George Mason Launches Magen David Adom Drive
December 03, 2002Comments (0)
| E-mail this to a friendBy Charlotte Davis, GMU Israel Fellow and Scott Bailey, GMU Hillel Director
Students stayed up to the wee hours of the morning Thursday, November 14 chalking the campus sidewalks to advertise the launch of the Magen David Adom Drive at noon that day.
Student supporters joined a crowd of 500 plus onlookers in the middle of the Johnson Center at George Mason University. The GMU Israel Club along with GMU Hillel, the Israel Action Committee, GMU Amnesty International, Best Buddies, AEPi and the GMU Jewish Student Association launched a two semester campaign raising much needed funds for Magen David Adom (MDA). The MDA project, which began at the start of the fall semester, officially announced the effort to the GMU community today.
The kickoff event featured a visit by Gary Kenzer, National ExecutiveDirector of Magen David Adom USA. Kenzer remarked about the global reach of Magen David Adom. He said not only does MDA respond in Israel, but when called upon responds to disaster relief efforts all around the world. He thanked the students for their efforts in raising much needed funds for MDA.
Other remarks were made by Charlotte Davis, GMU Hillel Israel Fellow, Jaime Richman, President GMU Amnesty International, Max Pfeferman, Chairof Israel Action Committee, and Brett Schor, Academic Liaison for the Israel Embassy to the United States. The event raised visibility for the fund drive as well as for the Israel Club and Israel Action Committee.
Charlotte Davis said, "We now have another chance to show the world that we see a problem, that we hear a call for help, and that we care about the innocent victims ofsuicide bombings. I may only be one. Alone, one of us may not be ble to take on the responsibility of saving the lives of all of these victims, but if we work together to raise enough money, we will each play our own responsible roll in society."
Students remained in the student center from 12 to 3 p.m. showing videos, passing out MDA literature and floating throughout the building passing the tzedakah box to collect funds. Students learned what MDA does in Israel and throughout the world. Many students requested information on how to get further involved.
While many articulated positive sentiments about donating to the humanitarian organization, negative remarks were also expressed by, for example, a student shouting a comment from a higher floor.
According to Lisa Shapiro, a sophomore and Hillel JSA board Religious Education Chair, "Some of the negative comments from Pro-Palestinian [students] being yelled out were not appropriate, but it proves that we are not afraid, nor [are we] going to let anything stop us from having our voices be heard."
Despite this reaction, students remained positive. "It is important to remember that Magen David Adom transcends all political boundaries, they save the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis on a daily basis," says Max Pfeferman, a senior and Chairman of the Israel Action Committee.
This was not the beginning of anti-Israel sentiment at George Mason University. Since second semester last year, students have faced a number of events and confronted numerous situations causing discomfort to the pro-Israel community on campus. From an anti-Semitic remark shouted by one student to a Jewish student after a speech given by PLO Spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, to a 500 person rally advertised as an opposition to the genocide against Palestinians, the line between constructive expression of ideas and blatant disrespect, and even lies, had been erased.
To balance the many anti-Israel activities GMU saw in the past year Jewish students in cooperation with Hillel set out a plan to build a positive pro Israel image. This included the formation of a new Israel club on campus.
Eight students from GMU attended this summer's Hillel Israel Advocacy Mission, and three remained for an additional two weeks participating in the Israel Advocacy Seminar at Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center. They came back ready to be proactive, and set the campus agenda for Israel activity. By broadcasting a positive message regarding Israel, and inviting discussion on many levels, Israel has gained much respect on campus from students of a wide background. Through open discussion groups, such as one facilitated by a representative from CAMERA, an open forum has been provided to influence further education on the Middle East conflict.
The new GMU Israel Club and its Israel Action Committee have worked unceasingly to promote a positive and respectable perspective of Israel on campus. This began first and foremost by being viible on campus. At least twice a week from the beginning of fall semester they have staffed a kiosk in the Johnson Center. They have grown the organization from 10 students to over 100 in a matter of weeks. By asking challenging questions at Israel-opposing speaker events, bringing speakers to campus (such as an Israeli Bedouin, an Egyptian Jewish refugee, and a representative from CAMERA), and tabling to distribute educational literature and facilitate discussion, Israel supporters on campus have made their voices known.
Several students have commented on how they love seeing the Israeli Flag hanging above the Israel info table in the student center. Many have become engaged in Jewish life on campus through interaction at the Israel tables and support of Israel. Support must increase from the university, and strong-minded students with opposing viewpoints must become more respectful, before students allied with Israel will all feel comfortable with the atmosphere on campus. But as Max Pfeferman recently said addressing a local gathering of the Chai Tech division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, "we've taken back the campus."