Many students will face anti-Semitism in their lives and, unfortunately, their first trip to college may be their very first exposure to this unsettling experience. This isn’t a brand new phenomenon by any means. However, college campuses have seen an increase in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment due to the growth of the BDS movement.
BDS is a doctrine that has found its way onto the campuses of our American colleges and its student life. Supporters stage “Hate Week” and call for campus leadership to divest from Israel, often pitting Jewish students against the rest of their peers. It has become imperative that we educate our teens about what to expect, who to reach out to if there is an issue, and how to get involved if they choose to. No longer is a lecture about the “Do’s and Don’ts” of your freshman year quite enough. It is now necessary to prepare them to face issues that are being played out on a global landscape.
To help meet the growing and evolving needs of our students, a parent of high school students, Robin Steinmetz, and Rabbi Robin Foonberg, Director of Education at Congregation B’nai Israel, created a four-part lecture series called “Knowledge for College.” It is a pilot program funded by the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County. The lecture series focuses on specific topics to best address the needs of the modern student.
• What is the BDS Movement?
• What’s the big deal with this Israeli/Palestinian Conflict?
• How do I deal with anti-Semitism on campus?
• How should I handle and analyze biased media reporting?
Each presentation presents facts in an objective way through short documentary films and engaging speakers. The speakers included OC Hillel Director Lisa Armony, UCSB Hillel Director Rabbi Evan Goodman, UCI student leaders Lauren Kerner and Alex Silver, Gary Kenzer from HonestReporting.com, Tina Malka from Hillel International, and Roz Kozak from Jerusalem U. The goal is to create a unique learning opportunity, and to help students walk away feeling prepared and empowered to deal with issues as they arise on campus. The program also strives to give them enough information to make their own informed and thoughtful decisions on how they want to engage in college life as Jewish students.
When asked what they got out of the evening’s presentation one student, Naomi Bridger, reflected “I enjoyed the examples of tikkun olam tonight, specifically the work that the Israeli foundation “Save A Child’s Heart” is doing for children in need. Over half of the patients that benefit from its services are Palestinian… I wish people in Palestine that are my age were given that information.” Approximately 40 high school students representing seven Orange County synagogues participated in the program. Steinmetz and Foonberg observed the students’ overall reaction to this pilot program and intend to offer the program again next year.
For more information on this program please visit www.cbi18.org/events/knowledge4college/.
You may also contact Rabbi Robin (Hoffman) Foonberg at Congregation B’nai Israel at (714)-730-5161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.