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JUF Link
Tuesday, June 6, 2017  

In this Issue:

• News, Views and Analysis

• Interfaith investment coalition responds to JLens' concerns of discrimination

• The emerging trends pro-Israel students are combating on campus in 2017

• IEC reflects on 2016-2017 academic year

• Students bring change-making technology challenge from Israel to Northwestern


JUF Link presents news and analysis concerning the delegitimization and demonization of Israel and the Jewish people through BDS, anti-normalization and related activities.

Exposing the linkages between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, JUF Link 
shows the impact of the work of 
and its partners in defeating anti-Israel and anti-Jewish forces.


News, Views and Analysis

Jewish Voice for Peace infiltrated and disrupted the LGBT contingent at NYC's Celebrate Israel parade on Sunday. JVP activists marched and pretended to be part of the the LGBT contingent before pulling out anti-Israel signs and banners, chanting "no pride in apartheid," and formed a barricade around the LGBT contingent, which included Jewish youth organizations and teenagers mostly from Orthodox communities. Jewish Queer Youth founding director Mordechai Levovitz has deemed the protest a hate crime, while JVP remains unapologetic.

Nevada became the 20th state to pass anti-BDS legislation when Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law on Friday. Kansas' senate gave tentative approval to a similar bill on the same day. Illinois, which was the first to pass such a law, has barred its pension funds from investing in 15 BDS-supporting foreign companies.

Lebanon's Ministry of Economy has banned Lebanese movie theatres from screening Wonder Woman because lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli, despite previously allowing movie screenings featuring both Gadot and Natalie Portman.

At University of California-Irvine, police had to escort a group of IDF reservists out of the event they spoke at after it was heavily protested by anti-Israel activists.

The spring semester included a flurry of divestment campaigns: student governments at Montclair State University, the University of California at Santa Barbara and George Washington University defeated BDS resolutions, while a resolution passed at CSU Long Beach. At GWU, a campus-wide referendum has been suggested for the fall. 

Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, slammed the BDS movement for creating "divisive energy" and for "not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding" via cultural and academic boycotts.

An exploration of the history of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's funding of pro-BDS causes, including Jewish Voice for Peace.

Summer 2017 marks Birthright's biggest season yet as 33,000 young Jewish adults are traveling to Israel. Nearly 450 students and young professionals from the Midwest have traveled to Israel this month on the free 10-day trip through Shorashim, a community partner of JUF's. 

Interfaith investment coalition responds to JLens' concerns of discrimination

JLens, an investor network focusing on impact investing and Jewish values, sent a letter outlining concerns over discrimination to the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of 275 faith-based investors, in early May.  JLens is one of only a few Jewish organizations within ICCR. 

JLens, in which the Jewish Federation has invested, outlined two major incidents of concern. At ICCR's 2017 conference, a session on Israel and human rights investment risks was led by BDS activists. JLens leadership shared concerns over the session with ICCR CEO Josh Zinner before the conference, however, these concerns were ultimately ignored. 

JLens also noted that Gail Shemtov resigned as ICCR's Director of Finance resigned in May due to a growing anti-Israel sentiment within ICCR. 

Rev. Seamus Finn, ICCR's Board Chair, defended ICCR, claiming that "as genuine interfaith dialogue requires, we will never be intimidated into censoring or avoiding challenging discussions, so long as they remain productive and respectful." 

JLens currently remains in dialogue with ICCR leadership in hopes of resolving this concerning and divisive issue. 

The emerging trends pro-Israel students are combating on campus in 2017

These are the emerging trends students have faced on campus throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, according to JUF's Israel Education Center.

1. Anti-Semitic incidents occurring more frequently

Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, there was an alarming increase in anti-Semitic activity on campuses across Illinois, ranging from swastikas on college buildings to the distribution of fliers claiming Jews have an inordinate amount of power.

2. An absence of campus-wide outrage over Anti-Semitism

When anti-Semitic events occurs on university campuses, the outcry against such actions comes mainly from the Jewish community, rather than the wider university community and other religious, ethnic and cultural groups on campus.

