Jewish Community’s Blind Spot: Not Listening To Our Students
01/26/2011 - 11:00
Gary Rosenblatt

The American Jewish community spends a good deal of time and money worrying about campus life these days, particularly regarding how Israel is criticized, attacked and delegitimized by professors, students and outside agitators.

But our community makes little sustained effort to hear from Jewish students themselves – about what they are thinking, how they choose to identify (or not) as Jews, and their views on Israel. And so it is that the Jewish Student Press Service, which publishes the lively online magazine New Voices (www.newvoices.org), the only national magazine written for and by Jewish college students, is once again facing a financial crisis, unable to meet its grand annual budget of $90,000.

Editor Ben Sales notes that Jewish organizations want to connect with students on campus, but “very few of those groups take Jewish students seriously enough to listen to what they have to say. And these are the future leaders of the community.”

Sales is proud of the journalism New Voices posts online each week, courtesy of student journalists from campuses around the country. (Founded 20 years ago, the publication made the switch from print to online magazine a year ago.) He says New Voices was first to report that Jewish Voice for Peace – the group whose members heckled Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the GA in New Orleans in November – was as the forefront of the BDS (boycott, delegitimization, sanctions) movement against Jerusalem. And recent articles explored Jews in ROTC programs, the green movement on campus, and how Orthodox students deal with gay and lesbian friends.

With college students reporting and writing personal essays, it’s not surprising that New Voices has a liberal tone, sometimes criticizing Israel and the Jewish establishment. But there’s a conscious effort for balance, Sales says, and a sense of authenticity in the writing.

New Voices has served as an important training ground for budding journalists and has played a role in the effort to create a national Jewish campus community. So it’s more than a shame that it has always been seen as a marginal endeavor, always seeking a few more dollars to scrape by from year to year.

Sales, one of New Voices’ two employees, hasn’t paid himself over the last two pay cycles as he concentrates on raising funds. It’s embarrassing -- for him and for a community that prides itself on doing all it can to strengthen the Jewish future.

Comments

Thank you for this article,

I, a Jewish student, do feel misrepresented by campus organizations. Most campus organizations try to paint Jewish identity in a very simple way, and it pushes people to not identify at all. My Jewish identity is dynamic. It is neither based on the holocaust nor on Zionism, not falafel balls, not fear of persecution (although these are a part of our collective history). Campus organizations need to stop pushing such obvious agendas. Their monolithic crowds are testament to the fact that they only want one face for Jewish identity. This is all in my personal experience, and if there are jewish campus organizations who have gotten past this, Kol Hakavod! and Good luck to New Voices!

Aviva

In designing a communal response to Israel's enemies, it is essential to differentiate between acts aimed at harming the Jewish State and the mere showing of a movie, which addresses an important Israeli issue. I fail to see the wisdom in obsessively scouring every nook and cranny of the Jewish world for an imaginary fifth column when there are so many real Israel-haters for us to rally ourselves against.

There is a blind spot in your assumed Jewish community blind spot -- the posts are not a fair representation of the voices of Jewish students. Many are not those liberal critics -- many serious and thinking students who love and defend Israel's right to exist (we all still acknowledge that no state is perfect and obviously not Israel either) are hard at work and busy dealing with the anti-Israel radicalization on campus. It's a disturbing reality that we need to deal with on many campuses. It's the students who have undue critism and are wannabe liberal minded who usually have the time to crank up crap.
RE: BDS (boycott, "delegitimization", sanctions) BDS stands for (boycott, divestment, sanctions). Whether one agrees or not with their efforts, I do think accurate reporting is necessary. If you intended to send a message by changing the D word, then it should have been in quotes.

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