Letters the Week of March 26, 2015


Readers express their views on the former Swarthmore Hillel's rejection of the umbrella Hillel International organization, Netanyahu and anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Shame on Swarthmore College Hillel

As a Jew, a Swarthmore College alum and a concerned citizen, I am offended and disappointed in Swarthmore’s Hillel, which gives voice to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, and rejects the union with the umbrella Hillel International organization. (Headlines, “Swarthmore Students Drop Hillel Name but Ties Expected to Continue,” March 19.) Among my reasons:
• Unmentioned by the group are perhaps the world’s worst human rights violators, such as North Korea, Sudan, Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, Tibet, Myanmar (Burma), Egypt and others.
• Israel is imperfect, and not beyond criticism, but is a democracy under siege since its inception.
• The students who comprise Swarthmore Hillel appear, by their actions, to be functioning in a safe, sheltered cocoon, insensitive to huge global injustices, and unappreciative of the carefully honed assistance of Hillel International.  
Bill Hirsch, Class of ’49, Swarthmore College | Wayne
Netanyahu Could Learn From Swarthmore Move
Thirty-five years after I made aliyah from Philadelphia, I belong to the stereotypical state of Tel Aviv — the middle-class, educated, liberal population of central Israel. Some Jerusalemites, modern Orthodox among them, belong to this state, too. Often, we feel painfully disenfranchised from the State of Israel.
Netanyahu claimed his representation of the entire Jewish people before the U.S. Congress. (Headlines, “Speaking to Congress, “Netanyahu Slams ‘Bad Deal’ With Iran,” March 5.) His conduct does not represent my views, though I acknowledge his role as the democratically elected head of state. 
I was encouraged to read of the bold break of Swarthmore’s Hillel from the umbrella organization. By listening to the voices of the cacophony, we can explore the breadth of our great tradition of controversy. If Netanyahu presumes to speak for the Jewish people, Jews anywhere can implore him to speak differently!
Harriet Gimpel | Tel Aviv
Lessons to Be Learned from Swastika Incident
Thank you for including last week’s story about the spray-painting of a swastika at the AEPi House at Vanderbilt. (Headlines, “Swastikas Painted on Jewish Frat at Vanderbilt”) My son is a Vanderbilt graduate and proud AEPi brother who was an officer of the fraternity and lived in that house. It felt very close to home.
On a positive note to this horrific act, the response was immediate and overwhelming. Adam Kessler, Philadelphia director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, immediately reached out to his colleagues in Nashville. He found that the Vanderbilt provost and Hillel director had condemned the act within hours after it was committed. The Nashville ADL, JCRC, Federation and, of course, Vanderbilt and National AEPi all released statements within 24 hours. Each was articulate, eloquent and insightful.
The act underscored the importance of the Philadelphia Federation — and federations across the country — on so many levels. The Vanderbilt and Nashville Jewish communities responded instantaneously. There was no need to “rally the troops” or “put a plan into place.” They were ready to go. They knew exactly what to do.
Ellyn Golder Saft | Secretary, Board of Directors and Trustees, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia


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