In This Issue

  • Latest Updates
  • AEN Speakers Bureau
  • AEN Writings
  • Campus Updates
  • Opportunities and Information
  • Upcoming Initiatives

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February 2017 Newsletter

Latest Updates

AEN now has 432 members on 172 campuses across the country. In the month of January, AEN recruited 45 new members.
 
Mark Yudof in Palm Beach 
AEN Advisory Board Chair Mark Yudof addressed Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach on January 14 on the topic of “Anti-Israel Activity on University Campuses.”

Mark also addressed the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County (January 25 at the JCC at Boynton Beach, and February 8 at the JCC at Palm Beach Gardens). He shared his insights on how students can respond effectively to anti-Israel activity with "vigor, intelligence, and poise."

From left to right: Arielle Nakdimon (Commission for Jewish Education), Luis Fleischman, Ph.D. (Vice President, JCRC, Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County), Mark Yudof (AEN), Lisa Tenenbaum (Program Chair).
Rachel Harris in Knoxville
On January 22, AEN member Rachel Harris hosted an Israeli film festival at the Jewish Community Center in Knoxville, TN. Two films were screened, accompanied by lectures and discussion, and sixty people attended.

On January 23, Harris presented a lecture “With a Six Shooter and Spurs: Imagining the Israeli Western” at the University of Tennessee campus auditorium of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. The lecture was well-attended (approximately 150 people), including community members, faculty, and students. Harris's lecture focused on Western films in Israeli cinema history, using the genre to discuss the creation of the state of Israel, the pioneer period and the diversity of immigrant communities. 

Harris was hosted by Helene Sinnreich, Director of the Judaic Studies Program at UT-Knoxville, with the assistance of an AEN microgrant. Earlier this year, there were a number of antisemitic social media posts published by students at UT-Knoxville.

AEN Speakers Bureau

The AEN Speakers' Bureau consists of experts on one or more relevant issues, including the BDS movement, academic freedom and free speech on campus, Israeli history, society, and contemporary governance, Israel and its Arab citizens, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the challenge of antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism, and strategies for opposing the BDS narrative. 

We know that pro-Palestinian student organizations have been trying new tactics on campus, coupling pro-BDS proposals with those advocating for other policies such as environmental protection and police reform, and conflating opposition to Israel with opposition to the Trump Administration. Meanwhile, we are witnessing rising currents of antisemitism on campus stemming from both the political left and right. Against this backdrop, the AEN Speakers Bureau exists to offer rounded perspectives on Israel and a deeper understanding of antisemitism, which challenge the one-sided narratives promoted by BDS activists and others.

We encourage AEN members to take advantage this great resource. Speakers are available in Spring 2017 to give public talks, followed by a class or seminar with faculty and students. If interested, please fill out a short application here.

The complete list of speakers, including their areas of expertise, can be found here

In connection with the Speakers’ Bureau, Ken Waltzer will appear on February 27 at the University of North Texas, in Denton, TX to speak about “Antisemitism of the Left and the Right.”  During his visit, Ken will also speak to a class and address a large audience in Dallas at the National Center for Jewish Art and Museum of Biblical Art, sponsored by the local JCRC and ADL chapters. His talk will be about "BDS and the American Campus." 

AEN Writings

In the Dallas Morning News, Mark Yudof wrote about the concept of in loco parentis, and its parallels to contemporary campus culture. "But universities are not homes, administrators are not parents. University students are not children. Students should not be protected from ideas and communications that they find disturbing. Robust speech, protected by the First Amendment, often may offend or chill or disrupt the conventional wisdom. That is good."

In the Times of Israel, Ken Waltzer outlined the new BDS tactic of sending divestment proposals to campus committees on socially responsible investing. "Pairing separate demands for divestment from the U.S. prison industry and from companies selling to Israel increases the ability of BDS forces to mobilize an intersectional coalition of minority groups and individuals on campus behind classic BDS objectives." AEN is currently following the divestment issue at Georgetown University and at several other campuses.

