I hope everyone is staying warm in this snowy weather. I’ve been snuggled up with my blankets, hot chocolate, work, and (when I find the time!) a good historical fiction book. As some of you may know, I have a strong interest in World War II. It amazes me how influential Adolf Hitler was and how strong the individuals who survived the Holocaust were. But I’m telling you, things get worse again so don’t be a bystander!
Yehuda Bauer, a historian who immigrated to Israel to escape the Nazis in 1939, once said about the Holocaust, “Thou shall not be a victim. Thou shall not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shall not be a bystander.” The number of people who “go along to get along” and behaved as bystanders during World War II is high.
When we are afraid to speak up for what we believe in, we may not be contributing to the Holocaust, but we are allowing other disasters to take place. Sometimes all it takes is one person to stand up and say “no,” or that he or she feels differently. Have you ever held a different opinion but held your tongue so that you won’t stick out?
Don’t be afraid to stand out and to stand up for what you believe or feel. As students, we are taught continuously to be leaders. Leaders stand up for what they believe in. They are willing to listen, empathize, understand, compromise, and more, but in order to do these things, they must also be willing to speak up.
It has been more than a decade since the campus climate began deteriorating for Jewish students. Over the years, a myriad of Jewish organizations have devoted time and resources in a well-meaning, but too often ad-hoc effort to restore honesty, civility, and tolerance to the campus. So here is some candid advice for Jewish organizations.
While these organizations deserve praise for their work, they are also in need of some guidance. Progress has been and continues to be made but I believe we can do better. So here is some candid advice for Jewish organizations.
During my time at UC Berkeley, I was deeply involved in confronting hostility against Israel and Jews on campus. I have been the prototypical end user of all the efforts being made on college campuses by Jewish organizations. I have seen how Jewish communal involvement on campus can be incredibly helpful and I have seen how it can be ineffectual, or worse, a hindrance.
Small changes to how the campus is approached and how Jewish organizations perceive their role vis-a-vis students can, I believe, significantly increase the effectiveness of their efforts. The following observations, critiques, and recommendations are intended to inject a bit of honest constructive criticism and hopefully, to help increase the impact the Jewish community is having on campuses.