategically about their mission and to provide resources for meaningful and thoughtful programming to the Berkeley campus, aligned with Berkeley Hillel’s Israel mission and policies.
Four Israel-focused Student Interns at Hillel:
- Israel Intern – The intern worked closely with Gila to support all the dynamic Israel initiatives happening with the Israel groups and Berkeley Hillel. The list of initiatives for the year is attached below.
- MZ-Grinspoon Israel Intern – This intern worked with the Gila to create educational opportunities for students to learn about Israel. This intern was instrumental in supporting many responses to Israel Apartheid Week on campus as well as organizing the Israel Film Festival.
- Birthright/Immersive Experience Intern – The intern helped with Taglit-Birthright recruitment and handled all the logistical details in sending students on the trip and follow through activities.
- MASA Intern – The MASA intern engaged with students to help them find MASA programs for students to participate in. MASA enables young Jews (18 to 30) from around the world to build a lasting relationship with Israel, strengthen their Jewish identity, and gain meaningful and beneficial experiences by participating in a long-term program in Israel.
We had 51 applications for 30 spots for our Winter Taglit-Birthright Israel trip! This year—as has been done every year—the students spent several evenings speaking with alumni from the trip and staff to prepare for the experience. When they returned there were two sessions that provided the students the opportunity to reflect on the experience and helped them synthesize the experience with their everyday life. One student was so moved by Shabbat in Israel and a Friday night service led by Gila that he returned to campus and organized an alternative Shabbat service. This student became so involved with Hillel that he will be one of three student interns who will be focusing on creating dynamic and creative expressions of Shabbat and the Jewish holidays.
Ongoing Israel Activity
Hosted and organized by Hillel and Israel Fellow
- Teaching Hebrew – All the Birthright participants who do not speak Hebrew and other students who express interest will meet on a weekly basis to study basic Hebrew in a casual manner.
- Hebrew Music on the Deshe – Once a week our Israel Fellow Gila meets with students and together they listen to music by Israeli artists
- Weekly Student Group Meetings – Every week Israel Action Committee and Kesher Enoshi hold their weekly meetings at Hillel. On an as needed basis Tikvah: Students for Israel uses the building for their meetings.
- Israel-Tip of the Iceberg - Representatives of full political spectrum collaborated in developing an agreed - upon fair representation of a broad overview of Israel’s history. The presentation was given throughout the Fall and Spring semesters. Because of its wide success Gila brought the presentation to the Israel Dance Decal class that meets every week at Hillel. The presentation provided a background and context to the tradition of Israeli dancing they were learning. Many factors have helped create a better climate on campus this year. A friendly and more educated student government, a rejuvenated Israel Action Committee, an excellent Israel Fellow, strong programming, less focused attention on Israeli-Palestinian issues during the bulk of the school year, more diverse programming around Israel and the creation of the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society.
At the same time, we recognize that next year may prove to be a challenging year due to factors beyond our control. If the Palestinian leadership proceeds with its threat to seek a Unilateral Declaration of Statehood at the United Nations, if the "Arab Spring" spills over even more in terms of influencing Palestinian tactics we will most likely see a difficulties on campus. During the summer we will be working with the JCRC, the Israeli Consulate, Hillel International’s Center for Israel Engagement to be as prepared and proactive as possible. As the events unfold on campus we will keep you updated and offer opportunities to help and support our effort in fulfilling our mission.
Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman
• Tu Be’Shvat Seder commemorating and bringing awareness to the devastating fires in the Carmel Mountains in Israel.
• Birthright Shabbat- After returning from Israel, Taglit-Birthright Israel participants hosted a Shabbat evening at Hillel that included cooking and pre-dinner conversations and reflections. Of the 30 participants 28 attended!
• Dr. Mordechai Kedar, hosted by Tikvah and Berkeley Chabad, spoke and held Israel advocacy training.
• Assaf Sharon of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, spoke to students about the movement in Israel. The title of the talk was “For a Just Israel: Democracy in an Era of Occupation” hosted by Kesher Enoshi.