In the American Interest, Jeffrey Herf highlighted the distinction between Islam and Islamism, as well as multiple politicians' inability to effectively grasp that distinction. "Effective opposition to Trump will require some soul-searching among those who have refrained from speaking frankly about Islamism since 9/11. In the warp-speed world of Twitter and social media, everyone interested in this issue would benefit from taking time to read the scholarship that the two previous administrations and too much of the foreign-policy establishment dismissed or ignored." From 9-10 a.m. (EST) on Thursday, February 16, Herf will be conducting a webinar for Fathom magazine comparing the anti-Semitic anti-Zionism of the East German government, West German radical leftist organisations, and the components of the contemporary UK left - this can be viewed here.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Cary Nelson argued against attempts to boycott academic conferences in the US in the name of protesting against the Trump Administration’s actions. Nelson spoke out against this strategy based on the principles of academic freedom and free scholarly exchange. "On the practical level, the proposal to boycott U.S. academic conferences, as with earlier academic-boycott efforts, effectively punishes some of the most vocal critics of government policy... Furthermore, it is hard to believe that the Trump administration, which has shown nothing but contempt for academics and their work, would even register the boycott, much less be moved by it. The only ones who would be hurt are academics." 

In the Washington Post, Thane Rosenbaum reviewed The Genius of Judaism, the most recent book by French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy. "The Genius of Judaism, a smart, revealing and essential book for our times...enables him to reflect on how he has lived his life as a Jew and how, as a student of moral philosophy and world events, his writer’s voice took on more prophetic, humanistic dimensions." Henri-Levy is an outspoken opponent of BDS and leading commentator on antisemitism. His position on rising antisemitism in the U.S. appears here.

In Minding the Campus, Jonathan Marks questioned the decision by Fordham University's administration to reject the establishment of a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on campus. "Colleges and universities that choose to adopt the standards of academic freedom have adopted a version of the view that the unexamined life is not worth living, a view distinguished from other views by its built-in insistence on testing itself."

In Legal Insurrection, Miriam Elman supported a proposed law banning international BDS activists from entering Israel. "Tourists who go should plan to spend their time creating lifelong memories at holy sites, natural wonders, cultural venues, and world-class restaurants. So visas shouldn’t be issued routinely to those who want to visit simply so that they can 'fight Israel', and delegitimize the state and vilify its people 24/7 when they get back home."


We know that our members - who have multiple viewpoints, not necessarily all in agreement with others - will have lots to share about developments in the US, Israel, and around the world. If you are writing, blogging, or speaking, please let us know!

Campus Updates

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh released a letter to the campus community on January 26, in which he affirmed the institution's commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression, even in times of political tension and polarization. "We cannot learn, teach, pursue truth, and advance knowledge without academic freedom and freedom of expression, civility and respect, diversity and inclusion, openness and shared governance...  I ask every member of our academic community to help us move forward with an open mind, consider different perspectives, and debate with respect and  civility. These are the qualities that make trust, collaboration, and progress possible in a democracy." AEN leaders Mark Yudof and Ken Waltzer sent a letter to Loh commending his statement.

The Student Senate of the Associated Students of University of California, Riverside (ASUCR) passed a resolution to discontinue the sale of the Sabra brand of hummus by a vote of 13-0-1 on February 1. The resolution included inaccurate statements about Sabra’s ties to the Israeli military and insinuating language about UC administrations “prioritizing loyalty and obedience to pro-Israel interests rather than the interests of their students, faculty, and overall campus community.” The administration quickly stated that it has no plans to deshelve Sabra, which AEN praised in a letter to Chancellor Kim Wilcox.  AEN also expressed concern about the resolution's inflammatory language and attack on the UC Regents Principles Against Intolerance.

At the University of Oregon, Manzil Midrash is a project that Oregon Hillel, the Muslim Student Association and the Arab Student Union started three years ago to generate deeper conversations about Israeli and Palestinian issues, and to bring communities together. University of Oregon President Michael Schill spoke to the group last week, praising its commitment to dialogue. 

At the University of California, Berkeley, violent protests forced the cancellation of a scheduled speech by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. AEN released a statement condemning the violence, affirmed the right to freedom of speech and expression, and commended the university administration for acting consistently with these values.

Also at UC-Berkeley, students at the Boalt Law School are planning a trip to Israel with the Boalt Jewish Students Association in March 2017, which met with some opposition from pro-Palestinian students. One of the trip organizers wrote the following letter to the broader community, which was praised by fellow students and ultimately led to twenty more applications for the trip:

"This blanket rejection of our trip to Israel is not only antithetical to the type of open-minded community we value at Berkeley Law, but also bears no resemblance to any manner of constructive dialogue. These actions indicate a fundamental unwillingness to engage in discourse with those across lines of difference, instead opting for public spectacle and intimidation. We reject these tactics.

