Editor's Note: No. This is not "The Onion". Could this be one of the gems we get from throwing 100 billion dollars towards Israel? Throw some scratch my way and I'll dress up like Adam Pearlman and say some scary things for Rachel Maddow or Bill O'Reilly to use later.
“We are in need at Rutgers,” said Raffi Mark, a student and Israel advocate on the New Brunswick campus.
“Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus,” a documentary detailing students’ struggles against anti-Semitism, will be screened at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus on Tuesday, Aug. 9. The 39-minute film was produced by Raphael Shore and directed by Wayne Kopping.
The congregation obtained the film with the help of Hasbara Fellowships, an organization that “trains students across the United States in Israel Advocacy,” according to Atara Jacobs, community and public relations coordinator for the organization.
A discussion moderated by Mark, of Wayne, and another Rutgers student, Sam Weiner of Paramus, will be held after the screening.
“When you send kids to college they should know what’s going on, and they should be able to talk about it in an intelligent way,” said Gershon Rosenzweig, chair of the Israel Awareness committee of JCC of Paramus and its past president.
According to the film’s website, campusintifada.com, the documentary “offers a glimpse into the experiences of Jewish college students who are actively involved in the daily struggle of supporting the State of Israel and fighting against biased misinformation both in and out of the classroom.”
The JCCP’s Israel Awareness committee, founded in November, sponsors film screenings, visits of Israeli students to the shul, and discussions, among other cultural events.
Tuesday’s film focuses on the reactions of U.S. college students after Israel’s military movements against Gaza in 2008 and 2009, according to campusintifada.com. It explores Muslim organizations that have ties to American universities. It also highlights pro-Israel student activists and their campus campaigns.
Both Rutgers students plan to draw from their experiences as Israel advocates on campus when they lead the discussion.
Twenty-one-year-old Weiner, a senior, is “heavily involved with the Israel advocacy movement at Rutgers,” he said, and will be vice president of Rutgers Hillel this year. He also participated in Write on for Israel, an advocacy journalism program.
“The war to delegitimize Israel has found a home at Rutgers, and we don’t want this to last for long,” said Weiner. “We’ve had an incredibly successful year at Rutgers dealing with what went on there,” he said.
He refers to such programs as the touring Never Again for Anyone event, sponsored by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and American Muslims for Palestine. The Jan. 29 event at Rutgers, according to Weiner, “linked the actions of the Nazis in Europe to actions taken by Israel in 1948.”
The event featured two Holocaust survivors and two Palestinians. Israel supporters on campus reached out to the greater Jewish community in the area and 300 people turned out to protest it.
The event “crossed over the line into anti-Semitism,” said Mark, 20 years old and a junior at Rutgers. Mark was on the Rutgers Hillel student planning committee for Israel and this year will be the Israel chair of the Rutgers Hillel student board.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the event was “the latest effort by anti-Israel activists to exploit the sacred memory of the Holocaust for the purpose of painting its victim, the Jewish people, as the ‘new’ oppressor in the form of Israel.”
“The line between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is being blurred,” says Hasbara Fellowship’s Jacobs.
The Hasbara program was founded in 2001 conjunction with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its mission, according to its website, hasbarafellowships.org, is “simple: educate, train, and motivate university students to be passionate, dedicated, and effective pro-Israel advocates on their campuses.”
The program also brings students to Israel. According to its website, Hasbara Fellowships has hosted more than 1,800 students from more than 250 college campuses.
Mark went on a Hasbara Fellowships program this summer, spending about two weeks in Israel. He said, “It’s the perfect blend of education, advocacy training, and experiencing Israel. With all three, you can come back to campus and not just give prepared responses about Israel but be able to say, I was there, I saw it.”
Though already heavily involved in Israel advocacy, the trip “gave me a stronger connection to Israel,” Mark said.
The screening is only the beginning of an awareness campaign by Hasbara Fellowships in the area, according to Jacobs. Seminars about Israel advocacy are being planned for the fall.
The film has been shown across the country and around the world, and screened by multiple Israel advocacy organizations. Mark has seen clips of it and said, “It’s a very powerful movie, and … is a call to action, especially locally in New Jersey.”
Rosenzweig hopes that the screening will make people aware of the situation on college campuses. “It’s about how we should make our citizens feel comfortable,” he said.
Weiner wants “to get across awareness of how hard [student advocates for Israel] are working to combat anti-Semitism on campus, and how [the community’s] support really helps…. One evening discussion is wonderful, but hopefully it will serve as a catalyst for people.”
“Gershon Rosenzweig was amazing in helping me screen the film at the JCCP,” said Jacobs. “This is going to be an eye-opening event for the community,” she said, adding, “we are very excited…. This is for them to get in the know about what’s going on in colleges around the United States.”