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Rabbi Rudin's Message to Our High School Graduates... Mazal Tov!

08/11/2021 04:08:22 PM


A Message to our High School Grads, Families and our Community..


Mazal Tov!  Welcome to a most exciting time of your life!  It has been our great joy and pride to share your childhood with you and your family and see you grow into the wonderful young adults that you have become. 

It’s hard to believe that many of our high school graduates are already planning the big move to campus.  Others, following the ongoing Covid pandemic, have elected to explore other opportunities.

I wanted you, our precious young people,  to know that whatever your path forward is, I and your Adath Shalom family are with you all the way.  We know you- you grew up here.  The echoes of your laughter still ring in the sanctuary, halls and classrooms.  The sounds of your voice saying the prayers for the first time are lovingly tended and kept in our archive of love and memory; the reflections of your smiles dance in the windows and Cantor and I still thrill when we think of your Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s.  How could we not love you, pray for your happiness, support you and desire to be there for you in whatever way we can be?  A word of encouragement, a call, card or email, just saying hi or to help in spiritual, emotional or concrete ways; please don’t hesitate to reach out. 


I am sorry to say that on many of our college campuses, things for Jewish students are not the same as they were even a few years ago.  University years are the years of being exposed to new ideas, learning, exploring, sharing, arguing, debating, figuring things out.  For those of you going to colleges and universities, an exciting experience awaits you and I invite you to take part not only in classes but in the dynamic offerings of campus life.  Of course I mean Jewish life through Hillel, Chabad or any of the many other exciting options, but also in the general culture and foment of many perspectives of life. 

But a pernicious movement has hijacked youthful energy and enthusiasm not with a perspective but with propaganda, not with an invitation to debate or dialogue but intimidation, falsehood and soundbites of hate.  They call themselves BDS, boycott, divest, sanctions and create organizations such as STudents for Justice in Palestine, but make no mistake.  The only goal of this movement is to undermine American support for Israel and to demonize Jews and Judaism.  Dressed in the disguise of academic discussion, Jew-hate, among some in the academic community- students, professors, teachers, faculty, administrators and even student and faculty unions have fallen to the one-sided, distorted simplistic so called narrative of anti-Zionism.  

This battle goes far deeper than any individual’s experience.  It is a well-funded and well-connected movement with roots in Islamic fundamentalism, Holocaust denial and terrorism.

My message to you is to recognize this if you experience it.  The vast majority of people, faculty and peers you meet on campus will be kind, compassionate, friendly and open minded and open hearted.  But there may be some who do not see you as you but in a distorted, racist way: as someone to be subverted to self-hate or opposed as an enemy.  Unfortunately, this opposition has taken the form at times of intimidation, threats, harassment and even worse.  

You may choose to become an advocate for Israel on campus.  I did it- it’s exciting and when dialogue- real dialogue- happens between sides, then the seeds of peace are planted. But the BDS movement is not interested in dialogue or in peace but in destroying the American-Israeli partnership and ultimately in destroying Israel.  You may choose to engage in other aspects of campus life.  The choice is yours and yours alone and I absolutely trust you to make the choice that is right for you. 

But there are two things I feel are important to say.  The first is that throughout its history, Jew-hate has adopted different guises and rationales meant to hide the racist hate that it really is.  On some campuses, anti-Semitism calls itself anti-Zionism or makes wild and false accusations  about Israel claiming that Israel embraces apartheid or that Israel is committing genocide: a horrific statement considering that the Jewish people are still traumatized by the Holocaust, only one generation distant.  

When you hear these claims, or others such as the United States is controlled by a so-called Israel lobby, that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country, that the birthright program tries to indoctrinate- in fact it tries to educate- that Israel is responsible for this or for that, or that Jews control the media etc., please realize that you are not dealing with an authentic perspective but with anti-Semitic racism no different than White supremecy, Naziism or any other form of hate.  I pray that knowing this will help you recognize it if you see it.

The second thing is that it is not your obligation to take up the cause of advocacy and countering the multiple falsehoods that have hijacked the discourse.  If you wish to get involved in Jewish and Israel advocacy on campus, I applaud you and am here to support you as well as is the entire American Jewish community.  There are many resources available to help.  

But if you choose not to, that is absolutely fine.  However, I have one request.  If you encounter prejudice, bigotry, anti-Semitism, intimidation, threat or harrassment in any form, realize that it is unacceptable and intolerable.  Please do not allow yourself to be diminished or intimidated.  But do not try to oppose it alone.  In the face of growing anti-Semitism on campus, Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League and other advocacy organizations have your back.  And so do your parents and as do I and Cantor.  No one: not a professor, not a fellow student or anyone else has the right to demean you, discount you, single you out, shame you or in any way cause you harm because you are Jewish or because you support Israel.  Ignoring anti-Semitism and any form of hate, we have tragically learned, does not make it go away but only makes it stronger.   Please speak out and say something to someone you trust if you encounter prejudice and bigotry in any form.  You are not alone.

But whatever your path forward, as I said earlier, we are here to support you without judgment, without any agenda other than your happiness, self-fulfillment and well being.  So whether you go to college or opt for other options, please stay in touch.   Our prayer and blessing is for your wellbeing, the fulfillment of your high potential for good, happiness and the great times that await you.  L’shana Tova!

With abundant blessings-

Rabbi Rudin


Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784