“Open Hillel is a student-run campaign to encourage inclusivity and open discourse at campus Hillels. We seek to change the“standards for partnership”in Hillel International’s guidelines, which exclude certain groups from Hillel based on their political views on Israel. In addition, we encourage local campus Hillels to adopt policies that are more open and inclusive than Hillel International’s guidelines, and that allow for free discourse on all subjects within the Hillel community….”
i wasn’t even at all anti-zionist or even non-zionist at the start of school and still I felt like an alien at Hillel. Young jews who want a jewish community at their school should be able to have one and feel comfortable within it—-Hillel being the way it is probably is what pushed me and many other kids to look for jewish community in the more “radical” sorts of jewish organizations that Hillel rejects.
by Rabbi Brant Rosen (Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, IL. )
As Jews, how do we respond when we hear the tragic news regularly coming out of Israel/Palestine? How do we respond to reports of checkpoints and walls, of home demolitions and evictions, of blockades and military incursions?
It might well be said that there are four very different children deep inside each of us, each reacting in his or her own characteristic way.
The Fearful Child is marked by the trauma of the Shoah and believes that to be a Jew means to be forever vulnerable. While he may be willing to accept that we live in an age of relative Jewish privilege and power, in his heart he feels that all of these freedoms could easily be taken away in the blink of an eye. To the Fearful Child, Israel represents Jewish empowerment – the only place in the world that can ensure the collective safety of the Jewish people.
The Bitter Child channels her Jewish fears into demonization of the other. This child chooses to view anti-Semitism as the most eternal and pernicious of all forms of hatred and considers all those “outside the tribe” to be real or potential enemies. She believes that Palestinians fundamentally despise Jews and will never tolerate their presence in the land – and that brute force is the only language they will ever understand.
The Silent Child is overwhelmed with the myriad of claims, histories, narratives and analyses that emerge from Israel/Palestine. While he dreams of a day in which both peoples will live in peace, he is unable to sift through all that he hears and determine how he might help bring that day about. At his most despairing moments, he doesn’t believe a just peace between these two peoples will everbe possible. And so he directs his Jewish conscience toward other causes and concerns – paralyzed by the “complexities” of this particular conflict.
The Courageous Child is willing to admit the painful truth that this historically persecuted people has now become a persecutor. This child understands and empathizes with the emotions of the other children all too well – in truth, she still experiences them from time to time. In the end, however, the Courageous Child refuses to live a life defined by immobilized by fear, bitterness or complacency. She understands it is her sacred duty to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed, particularly when she herself is implicated in that oppression.
At one time or another we have heard within ourselves the voices of any or all of these children.
My parents did not speak Yiddish to me or my sister. They wanted us to speak Russian. But they spoke Yiddish between themselves, so we understood and learned it. Also, I spoke Yiddish with my grandmother, who did not speak Russian. When I was seven I was supposed to go to school and was very excited about it. My mother wanted me to go to a Russian school. One day she took me to the director of the school. Then she told me to say that I did not speak Yiddish. I was very surprised, because this was the first time my mother asked me to lie. I said: “Mother, you used to say it is not good to lie!” She answered then: “This time, it is better for you not to say the truth. Do not reveal to them that you know Yiddish.”
When we arrived there were three men in the room. I entered with my mother. They asked me in Russian my name, my age, and then they asked if I knew any Yiddish. I said I did not know Yiddish. Then one of the men told me [in Yiddish]: “Meydele, gey farmakh di dir!” [Girl, go close the door!] I went to close the door. That was how they enlisted me in a Jewish school.
Ida V. (b. 1923), on how she ended up in a Jewish school in Odessa in 1930. Oral testimony in Anna Shternshis’ Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (2006), p. 16-7.
“A great number of Soviet Jewish schools were established in the mid-1920s. In theory, these schools were designed for children who spoke Yiddish as their native language. Jewish parents often preferred Russian schools because they felt that such an education would give their children more opportunities in the future. But government officials insisted that Jewish children attend Soviet-run Yiddish-language schools, as many ideologues believed that children would learn Soviet values better if they were taught in their mother tongue. […] The specifically Jewish element in the curriculum was used simply as a tool to convert the Yiddish-speaking population into a Soviet-thinking one.”
The films had deteriorated to the point that they were unplayable, so Kurtz had them carefully restored. When he was eventually able to watch the many hours of footage they had taken on that grand tour of Europe, it was three particular minutes that drew his undivided attention. Somewhere in Poland, before the Holocaust swept it all away, his grandparents had captured vibrant scenes of street life and happy-looking children in a shtetl.
But that’s not what made this footage extraordinary. Moving image documentation of Jewish life before the war is not hard to come by, much of it thanks to people like the Kurtzes, affluent American Jews visiting Europe during their summer vacations, cameras in tow.
What distinguishes this particular clip is when it was shot and in what format: The Kurtz family movies were filmed in August 1938, with Hitler already in power and only a few months to go before Kristallnacht – the so-called “night of broken glass” that would portend the eventual shattering of European Jewry as a whole.
Almost all the other known amateur footage of pre-war Jewish life in Europe was shot much earlier, according to a leading authority on such films, Rivka Aderet of Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish People. “There were not many people who, as late as the summer of 1938, were making trips to Europe,” she says.
It is also virtually unheard of, she says, that such footage would be shot in color. “We have been collecting home movies like these for 30 years – we have no other film from this time period that’s in color.”
For Aderet, who has seen many home movies of this sort, what makes this particular one so heart-wrenching is that the smiling townspeople, many of them children, seemed to have no idea of the great catastrophe awaiting them. “The fact that it’s in color makes it so much more alive and tangible,” she says, “and therefore so much more painful to look at.”