Oct 19, 2015

Recent Israel Related Event at UC Berkeley

Recent Israel Related Event at UC Berkeley

Oct. 15, 2015
Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman
Executive Director – UC Berkeley Hillel

As many of you have heard or have seen on Facebook, yesterday Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized an ‘International Day of Action.’  The protest occurred on the steps of Sproul Plaza.  Being out there for two hours was incredibly difficult to see and hear.  To hear students yell their support for an Intifada was gut wrenching and emotional for me, Berkeley Hillel staff and Jewish students.  For many students, this was their first encounter with others who do not share their strong love for Israel.  What did make me proud was to see so many Jewish students who love Israel out there on Sproul, containing their emotion, holding up Israeli flags and signs, and showing their love and support of Israelis and the Jewish people.  Special thanks go out to Bears For Israel and Tikvah: Students for Israel for their leadership in organizing a thoughtful and important counter message.  In addition to the students’ leadership, the caring nature of Berkeley Hillel’s Jewish Agency Shlichah, Dror Stein’s leadership and love for Israel helped the student leaders along with so many Jewish students deal with the difficult event.  Jewish students that walked by were appreciative of the work they did.  Their leadership was a beautiful example for all of us.  They conducted themselves with restraint and maturity that would make Am Yisrael proud.  When confronted with difficult individuals or conversations, they respectfully engaged with them without escalating the situation.  While I felt such pain and sadness when I read SJP’s signs and when I heard their chants, at the same time, I gained such strength and was full of pride to be a Jew and lover of Israel, thanks to the leadership and commitment of the students. 
  
While yesterday was so hard to hear and difficult to see, it only inspires me to be here every day and support Jewish life on the Berkeley campus.  To walk from the rally with a pit in my stomach into a Hillel full of students, with the tasty wafts coming from the kosher Kitchen of bbq chicken being prepared for over 100 students for our weekly bbq, reminded me of the holy work before me.  While the campus at times can be difficult and for some students painful, it is a constant reminder of the necessity to provide a safe and thriving Hillel so that Jewish students can express and explore their Jewish identity.  Thanks to so many of you for your concern, for your love of the students and for helping us enrich their lives.  I pray that one day I will be able to write you all an email about the wonderful work of co-existence and about the rallies on Sproul Plaza of students working to pursue peace and speak out against senseless hatred and violence.   

As we welcome Shabbat tomorrow night let us remember our family and friends living in Israel and pray for not only their safety and security but for peace and tranquility in our Jewish homeland.  

Shabbat Shalom,
Adam


Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman
Executive Director – UC Berkeley Hillel
2736 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704