The following letter was sent to Hillel boards and professionals by Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone.
September 21, 2007
As we prepare to immerse ourselves in the self-reflection of Yom Kippur, a matter of pressing national importance has come to our attention that I would like to share with you.
On Monday, September 24, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak at Columbia University while he is in New York City to address the United Nations.
Ahmadinejad has exceeded all the bounds of international relations in his persistent calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his reported plans to deploy nuclear weapons. Last year, Hillel launched a petition drive to denounce the Iranian president’s position and our efforts were warmly received by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations correctly points out that Ahmadinejad suppresses academic freedom, denies Iranian students’ freedom of speech, and has aggressively prosecuted student leaders. Iran is suffering from what the World Bank has called the largest brain-drain in history. More than 150,000 academics and other highly educated people are leaving Iran each year.
In the short time since Columbia announced his impending appearance, Hillel’s Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center has been working with Columbia/Barnard Hillel and the Israel on Campus Coalition to respond to Ahmadinejad’s visit.
On Sunday, September 23, Columbia/Barnard Hillel will sponsor a day-long seminar to train Jewish students on how to respond to the Iranian president. ICC and Schusterman International Center staff will help lead the sessions. Columbia/Barnard Hillel is helping to form a campus-wide student coalition that will mass-demonstrate on the campus. We are proud of the rapid response and hard work of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, its student activists, and its Executive Director Simon Klarfeld. (Please take a moment to read their press release.)
While non-Columbia students and personnel will be prohibited from entering the campus on the day of the Iranian’s visit, Hillel students and professionals from across the New York region will participate in a rally sponsored by the Ad Hoc Coalition for Justice, Monday, September 24 at 12 noon, at Second Avenue and 47th St. Josh Rosner, student president of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, will address the rally along with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, members of Congress and other dignitaries.
One of the major components of the Yom Kippur liturgy is the Martyrology which depicts the murderous suppression of Jewish sages by the Romans. Ahmadinejad’s presence in the United States is a reminder of the Jewish people’s continued need for vigilance and a loud call to action.
I will share with you any additional information as it develops.
Best wishes for a Gmar Chatimah Tova. May you be sealed for a good new year.
Wayne L. Firestone