More on the Drew/Israel situation

See the previous post for more on this story as well as links to my previous posts about this.

Lara Portnoy, student member of the committee tasked with re-inventing the rule preventing [EDIT: Name removed as requested] from studying in Israel, a Yid herself and President of MESA (Middle-Eastern Student Association), has sent me a link to the JPost article I wrote about in the previous post. You can read it here.

I’d like to take this time to respond to a couple of comments that were left on the previous post. First, I’d like to respond to Richard Silverstein, proprietor of the excellent Israeli and American Jewish news blog, Tikun Olam.

Richard wondered if this is an issue of Drew simply refusing to endorse a decision to study in Israel or a refusal to accept credits from Israeli universities. I imagine that if a student transferred to Drew from an Israeli school, they would have no problem with their credits transferring. However, Drew sees accepting credits from an Israeli university, which a Drewid studied at while enrolled at Drew as equal to an endorsement of what our insurance company believes is reckless self-endangerment.

An individual called “lori,” who left no link nor email address with her comment, also visited the previous post and left a comment. Lori may have found her way here via Google search. I have had many visitors to the blog in the last couple of days via Google searches along the lines of “[EDIT: Name removed, as requested] + Israel” and “Israel + Drew University.” Regardless of how she found her way here, she said:

“This isn’t a circus. It’s wrong for Drew not to accept credits from Israel’s universities. The insurance excuse is bull – there are plenty of policies that cover study abroad in Israel. Drew needs to step up here or risk its standing not just with the Jewish community. Israel’s universities have led the way in tech and biomedical research and have Nobel nominees. Look what happened to British academia when they tried to play politics with Israel. Shame on Drew for not trying harder.”

If lori had examined my previous posts on this story, as the post she commented on suggested that readers do, she might not have made this comment. I’ve already addressed most of these issues in previous posts.

Lori says that “the insurance excuse is bull.” That confuses me. Apparently, many other small liberal arts colleges have the exact same bull insurance excuses. No one is arguing with the lori’s comment that, “Israel’s universities have led the way in tech and biomedical research and have Nobel nominees.” That is all true. That is also not the issue.

What angers me about lori’s comment is her attempt to equate this with British academia’s recent boycott of Israel. This is an analogy that simply does not hold up. In the case of the British academics, this was a concerted effort to make a statement about Israel. There were members of the British academic community saying flat out that they were opposed to Israel and Israel’s actions. In the case of Drew, this is really and truly an issue of insurance. No one here has said anything about Israel doing anything wrong.

3 Responses to More on the Drew/Israel situation

  1. lori November 28, 2007 at 3:18 pm #

    Since you responded to my relatively short comment… First, if you want to lead the pro-Drew, pro-insurance, anti-Israel policy, you need to be more thoughtful about your own writing e.g., “I imagine that if a student transferred to Drew from an Israeli school, they would have problem with their credits transferring. However, Drew sees accepting credits from an Israeli university, which a Drewid studied at while enrolled at Drew as equal to an endorsement of what our insurance company believes is reckless self-endangerment.” This isn’t even English.
    There are times for leadership and this is one of them. Obviously there are schools that accept study abroad to Israel – they found a way. Drew (and you) are lacking in leadership and fail to see how this can become much larger than just an insurance issue (if, so find a company that will insure students on this program). If you want Drew to be known as a school that won’t allow study abroad in Israel, and the larger consequences that this could have, such as on future Jewish enrollment, support, etc. I hope you hold a minority view on this. Sometimes doing the right thing takes some work and leaders are willing to do what it takes. Drew’s policy is a statement on Israel – that it is not safe and not a place for Drewids. Again, shame on Drew and you.

  2. davidamwilensky November 28, 2007 at 5:21 pm #

    Sorry about a little typo. Thanks for pointing it out, lori. I meant to say “I imagine that if a student transferred to Drew from an Israeli school, they would have NO problem with their credits transferring. However, Drew sees accepting credits from an Israeli university, which a Drewid studied at while enrolled at Drew as equal to an endorsement of what our insurance company believes is reckless self-endangerment.” I hope that meets your approval of what constitutes English.

    I agree that this is a time for leadership. That is why I and Lara Portnoy, who I’ve mentioned before, met with University President Bob Weisbuch (himself a Jew) followed by College of Liberal Arts Dean Paolo Cucchi. They both agreed that this is a big problem.

    That they believe it is a problem is the reason that Lara has been appointed to a committee that will revise the current rules.

    Lori, you write that “Drew’s policy is a statement on Israel – that it is not safe and not a place for Drewids.” This is only half true. The statement that Drew is making is that Drew does not have the reseources to decide which countries are safe for Drewids and which are not. Because of that, Drew has decided to simply rely on the advice of the US State Department (which, despite their inclusion of Israel on the travel advisory list, no one would dare call anti-Israel).

    The new policy may change that statement–I hope it does. For now, that’s what it is.

    As for your implication that I “want Drew to be known as a school that won’t allow study abroad in Israel,” any plain reading of my posts thus far (please do go back and read about this issue from my first post on it) will show you that that is not the case. I strongly take issue with your insinuation that I don’t want my classmates to be able to study in Israel. I spent four months studying there during my senior year of high school and I intend to return during my junior year here at Drew!

    PS-lori, simply out of curiosity, who are you? I’m just wondering what your stake is in this issue. Are you involved with Drew somehow or are you just a concerned member of the tribe?

  3. lori November 29, 2007 at 10:34 am #

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about whether Drew’s administration is making its best efforts on this. In my view, they are hiding behind a “what can we do?” attitude. Since other schools have found a way to enable their students to study in Israel, there must be ways Drew can as well. And, as for appointing a committee to revise this policy, that is a recipe for paralysis by analysis. Drew has well-paid professionals, including its President, who can resolve this issue right away. I had to read again your comment that no one would dare call the U.S. State Department anti-Israel. If you mean its current Secretary and her boss, the President, I agree with you. But the Department as a whole has a very long history of a lack of sympathy for the Jewish state and people. There are times for committees and inclusion of stakeholders. This is not such a time. This is a time for leadership and Drew falls short. Since this is an opinion instrument, I feel that anyone who thinks otherwise is paying lip service or worse, just trying to gain some recognition or Brownie points. This is not to say your efforts to work with Drew’s administration shouldn’t be applauded. This just isn’t the kind of issue that needs that kind of effort. My view – after hearing the suggestion that a committee should be formed you should have responded, “that is simply not good enough, Mr. President. You have the ability to resolve this matter and do the right thing now.” Then, use your considerable intellect and energy to organize the community and ask for action now. With respect to your question about who I am, I am Jewish and that helped bring this to my attention.