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Interfaith Israel advocacy course at Princeton
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Interfaith Israel advocacy course at Princeton

Dr. Naomi Vilko
Dr. Naomi Vilko

A Jewish physician and a Presbyterian college professor have found common ground on which to collaborate: their love for Israel.

Psychiatry professor Dr. Naomi Vilko and college professor Dr. Bonnie Galloway will co-teach an eight-week college-level course, Israel Inside/Out, at two locations: Princeton Theological Seminary and Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor.

The multimedia course, which is already offered on-line through Jerusalem Online University (jerusalemonlineuniversity.com), will feature films, readings, maps, news clippings, and guest speakers, including Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi. The course will cover three time spans dating back to 4,000 years of Jewish history: the history of Israel in ancient times, Zionism to the birth of the modern state, and post-statehood to the present. This is the first time the course is being offered “live” in the United States, its organizers said.

Vilko, a member of the synagogue who met Galloway in a local women’s group, was struck after meeting one Israeli woman whose college son “couldn’t defend himself against the students who were campaigning against Israel.” Recognizing that this may be “a growing problem to people maybe under 40,” she started talking to others involved with advocacy efforts. She established a pro-Israel “salon” that meets monthly in her home.

Galloway is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville and an adjunct professor at the College of New Jersey, Rider University, and Mercer County Community College.

“They’re always quick to pull the trigger on Israel,” said Galloway, who is concerned with “the plight of Palestinian women” and noted that the reality of honor killings against Arab women “doesn’t get mentioned much.”

Galloway also would like to see greater American support for the Jewish state. “Israel basically has been America’s constant friend since its birth 60-plus years ago,” but “we’re not always there for Israel.” She is also seeking to educate the national leadership of her own Presbyterian church, who in recent months have debated resolutions critical of Israel.

The course, to be held Tuesdays, Sept. 20-Dec. 21, is sponsored by the synagogues, Jewish National Fund, Interfaith Taskforce for America and Israel, and Jerusalem Online University.

“We teach from totally different perspectives,” said Vilko, noting Galloway’s special interest in women’s rights issues. “She is very high-energy and engaging to students and we actually taught a course together last year.”

With high hopes for the course, the pair would like to take it to other venues and are hoping to get credit approval from Rider and CNJ. Vilko also said it would be appropriate for high school seniors, who could potentially receive college credit as well.

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