Dear College Students: Don’t Dismiss Jewish Communal Life Just Yet

There may be much to react to in New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg’s recent piece about how the current President of the United States has “revived the Jewish left,” but I’ll leave to others the task of a full response. Conditioned, perhaps, by reading the piece while monitoring a wave of photographs on my Facebook feed depicting friends and family members bringing their offspring to college campuses, I’m still enmeshed in this three-sentence paragraph:

Alyssa Rubin, a 25-year-old organizer with Never Again Action, told me that in college, she had little interest in Jewish communal life, much of which seemed to revolve around support for Israel. But in the months leading up to the 2016 election, as Trump spouted rhetoric that smacked of fascism and white nationalists grew giddy at their new relevance, ‘I had never thought about my Judaism more,’ she said. For the first time, anti-Semitism seemed an immediate, urgent threat.

What troubled me most was the implication—an idea that I’ve encountered elsewhere and worry may have been inculcated into the current flock of incoming undergraduates—that “establishment” Jewish life on campus “revolves around support for Israel.” If anecdotal experiences like Rubin’s are to be given representative credence in the paper of record, let’s pause and consider another individual example. Mine.

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Words of the Week

“’I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on the Jewish community,’ Raisman said Tuesday, describing her 2012 gold medal-winning routine, which included a component to the music of ‘Hava Nagila,’ the Jewish folk song.

‘I didn’t realize at the time I was representing not only the United States but the Jewish community,’ Raisman told the Lion of Judah conference, held this year at a Florida resort. ‘I received a letter from a Holocaust survivor saying she never imagined in her life seeing a young girl performing to ‘Hava Nagila’ in front of the world and see her win for it.'”

Source: Aly Raisman, quoted in this JTA article.