IN THE CENTER of the Montclair State University quad on Nov. 19, Hillel students, their T-shirts emblazoned with peace signs, made a demonstration of their support for Israel as Operation Pillar of Defense raged. They set up two tables decorated with signs displaying peaceful messages and called on passersby to sign their “posters for peace.”
The aim of the Nov. 19 “pro-peace” event, which drew some 30 supporters, was to counter an anti-Israel demonstration on the Upper Montclair campus and show students’ support for a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ provided guidance to Hillel in terms of strategy and resources.
Other students joined the Hillel members to show support for their cause. Among those who visited throughout the day were Professor Jaime Grinberg, professor of educational foundations and Jewish American studies, and dean of students Dr. Rose Mary E. Howell.
“It was great to have the support of so many students come out to stand up for what they believe,” said MSU Hillel president Allison Weitz. She also expressed gratitude to the CRC and Howell “for all their support.”
The anti-Israel demonstrators — a shifting group of 15-20 individuals — began their protest at about 2:30 p.m., some two hours after the Hillel group arrived at the quad. They set up tables, displayed signs, and chanted such slogans as “Stop the U.S.-Israel Holocaust/Shoah” and “Stop Terrorizing Palestinian Civilians.” In response to their chants, the Hillel group responded with shouts of “We want peace!” Although it could not be confirmed, reports were that the rally was organized by the president of the campus’s Students for a Democratic Society, not the organization itself.
There was a moment of tension when one of the anti-Israel protesters approached the Hillel group and became emotional, shouting such things as, “My family is dying in Gaza” and “You can’t keep using the Holocaust as an excuse for occupation.” The Hillel students, in an effort to adhere to permit guidelines prohibiting their involvement in confrontational situations, refrained from responding, and Weitz attempted to alleviate the situation.
The CRC will continue to work with the MSU Hillel to organize a community educational program.