Student Spotlight – Being An Ally Is Bigger Than Thoughts and Prayers: A Response to Modern Anti-Semitism and The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting, by Antonia Ford
This article was originally published by Tech Inclusion on November 6 2018
I grew up in a bubble of privilege and ignorance that had me thinking anti-semitism was something that only existed on the pages of history books. When I went away to college in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to study the Middle East and the origins of Judaism. More importantly, I witnessed the very real and very current discrimination against and marginalization of Jewish students and professionals. Jews seemed to be held in some special “other” category, where their status as a religious and ethnic minority was ignored because many of them were white-passing. Jews of color, LGBTQ+ Jews, and Jews motivated to fight for social justice were and still are excluded from intersectional gatherings based on prejudice and false assumptions about their political leanings. What happened last week in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shone a harsh light on the very real anti-semitism that still pervades our society.
This article was originally published by The Times of Israel on October 31, 2018
“I continue to warn you incessantly that a catastrophe is coming closer…my heart bleeds, that you dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spit its all consuming lava.”
These words were spoken by one of the most fundamental Zionist revolutionaries in the history of Israel, lawyer and guerrilla warrior Ze’ev Jabotinsky, in his 1938 speech “Tisha B’Av.” He was addressing the Jewish diaspora in Poland and referring to the largely unforeseen coming of the Holocaust, yet his words ring as true today as they did then. A catastrophe is indeed coming closer: Britain’s Labour Party has engaged in openly antisemitic behavior to the point that some British Jews are considering moving to Israel, France has been peppered with murders of Jewish citizens, and antisemitic attacks on Jewish citizens of the United States have seen their largest increase in the previous year since 1979. The latter point has been made in striking detail with the recent shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With 11 people killed and six wounded, this would be a crucial opportunity for the Jewish people to express unity and solidarity with one another across nations and communities. However, discord has only increased, both within the State of Israel and across the Atlantic Ocean, between Israeli Jews and the Jewish Diaspora.
Ocean Noah is a sophomore at San Francisco State University, and went on SF Hillel's Summer 2018 Birthright-Israel trip.
As I was approaching the Kotel, I tried to think of a meaningful prayer or a song to play in my head. Something to put me in a holy mindframe. I was stumped, but I went to the wall anyway.
I was pulled in close. I felt as though I was being held by a grandmother. The Jerusalem breeze was stroking my hair. The smooth stones were holding my hand gently. I could smell that she has been alive for many years.
This article was originally published by J. Weekly on June 25, 2018
Emily Simons wanted to save a life — but she never thought it would happen.
The 24-year-old San Francisco Hillel staffer had signed up for the bone marrow and stem cell donor registry through the Gift of Life organization while she was in college a few years back, but finding out she was a match was a stunner.
“I was really shocked when I got the call,” she said. “I never thought that I would be a match for anyone.”
Bechol Lashon's blog was originally published on MyJewishLearning's Jewish& blog on May 3, 2018.
Jewish& is a blog by Be’chol Lashon, which gives voice to the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience. The original multicultural people, Jews have lived around the world for millennia. Today, with globalism and inclusion so key in making choices about engaging in Jewish life,Jewish& provides a forum for personal reflection, discussion, and debate.
Zip-lining, waterfall hikes and sunset on the beach—what more could one want from spring break? The opportunity to spend a week in Costa Rica is more than enough for most. But the chance to give back and to learn about Jewish life from the perspective of the communities in this small Central American country were additional draws for the students who participated in the recent alternative spring break (ASB) trip that Be’chol Lashon ran together with San Francisco State Hillel.
Latin America is an enticing destination for students who are looking for ways to have fun and give back during spring break. Landing in Costa Rica, the participants went off to hike through the lush rainforest, picked up trash along the way, and talked about identity, faith, philanthropy, and community. This is what happens when you bring adventurous, thoughtful young people with intention and purpose to an exceptional place.
On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs sent the following email to Jewish students in response to an email they sent to President Wong. For further context, see this article in the JWeekly, published Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Dear Sasha and students,
Thank you for reaching out to President Wong; because your concern focuses on an academic department, he has asked me to reply on his behalf.
I appreciate your concern about the link that appears on AMED's Facebook page and your efforts to engage in productive dialogue on the subject. The principle of academic freedom gives faculty the right to express themselves on controversial subjects—indeed, our very identity as a university depends on such free expression (by students as well as faculty), and SF State has historically protected this right vigorously and proudly. As a public university, however, we also recognize the importance of not endorsing particular political positions and doctrines or excluding individuals from participating in the educational process because of their beliefs. Finding the right balance between these principles is a critical and constant challenge, and it applies to the post that you identified; while its author has the right to express controversial political opinions, the appearance of those opinions on a departmental social media site raises justifiable alarm. We have therefore asked that the post be removed to ensure that there can be no implication that the views expressed are those of the University.
“That’s going on the ‘gram!” Variations of this phrase became a joke on our Birthright trip whenever we would stop for an extended period of time to take “Instagram worthy” photos in iconic locations in Israel. I can guarantee that everyone who has gone on Birthright has a photo of riding on a camel, standing atop Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and, of course, some artsy close up of the colorful stalls of goods being sold at the shuk (an Israeli open air market). One of my favorite things to do is go back in my phone or on my friends’ Facebook pages and look through pictures from our trip for the thousandth time. It’s easy to relive experiences through photographs and I’m lucky to have them as documentation of the life-changing journey I went on.
But rather than post posed photos of myself and my friends, I want to share a moment that did not get to be captured digitally because every one of us was so immersed in living it first hand. And despite what is represented on social media, it was this particular experience which solidified my connection to my fellow participants, the trip leaders, and the people, culture, and land of Israel.
Queen Esther aka Queen E: Basically Beyoncé before Bey was bae. You can follow her on the gram @ésther
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, 13 student leaders met with President Wong following his request to meet.
Dear President Wong,
As a diverse group of Jewish student leaders and allied students at SF State, we were optimistic when you reached out to restart dialogue that had stalled for nearly a year. We appreciate it took humility to offer a personal apology. But we left the meeting disappointed and frustrated about the lack of concrete action steps, and concerned about the way you plan to share your recent realizations with campus.
We believe your apology was sincere. Atonement is an appropriate first step in mending broken relationships. But we are not at the beginning of this process. As some students expressed, two years ago, they listened to you express similar upset about students’ fears of publicly identifying as Jewish on campus. They listened to you then promise action. Some are now close to graduation and are dismayed that things are worse, not better.
Ocean's blog was published in the J. Weekly's opinion section on February 9, 2018
On Saturday, October 14th, I was registered to run in a 5k. I had been training for a few weeks and I was excited to run it with my partner. As the date approached, and my anticipation increased, the sky changed colors. It was an alarming orange and there were bits of ash falling from above. The race was cancelled. That was what the fires in Northern California meant to me; they were an inconvenience.
In retrospect, that was truly a self-centered perspective.
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