• The new Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society -- Hillel has been a critical partner with the new institute on campus in helping recruit students to the classes and events. The first student event brought together undergrad students, graduate students and professors all interested in the study of Israel. It provided a great opportunity for students to meet professors and graduate students on campus who are committed to presenting Israel in a way free of the anti-Israel bias that too often surfaces.
• Avi Schaefer z”l Shabbat - A Shabbat was held commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death Avi Schaefer, a Brown University student from Santa Barbara who served in the Israel Defense Force and was a powerful advocate for Israel on his campus.
• Krav Maga, Israeli martial arts, training and exercise at Hillel hosted by Tikvah.
• Taglit-Brithright reunion - JSU groups were invited to meet all the Taglit-Brithright participants and hear about the over 15 different Jewish Student Union groups the students could get involved with. They also conducted a Skpe conversation with the four soldiers that were on their bus and screened their Taglit-Brithright video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJs-KKqsab4
• MK Shlomo Molla, spoke on campus, “From Ethiopian Diaspora to Israeli Parliament.” The event was hosted by the Israeli Consulate, Israel Action Committee and Tikvah.
- Dr. Mitchell Bard spoke on the topic “Why Israel is not Apartheid”
- Israeli TV & Movie Star Lior Ashcenazi Speaks at Hillel- Hosted by IAC
• In response to Israel Apartheid week, Israel Action Committee put up a large tent on Sproul Plaza that said “Let’s Talk.” The tent was put out for all 10 days with the sign and a six-minute information session on Israel. This strategy brought a calm atmosphere to Sproul and proved to be a successful way of creating meaningful conversations between students and random visitors. The information that was discussed and handed to students presented Israel in a positive light and was based on an information sheet done in conjunction with David Project and IAC.
• During Israel Apartheid Week Tikvah held its annual Israel Peace and Diversity week with the following events:
o Dr. Mitchell Bard spoke on the topic “Why Israel is not Apartheid”
o "Life Under Fire - The Israeli Victims of Hamas Terrorism" by Yaakov Lapin hosted by Tikvah
o "Art Meets Justice: Portrait of the Israeli Artist as a Social Justice Activist"- Hagshama co-hosting with Tikvah & IAC
o Peace Rally on Sproul- hosted by Tikvah
o Forgotten Refugees: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa- hosted by Tikvah
• The 2nd Annual Israeli Film Festival at the Pacific Film Archives
o Restless - hosted by IAC. Speaker Ben-Dror Yemini: "Difference Between Criticizing and Delegitimizing Israel."
o Noodle - hosted by Challah for Hunger. Speaker Dana Rubin, Masa: “Volunteering with Migrant Workers and Refugees in Israel.”
o The Secrets - hosted by Kulanu (Jewish Queer and Allies) and Kesher Enoshi. Speaker Lisa Finkelstein: “Judaism, Israel and Homosexuality."
o Turn Left at the End of the World -- hosted by Tikvah. Speaker Barak Loozon: "North African Israelis."
• JSU group Tikvah hosted Shabbat Dinner at Hillel and created centerpieces with informative and educational material about Israel.
• Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Beit and former member of the Labor party, spoke to students and community members. The talk was co-hosted by IAC and Kesher Enoshi
• The last weekly barbecue at Berkeley Hillel with 150 students present celebrated the annual Maimuna Celebration with traditional belly dancers and tasty laffa bread.
• In celebration of Israel’s 63 Birthday the Jewish Student Union had its annual party in San Francisco. It was a community gathering bringing together rivals from many different universities to come together and celebrate Israel’s independence.
• In commemoration of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, Gila shared stories of personal friends who lost their lives serving in the IDF.
• With the generous support of Adam and Gila Milstein Berkeley Hillel was able to send 25 students to the AIPAC Policy conference. The feedback from the students was wonderful and many of the students are excited to come back to campus and think about strategically addressing issues on campus.