Monday marked the beginning of a conference with the theme “Imagining a More Civil Society: The University and the Jewish Community,” which is sponsored by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
But camraderie and sweet reason did not exactly reign supreme. One attendee, who contacted me, said that participants repeatedly and heatedly asked the four university presidents who spoke at the opening forum why campus leaders defend some causes, such as the genicide in Darfur, but “do not stand up for the Jews.” And, as Inside Higher Ed reports, the participation of one president, Michael V. Drake of the University of California at Irvine, as well as other concerns, led Jewish students to issue a protest letter and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld to commandeer the microphone before a Q&A session.
U.C.-Irvine has been charged in recent years of being steeped in anti-Semitism and is still dogged by a student-organized “Holocaust in the Holy Land” week in 2006 that equated Israel with Nazi Germany. At the conference Drake was taken to task by attendees who say he has only tepidly condemned the bigoted campus activities.
“It’s not a rah-rah environment,” Hillel’s president, Wayne L. Firestone, said of the purpose of the gathering. Would one expect otherwise, given the hideous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel events on campuses in recent times?