Hillel students and professionals at CUNY Staten Island helped convince a student to apologize for a virulently anti-Israel poem he published in the school newspaper.
Hillel understood the poem "Stones of Freedom," by student Omar Hammad, to say that Jews "are truly devils and worship No God." When he advocated "any means necessary" to resist Israel, Hillel interpreted this to support terrorism. Hillel also took offense at the verse "And we are forced to live in feces/ we will never ever cede to your sadistic holocaust filled thesis."
The Jewish community was appalled by the poem and the insensitivity of the newspaper in publishing it.
Hillel professional Frances Gidalowitz, working with the Hillels of New York and Hillel's Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center, called on Hammad and the newspaper to retract the poem and apologize.
"It's difficult as a member of the Jewish community to read [the poem] and not feel that it is a personal attack on me," said Hillel Director Frances A. Gidalowitz. "If his point was to [attack the Israeli government] it could have been said in a hundred different ways."
In response to Hillel's statement, Hammad wrote: "I am issuing an apology to any students who were offended and took the poem out of context of what my intent was. I now realize there are certain lines from the poem that if misinterpreted can be taken offensively.... Let me just reiterate I do believe and have always believed that Jews worship God. I never intended for people to think that I was mocking the Holocaust. This horrifies me and goes against all my principles as a Muslim and as a decent human being. I hope you can take this apology as sincere because it is."
Hillel is working with Hammad to further his understanding of the Jewish community and its support for Israel.