On April 13 at Scarsdale High School, Students & Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism (SPACA)and StandWithUs high school intern Yarden Wiesenfeld, presented a timely interactive event.
The film Crossing the Line 2 was shown, followed by a discussion with two college student activists Rudy Rochman from Columbia University, and Dalia Zahger from Manhattan Community College. Questions and answers rounded up the program.
Ms. Wiesenfeld opened the programstating that before seniors leave for college, “it’s vital that we’re prepared for this new setting and the challenges we may face…Tonight we don’t want to talk at you…we really want to hear from you and respond to your concerns. Shoshana Bederman SPACA’s president, who moderated the discussion, stated that “leaders and advocates are made, not born.” Therefore, any student can become an activist and stand up to anti-Semitism on campus. Rudy Rochman shared his experience including his time at UCLA and UC Riverside, where anti-Israel sentiments ran high. Following his IDF service Mr. Rochman arrived at Columbia University where he founded Students Supporting Israel at Columbia U. (SSCU). The organization put on a creative and effective counter-campaign during Apartheid Week, and had a strong presence on campus displaying a large Pinocchio blow up doll to “illustrate the lies promoted by SJP in labeling Israel an “Apartheid State”. Ms. Bederman who was at the Columbia campus during Apartheid week along with SPACA members, described the scene of students walking by the SSCU displays and reading attentively the information which included facts that showed Israel to be a democracy, respecting human rights and including Arabs in all aspects of Israeli life. The campus students expressed appreciation for “equal time and pro-Israel presence”.
Dalia Zahger explained that students can begin advocating for Israel by simply talking and informing their friends, and exposing the lies of BDS and anti-Israel rhetoric. “The truth is on our side…you just have to educate yourself, and know the facts to make the case for Israel”.
Mr. Rochman stated that students should not apologize for the state of Israel. He said that Israel has a right to exist and thrive as the Jewish homeland. He further suggested that when engaging in debate with anti-Israel students, the question to bring up is “how can Palestinians’ lives be improved since we all share that concern?...Not everyone knows that Palestinians are suffering because of their leadership (Hamas and the Palestinian Authority) which are corrupt, set on the destruction of Israel, and keep the Palestinian civilians poor and downtrodden by withholding U.N. funds for housing, schools and infrastructure”.
The audience was interested and engaged. A grandmother asked: “My grandson is applying to college, how do I make sure that he doesn’t go to a hostile campus?” Ms. Bederman responded that most Israel advocacy organizations keep a list of colleges at which anti-Israel campaigns and/or anti-Semitic incidents have taken place; and these lists are updated and available online.
Ms. Bederman emphasized that a college campus is a place for academic freedom and civil debate. When those are threatened through fear and intimidation, students and parents ought to reclaim the campus and hold the administration accountable. Parents have a significant role in that they pay tuition and are also alums. Parents can and should demand that administrations adopt zero-tolerance policies against anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that students’ safety and right to express different and contrasting views should be protected.
Pamphlets were available with helpful facts and information, as well as study abroad program for high school students with full high school credits (Alexander Muss High School in Israel). SPACA members noted that in their experience, high school students who are informed about anti-Semitism on campus prior to arriving at their college, feel more empowered, and are better able to deal with today’s challenges on campus.