• Sarita Bronstein

Hillel of Silicon Valley Stands Strong

It should come as no surprise that antisemitism on college campuses is rampant and manifests in myriad ways. Currently, students at the five campuses we serve are attending classes remotely. Therefore, we have not experienced the malicious spread of propaganda against Israel that takes place on the quad weekly. Nor are we aware of any offensive flyers or graffiti on any of the campuses.

What continues to be a well-orchestrated and relentless campaign is the hateful rhetoric being spewed by some faculty in the classroom. Students are subjected to enduring misleading statements about Israel and the Jewish people by their professors. These faculty with antisemitic agendas use their position of authority to silence opposing views. When challenged, these professors hide behind academic freedom and social justice. This effort to silence pro-Israel voices is not confined to the students; there are antisemtic and bullying incidents amongst faculty.

Compounding the antisemitic narratives being disseminated in the classroom are the messages of hate being widely spread in various social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok. Students have shared with us posts they have received, not for the weak at heart!

Hillel of Silicon Valley employs a multi-pronged approach to address these alarming issues. Key to our strategy is working with faculty and top-level administrators to raise awareness about the challenges Jewish students are experiencing on campus. For example, last year, due to our intervention, administrators at Santa Clara University thwarted Students for Justice in Palestine's efforts to close the Students Supporting Israel Club. And at San Jose State University, administrators acted on behalf of the Jewish students to smooth over a conflict with the MultiCultural Center.

In response to other anti-Israel situations over the past year, Hillel SV staff and students sprang into action. We wrote letters and opinion pieces to counter bias and inaccurate articles and hosted virtual events to educate the campus community on several issues. One of our guest speakers was Hussein Aboubakr, who discussed his book, "Minority of One: A Personal Story of Life in Egypt, Anti-Semitism, and Transformation. Milan Chatterjee, a past student body president at UCLA, shared his "Story of Standing Up to the BDS Movement." And Eyal Dror spoke about the IDF's humanitarian work on the border with Syria.

Moreover, we partner with Jewish faculty to plan and coordinate strategies and consult with relevant outside organizations like AMCHA, the Lawfare Project, StandWithUs, ADL, The Israeli Consulate, and Israel on Campus Coalition.

Most importantly, we are wholeheartedly for our students. We do not let them stand alone. Hillel of Silicon Valley tirelessly works to help students feel proud of their Jewish identity and express their support for Israel confidently. We do this through our treasure chest of educational tools and by providing unequivocal support for their advocacy efforts. Our programming and resources help students gain insight into their heritage, history, and traditions. We are privileged to witness their interest in Jewish life, and their connection to Israel strengthen.

We have not relented during this period of exclusive virtual communication; we have persevered and creatively reimagined our work. Our mission to engage Jewish students in Jewish life and Israel has not suffered, is steadfast as ever.

Some of the virtual programs to increase students' knowledge and ability to respond effectively to antisemtic and anti-Israel allegations:

• A presentation at Foothill College about the roots of antisemitism and similarities to other forms of hate.

• The Karin-Dornfest Jewish Leadership Fellowship, a new initiative to prepare future leaders. Comprising seven sessions, the Fellowship will include teachings on combating antisemitism, Jewish values in social cyberspace, and coalition building.

• An Interfaith Dialogue initiative in partnership with the San Jose State University Chaplain and MOSAIC Cross-Cultural Center.

• Student Supporting Israel Clubs programming.

• The newly established book club to learn from various authors about Israel's history, culture, and its people.

• IsraTalk; a bi-weekly conversation about the top headlines with our Israel Fellow.

• The 3rd Israel Leadership Fellowship series will commence in the Spring.

• Mizrahi week in November- a series of programs to celebrate Mizrahi heritage.

Hillel of Silicon Valley is a welcoming community for students, whether local or outside the area. During this time of uncertainty and separation, it has been more critical than ever before to take a holistic approach to our student engagement. We care about each students' well-being, their intellectual curiosity, their zest for Jewish life and their need for belonging. We offer students a safe refuge when they need one where they feel heard and comforted, and less isolated. Whether in-person programming or through virtual means, Hillel of Silicon Valley continues to be the place for the Jewish college students in our community.

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