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Israel advocacy position to be created at RU Hillel
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Israel advocacy position to be created at RU Hillel

Rutgers Hillel leaders at the May 24 annual gala are, from left, front row, Mark Busch of North Brunswick, Michal Greenbaum of Hoboken, Katie Landy of Medfield, Mass., Ruth Cole of Ridgewood, executive director Andrew Getraer, Rona Shein of West End, Raff
Rutgers Hillel leaders at the May 24 annual gala are, from left, front row, Mark Busch of North Brunswick, Michal Greenbaum of Hoboken, Katie Landy of Medfield, Mass., Ruth Cole of Ridgewood, executive director Andrew Getraer, Rona Shein of West End, Raff

A new Israel advocacy position is being created at Rutgers Hillel.

The director of Israel advocacy engagement will be based at Hillel on the New Brunswick campus and will be available to any campus group and for consultation with other colleges in New Jersey needing assistance in defending and promoting Israel.

The announcement of the position, made May 24 at the annual Rutgers Hillel gala in Livingston, is in large part a response to a spate of pro-Palestinian activity on campus during the 2010-11 academic year.

Rutgers Hillel director Andrew Getraer told NJJN that interviews are being conducted. He said he expects to have the new staffer in place by Aug. 1.

The position is being funded by Jewish federations across the state.

Jacob Toporek, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, told NJJN the idea for the advocacy position came through discussions with Getraer. Toporek said he brought the funding issue to individual federations and asked them to allocate money toward the $75,000 needed to fund the position; $62,300 has been raised so far.

Toporek said he received commitments from seven of the state’s 12 federations, and expects more as the others make their funding decisions for their next fiscal year. “There is unity among the federations and I have no doubt the funding will be there,” he added.

Toporek said he envisions that as the new director gets a handle on Rutgers and develops a strategy, the university will host Israel advocacy training sessions for students from other schools.

Additionally, Hillel has hired Lihi Rothschild as shliha, or Israel emissary, who will work directly with students. The position, a joint initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel and Rutgers Hillel, is being funded by Warren Eisenberg and Leonard Feinstein, cofounders of Bed Bath & Beyond.

Rothschild will start the same day as the new Israel engagement director and be under his or her supervision, said Hillel associate director for Jewish Campus Life Rabbi Esther Reed.

“We really felt with the rise of anti-Israel sentiment on campus this past year we needed someone to be the face of Israel on campus,” she said, adding that an emissary had previously been assigned to Rutgers during the 2003-04 school year.

Rothschild’s role will be to build personal relationships with students, creating a bond with Israel through a personal face. She will work with students on a variety of Israel cultural and political events and will also assist with recruiting for the two Birthright trips run by Hillel.

The emissary will also work with the Hebrew Speakers Club and will be a resource in general for students on campus who want to learn about Israel.

‘Stand up for truth’

The annual gala drew 260 supporters to the Crystal Plaza.

During the dinner, student leaders spoke on the evening’s theme, “Fighting the Delegitimization of Israel on Campus.” National and international figures from the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement held a number of events at Rutgers this year harshly critical of Israel.

“Standing up for Israel means standing up for the truth,” recent graduate Liran Kapoano of Edison told the crowd. “I will continue to stand up for the truth.”

Kapoano, the founder of Scarlet, Blue and White: The Rutgers Pro-Israel Alliance on campus, was honored at the dinner as a Rising Star. The alliance, not affiliated with Hillel, seeks to create broad-based support for Israel in the Jewish community and beyond.

Other Rising Stars honored were recent graduate Mariya Badu of Fair Lawn, senior Katie Landy of Medfield, Mass., junior Raffi Mark of Wayne, and senior Sarah Morrison of Edison, who just completed a term as Hillel president.

Mark will be Hillel’s Israel chair in the coming year and was instrumental in planning Hillel’s response to “Israel Apartheid Week,” staged by pro-Palestinian groups. He described the campus as “being transformed into Ground Zero” of the campaign to delegitimize Israel.

Michal Greenbaum of Hoboken received the Young Alumni Award. A 2007 graduate now working on a master’s degree in nonprofit management at the New School, Greenbaum is assistant director of teen initiatives and Jewish service learning coordinator at the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.

The Rabbi Julius Funk Alumni Award was presented to Mark Busch of North Brunswick, who just completed a three-year term as board president of Rutgers Hillel.

Also honored were Jeffries and Rona Shein of West End, who have been major contributors to, among other initiatives, the Rutgers Hillel Shabbat Meal Program. Jeffries has served as president of the former Central New Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged in Somerset, and Rona is a Lion of Judah and an emerald donor to the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.

The evening’s other honorees were Leonard and Ruth Cole of Ridgewood; she is president of the State Association and a member of Hadassah’s national board, and he is cochair of the task force on anti-Semitism of the Jewish Agency for Israel and chair of the Birthright-Israel committee of the Jewish Federations of North America.

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