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Doing the Right Thing

נוח לדרמן וסיון רהב-מאיר
בתמונה: הערב בירושלים, עם נוח לדרמן שמספר על ההפגנות הסוערות בקמפוס בקולומביה

* Translated by Janine Muller Sherr

It’s after midnight. I’ve just finished meeting with the heads of Jewish students’ groups on North American campuses and I’m finding it hard to settle down.

These student leaders have come to Israel on a mission, and in the coming week they will tour the country and meet with the President, Prime Minister, and other high-ranking officials. The Olam organization, the organizers of this mission, requested that I listen to the short speeches they prepared in order to ensure the accuracy of the messages they are hoping to convey.

Our meeting lasted about three hours. We listened to testimonies from students from 25 top-tier universities. Since October 7, campuses in the US have been turned into war zones, bastions of antisemitism, and Hamas cells. (At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that these frightening scenes do not represent the vast majority of the American public, only academic institutions.)

In brief, what we heard was the following: one student was hospitalized after being physically assaulted, another student left the dorm after someone sprayed a swastika on his door and ripped off his mezuzah; daily incidents of violence, spitting, threatening slogans, and friends who have turned into enemies. Last October, statements like: “Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job,” shocked them. By now (much to our horror!) they have gotten used to it.

At the end of the evening, I finally turned to them and asked: “Tell me, was this the most depressing evening of your lives?”. The answer was: Absolutely not. In fact, they had never felt so connected. For three of the student leaders, it was their first trip to Israel. They remarked: “This trip would never had happened had it not been for October 7. It was our personal wake-up call.” Three other students are planning on making Aliyah. Another four have set up organizations dedicated to educating Jews and combating antisemitism.

One student from Columbia University summed up his experiences in this poignant way:

“I look at Jews who are hiding their Jewish identity and feel ashamed for them. I’ve been verbally abused, argued with professors, and filed complaints of harassment with the police, but the truth is, I’ve never felt more alive. There is no greater feeling than knowing that you are doing exactly the right thing, at the right time.”


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