This trip is not a referendum on policies. It espouses no political agenda. Our aim is simply to bring Berkeley Law students to Israel, so that they can learn first-hand about the culture, history, and complexities of the world’s only Jewish state. We want to use this opportunity to create an inclusive dialogue, and we invite the entire Boalt Community, LSJP among it, to engage with us. This is the only agenda of our trip."

Opportunities and Information

Israel Institute Grants
The Israel Institute provides research grants to scholars who are conducting substantive research on modern Israel. These grants facilitate the research and writing of books or scholarly articles that make an original contribution to the field of Israel Studies and promote a greater understanding of modern Israel. Areas of study include, but are not limited to, Israeli history, politics, economics, and law. Grants are available for both post-docs (within 3 years of their Ph.D.) and senior scholars. You can learn more about these grants and apply for them here. The deadline to apply is April 17, 2017.

University of Haifa
We wanted to remind you of a standing invitation for all AEN members to become Affiliated Professors at the University of Haifa, part of a movement to oppose attempts to boycott Israeli institutions. More information about this opportunity is available here, and instructions to apply to become an Affiliated Professor are here.

As many of you know, the University of Haifa, like the city of Haifa, is also a site of coexistence and collaboration, with about one-third of the student body consisting of Arab citizens of Israel. You can read more about higher education for Arab Israeli citizens in this 2012 report by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues. 

Upcoming Initiatives

AEN National Conference
AEN will hold its second National Conference May 15-17, 2017, in Chicago, IL. PLEASE HOLD THE DATES! We are excited about our conference program, which will include keynote talks by author and former member of Knesset Einat Wilf, University of Chicago Law School Professor Geof Stone, and Brandeis University Professor and founding director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Ilan Troen. Panels will address a variety of issues, including free speech controversies, shifts in the political and cultural climate on campus, and current and projected trends for BDS campaigns. Invitations for the conference - complete with details about locations and schedules - will be sent soon. 

LA Faculty Convening
AEN will hold a faculty convening in Los Angeles on February 23. This will involve a luncheon with graduate students and Jewish Studies faculty at UCLA, a meeting with UCLA staff charged with implementing the UC Regents Principles Against Intolerance, and an evening meeting at the UCLA Hillel  for all LA-area faculty members. 

AEN Website Redesign
AEN is in the process of redesigning and organizing its website to maximize ease of navigation and utility to its visitors. If you have any feedback about the current site, or have ideas on resources or information which would be helpful to include, please let us know at raeefa@academicengagement.org.

Microgrant Events
These upcoming events have all been funded by AEN microgrants and sponsored by AEN members:

February 27: "Contemporary Israeli Politics"
As part of an AEN microgrant bringing relevant Israel expertise to Kalamzoo College, Amy Elman, Professor of Political Science at Kalamazoo College, will host Yael Aronoff of Michigan State University, who will offer an in-class lecture on the peace negotiations under former Secretary of State John Kerry for Elman's winter Political Science course, “Israeli Politics: Constructing and Reconstructing Israel.” Aronoff will follow with a public lecture later that evening on Israel’s war with Hamas and the future of negotiations. Later, in early April, Elman will host renowned Israeli historian Benny Morris, who has a temporary position this year at Georgetown University, for a lecture on Israel's War of Independence. The lecture will be open to the entire campus and wider community.

March 5: "A Film of Her Own: Women’s Voices in Israeli Cinema"
Rachel Harris, Assistant Professor of Israeli Literature and Culture in Comparative and World Literature and the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will host a conference bringing together scholars and critics of Israeli cinema and women’s studies with women directors who are transforming the Israeli film landscape. A detailed schedule of the conference can be seen here.

April 1-2: "We Are One People: Sephardic and Judeo-Arab Music"

Martin Shichtman, Professor of English and Director of Jewish Studies at Eastern Michigan University, will organize an event to draw on the work and performances of anthropologist/musicologist Dr. Galeet Dardashti. The event will include a public lecture by Dardashti on “Arab/Jewish Artistic Coexistence,” and her group will then perform the following day at a nearby venue in Ann Arbor, MI.

AEN microgrants are available to AEN members in amounts up to $4,000. These grants aim to support faculty- and staff-developed educational initiatives that address issues related to modern Israel. We wish to encourage innovative and creative initiatives, with special consideration given to those that envision collaboration with multiple academic departments that will impact students, faculty, and the broader campus community. If you are interested in applying for an AEN microgrant, please fill out the application, with as much specific information about your event or initiative as possible, here.


As always, we would like to highlight our members' activities. If you would like to share any information about AEN-related work on your campus, please let us know at raeefa@academicengagement.org.
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