One of the less than super features of my six years at the high school formerly known as Akiba Hebrew Academy was the seemingly endless succession of assemblies hosting guest speakers from organizations like the ZOA speaking on topics like the caginess of Arabs and the awesomeness of what we’ve since learned to call “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Then my senior year I organized a human rights conference that included Ian Lustick, a Zionist with some concerns about human rights in Israel, and I got called into the Principal’s office and told that he didn’t like having controversial speakers without counterbalancing speakers there to offer “the other side” (in the end I was able to negotiate a compromise where Lustick would speak alone after an Ahmadinejad-at-Columbia-style introduction from the Headmaster and Lustick and Daniel Pipes would be invited to have a debate at Akiba later on).
A couple months later, the Headmaster announced that everyone in the school would be bussed to an “Israel Solidarity Rally” downtown. After a bunch of kids objected to being forced to participate in a rally defending the Likud government from criticism, Akiba agreed to let kids who wanted to skip the rally and stay at school to watch Exodus and think about what they’d done. A couple months after that, Akiba’s administration announced at my graduation that everyone in the Class of 2002 would receive a copy in the mail at college of Myths and Facts About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (“Myth: Palestinians. Fact: Israelis.”).
All this came to mind when I opened my e-mail and saw an e-mail circulating amongst Akiba Alumni to “Seek neutrality on political issues at Akiba.” What instigated it? Apparently some of my more right-wing friends were appalled that Akiba sent out an e-mail announcing an event hosted by the insufficiently-Likud-friendly New Israel Fund.
I am surprised and disheartened by Josh’ report. For one thing, I am the Communications Director for the New Israel Fund. For another, I am an Akiba alumna, class of 1973, and have always thought the values I learned at Akiba have contributed to the work I value so highly, now.
It is odd that the upcoming NIForum event, on Wednesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, would attract animosity. Who else in the U.S. could or world sponsor a nine-city event focusing on Israeli social issues, including human rights, social and economic equity and religious pluralism. We are progressives, yes, and we stand for equality for all Israelis — and these events are a conversation about how to attain a better Israel. Certainly former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Nomi Chazan, our lead speaker, represents a sizable segment of Israeli society…
I will make the offer here, informally, of returning to Akiba at any time to talk about the New Israel Fund or Israeli social issues generally. After our nine-city event and a subsequent trip to Israel, I will make the same offer formally in a letter to Akiba. The tactics described by Josh sound ham-handed and silly, and I am pretty depressed about what has become of my old school if this report is even half-correct.
did you ever get the copy of “myths and facts”? I never got mine. I guess they just looked at the Oberlin zip code and threw up their hands.
For what it’s worth, the first ever meeting of the anti-anti-Arab club (better name to come) is today.
I never realized akiba was that far right, but given that it’s across the street from where my grandmother lived until last year, i guess i shouldn’t be surprised.
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