After condemning anti-Israel activism on campus, Mark Yudof, former president of the University of California, was told that "freedom of expression is for marginalized people, not privileged people." Jewish students at the University of Illinois and other campuses across the nation have faced similar double standards.

3. Divestment campaigns expand to target domestic issues

BDS campaigns traditionally call upon a university to divest from corporations like Caterpillar and Boeing that do business with the Israeli government and military. However, in an effort to build alliances, and at times, hide their anti-Israel agenda, divestment campaigns are expanding to target corporations that have no relation to Israel.

The referendum proposed at the University of Illinois in March called for the university to divest from Nestle, Sodexo, Enbridge, ExxonMobil, Tyson and Citigroup – in addition to corporations that work with Israel. Their efforts to conflate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with domestic issues proved unsuccessful, as thousands U of I students voted against the divisive referendum.

4. Efforts to isolate pro-Israel students and community on campus increasing

When Hillel and pro-Israel student organizations reach out to collaborate and create coalitions with other ethnic and cultural communities, they frequently face hostility and rejection.

Last semester at Loyola University Chicago, Kristiana was planning an event to support Syrian refugees. Kristiana, a non-Jewish student leader, wanted to partner with Loyola’s Hillel. However, another board member in the student organization overruled her and claimed that any interaction with Hillel would be seen as “normalizing” Zionism.

IEC is actively working with Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders like Kristiana to provide nuanced and factual information about Israel, as well as opportunities to engage with Israel first-hand. In January, Kristiana traveled to Israel on JUF’s Campus Student Leadership trip and is currently living and interning in Tel Aviv through Onward Israel.

IEC reflects on 2016-2017 academic year

As the 2016-2017 academic year comes to an end, JUF's Israel Education Center (IEC) is reflecting on a year marked by accomplishments and growth.

At the beginning of the school year, IEC entered into a memorandum of understanding with Hillel International and the Israel Action Network. Through this new partnership, IEC was able to support 26 interns on campuses in ten states across the Midwest. 

Together, those 26 interns held over 120 events and engaged more than 8,700 students with Israel through diverse programming.

"Because of the Chicago Jewish community's commitment to Israel and Jewish life on campus, IEC is able to provide the necessary resources to combat delegitmization, BDS and anti-Semitism on campus,” said Emily Briskman, IEC's executive director. 

Read more about IEC's impact on campus in June's edition of JUF News.

Photo: At UW-Madison, Jewish students joined with two local churches and the Muslim Student Association for an Interfaith Shabbat Dinner organized by IEC intern Yogev Ben Yitschak. (Photo courtesy of Yogev Ben Yitschak)

Students bring change-making technology challenge from Israel to Northwestern

Northwestern University co-hosted its first Makeathon last month with Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), an Israel-based organization that seeks to create affordable, open-source technology and solutions for people with disabiltiies. 

Makeathons bring together "Makers" -- engineers, designers, innovators and problem solvers -- with "Need-Knowers" -- people with disabilities. During the 72-hour Makeathon, the Makers and Need-Knowers collaborate to create a prototype to solve a challenge the Need-Knower faces. The Need-Knower takes home the finished product at the end of the event. 

More than 70 Northwestern students and community members participated in the Makeathon from April 28 to April 30. Co-chairs Guy Zeltser and Gal Ben Dor, MBA candidates at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, spent nearly a year fundraising and organizing the event.

"TOM is amazing because it sheds a positive light on Israel in a unique and sophisticated way while making an impact," said Zeltser, a native of Israel. "During the event, someone said to me, 'All I knew about Israel is that it has wars every two years. I didn't know Israel had this social entrepreneurship and innovation, too.' To know we helped someone see that side of Israel is amazing."

Northwestern's Makeathon was sponsored by JUF's Israel Education Center, as well the Motorola Mobility Foundation, Uber, the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and others.

Photo: Northwestern students work on a prototype during the 72-hour Makeathon. (Photo courtesy of TOM: Northwestern)

Read the full story here »

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