Letters to the Editor – 02.24.04

By Letters from Readers

Mideast debate

I write in response to Benjamin Doherty’s misunderstandings reflected in his letter, “Mideast Conflict,” of February 20.

The Newberger Hillel Center’s mission is “to foster Jewish living and learning within our campus community.” Hillel celebrates the fact that Jewish students have a wide range of opinions on Israel and strives to serve all Jewish students, just as Hillel serves Jewish students without regard to their opinions on God or Jewish faith. Hillel assists students in learning more and thinking more deeply about Israel, Jewish belief, Jewish culture, a Jewish commitment to social justice, etc. Hillel understands that the state of Israel is central to Jewish life in the world today. Consistent with the commitments of its parent organization (Hillel/The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life), Hillel supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state within secure and recognized borders. (I should note that this support is also consistent with the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947.) Hillel does not take positions on particular policies of the Israeli government such as Israel’s security barrier.

Doherty paints a skewed picture of Hillel activities. Hillel’s web calendar shares information about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) Israel Summit of February 29, much as it shares information about other events that are of interest to different groups of students. Hillel promotes Birthright Israel and encourages Jewish students to participate in an educational and celebratory experience of Israel and Jewish life. Hillel has also recently featured such speakers as former Professor Rashid Khalidi and Israeli academic and human rights activist Neve Gordon.

Doherty is troubled that I took issue with the lack of balance in the sponsorship and selection of panelists for the February 12 “Perspectives” program. Hillel recognizes that an official student organization has the right to hold a one-sided program on Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or on any other topic. What distinguished the February 12 program from other campus programs was the fact that it was co-sponsored by the Middle East Studies Student Association (MESSA). As a student organization related to an academic center at the University of Chicago (Center for Middle Eastern Studies or CMES), MESSA plays a special role. MESSA may be expected to present programs that avoid the suggestion of activism. To do otherwise would be to create the impression that CMES is a center for advocacy.

Hillel is honored to be able to contribute nuance of its own to the ongoing and robust discussion of the Mideast conflict on campus.

Rabbi David M. Rosenberg

Executive Director

Newberger Hillel Center

University of Chicago

When Rabbi Rosenberg complained that a recent panel on the fence in Israel was unbalanced because it contained nobody to articulate the Israeli position (“Panel, Demonstrations Strike Nerve,” 2/13/04), Benjamin Doherty called him a hypocrite (“Mideast Conflict,” letter, 2/20/04) because Hillel-AIPAC presentations do not present the alleged other side.

I suggest there is a distinction between a labeled presentation by an advocacy group and a supposed “panel” presenting unbiased information.

If Palestinian supporters want to present a program labeled as coming from them, one would not expect them to present a pro-Israeli speaker. It appears that that was done under the guise of an open panel.

Jay S. Goldenberg

Attorney and Counselor

Chicago, IL

Burton-Judson shut down

My name is Eli Husock. I am a first-year in the College and a resident of Chamberlin House in Burton-Judson. I, and I think I speak for most of Chamberlin House, am appalled at the way this situation with the dining hall has been handled (“B-J Facilities Closed by City Officials,” 2/20/04). There has been no communication to the students about what is going on and why it is happening. To find out anything, we had to read about it in the Maroon, and this is our own dining hall. As soon as the problem was reported, all B-J students should have been given passes to use their meal points at Bartlett and shuttles should have been provided. At this point, we currently have had no meal service at all this weekend, and there still has been absolutely no communication from the higher-ups about what exactly is going on. We deserve at least some, if not all, of the following:

Refunds of the $36 that we would have paid in meal points this weekend, shuttles to Bartlett and/or Pierce dinning halls running regularly back and forth, and reimbursement in the form of extra Flex Dollars added on to our Flex accounts.

The above solutions should be extended to every resident of Burton-Judson as well as to residents of the Shoreland who eat at the B-J dining hall. At the very least, we deserve to be told exactly what is happening with the dining hall promptly and up front. This situation particularly affects my fellow first-years who are given no other option except to be on the full meal plan with meal points usable only at B-J. Many of us are here on financial aid and do not have the cash lying around to pay for three or four meals in a weekend, and, since we are on the meal plan, we should not be expected to do that. This situation needs to be remedied soon. Thank you.

Eli Husock

First-year in the College

Chamberlin House, B-J Hall

Democratic ticket

In his article titled “Well Dressed ‘Outed’ Conservatives Swarm Campus,” (2/17/04), John Lovejoy refers to John Kerry as Michael Dukakis’s running mate. Someone should tell Lovejoy that while John Kerry was once Michael Dukakis’s lieutenant governor, Michael Dukakis’s running mate in the 1988 presidential election was Lloyd Bensten of Texas.

Mark Kennel

University of Chicago Library