This item was broadcast in Hebrew on Israel Radio's Reishet Bet on January 4, 2004 on the program Ruach Tzfonit, Northern Wind.
Chaim Ador: Visiting Kibbutz Ein Gev on the shore of the Kinneret, are 500 Jewish students from around the world, 400 of whom are from the United States. These are activists from the Hillel organization which works to promote Jewish leadership on campuses around the world. Along with the hundreds of students who spent Shabbat at Ein Gev was Hillel Co-Chair Michael Steinhardt who was one of the founders of the birthright Israel program and one of its chief supporters. Along with these respected figures was our reporter Eran Zinger.
Eran Zinger: Shalom. Good evening, Chaim.
Chaim Ador: You were invited for Shabbat morning, correct?
Zinger: I was invited to spend Shabbat morning at the Ein Gev guest house with this very large group of students who came in large part from the United States, but also from South America and the former Soviet Union. They invited me for Shabbat morning and they gave me the opportunity to participate in four different services. If you wished, you could have chosen Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or even Alternative services. It was really a full array of Jewish services. The group that was offering this religious freedom within the Jewish house was the group Hillel, the group that organizes Jewish student activities on campuses around the world. I heard a few details about the organization from Jonathan Hoffman. Jonathan is a Hillel activist in Israel at the Hebrew University. This is what he said about the organization:
Hoffman: The things that we have emphasized at this conference have been to see what we have in common, and what connects Israel to the Diaspora. In particular campuses in the Diaspora are experiencing anti-Semitism suddenly once again, problems of being a minority, many problems from the Moslem community, a force which grows in the U.S. especially, but also in other places. Students need to come to terms with the questions of their political identity, their identity as Israelis, and their identity as Jews -- at the same time that Israelis are dealing with many of these issues here, including Palestinian-Israeli hostility, so that there are many parallels.
Eran Zinger: This is how Jonathan Hoffman describes the problems Hillel is dealing with. I spoke with Jonathan a few minutes after discussing issues with five students from different states and they told me about a phenomenon we have seen in the last three years since the outbreak of the Intifada and the problems befalling Jewish college students: Professors and lecturers, in universities and colleges who lower grades of those who express any support, even students or lecturers or candidates for higher degrees who are not accepted due to their support for Israel. One student even told me about the verbal abuse she experienced from a Palestinian student who called her very harsh things. Finally the lecturer in that class simply threw the Jewish student out of the class.
Chaim Ador: Is this a new form of anti-Semitism?
Eran Zinger: This is the question that I put to the person who heads the organization, Michael Steinhardt. Standing at the center of Hillel, Steinhardt is very much involved in everything touching on Jewish education around the world. Steinhardt says that anti-Semitism isn't really the problem. There are occasional anti-Israel activities, anti-Zionist activities from the Left in the U.S. but true anti-Semitism is not found. Let's listen:
Steinhardt remarks in English.
Eran Zinger: Steinhardt says, "I don't think that we have to attach too much importance to anti-Semitism in the United States. This phenomenon has been blown out of proportion. I think that there has been some increase in anti-Semitism fostered by Moslems in some places in the world in reaction to Israeli policy. There is no significant rise in anti-Semitism outside the Moslem world, he said. And it is very interesting that this man who donates millions of dollars to institutions in the U.S. Israel and to groups that foster Israel-Diaspora relations, that he asserts that people are willing to invest millions of dollars to fight anti-Semitism but are not willing to spend any money to combat mixed marriages, to foster Jewish connections, or to strengthen Jewish education.
Steinhardt quoted in English
Eran Zinger: In the U.S., Steinhardt says, instances of anti-Semitism are not serious. I think that there are a couple of places where this is a function of the Left's reaction to Israel's policies. I think that in the United States it is easy for the Jewish community to respond to anti-Semitism. And to respond financially to fight those things that are truly important, such as strengthening Jewish education.
According to Michael Steinhardt, with whom I had the true honor of meeting at Ein Gev.
Incidentally, I heard an interesting story that he promised that if any of the 500 students at the conference meets someone at the conference and marries, he would pay for their honeymoon.
Chaim Ador: How long will they be here?
Eran Zinger: Different times. There are some who will leave next week and there are others who will be here for a few more weeks. We have been talking about this group of 500 hundred who arrived in one program but there is a much larger group here with birthright Israel. We are talking here about a couple of thousand students. Truly a wonderful project.
Chaim Ador: That was Eran Zinger from Kibbutz Ein Gev.