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COMMENTARY: Jewish leaders of J Street U at Rutgers call on Hillel director to apologize

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Jewish students at Rutgers are lucky to have a large and well-funded Hillel with an impressive staff and list of programs. As Jews and student leaders of J Street U, the pro-Israel, pro-peace campus movement, we are thankful for Hillel-supported opportunities like Shabbat dinners, dialogue events and more. So it is with concern for our community at home and commitment to our pro-Israel, progressive values that we ask Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel, to apologize for his Islamophobic remarks that hurt our campus community and impeded our pro-Israel work.

The remarks made by Getraer will neither move forward the relationship between Jewish and Muslim students at Rutgers nor help in our common effort to secure the future of the state of Israel. In a recent opinions piece published by The Daily Targum, the deep divisions between Rutgers' Jewish and Muslim communities were once again reaffirmed. Opinions columnist Sabah Abbasi recalled Getraer’s remarks. “Islam is a huge problem,” Getraer wrote in a leaked Twitter conversation. “But there are 1.5 billion Muslims ... They are not ALL the problem. I know a few — a FEW — devout Muslims who are normal, not hateful people.” He went on to explain this “huge problem” and then he followed with: “Let’s say 25 percent of Muslims are really Islamists … 25 percent of 1.5 billion is still 375 million radicals.”

While leaking private conversations is unquestionably problematic, the fact that these opinions are now out in the open demands that our community acknowledge and take responsibility for them. These Islamophobic comments are not in line with our Jewish values, but because of the positions Andrew Getraer and Rutgers Hillel hold, these words have unfortunately come to represent all of the Jewish community here at our school in the minds of many people on and off-campus.

The importance of remembering our power in the Jewish community and recognizing our mistakes goes far beyond our own campus. J Street U is a national movement committed to progressive, pro-Israel politics and the safety and security of Israel living alongside the future state of Palestine. We don’t believe that being pro-Israel means checking our progressive values at the door. We oppose the occupation of the Palestinian territory beyond the Green Line and advocate for a two-state solution.

We insist that our community act on its values — the values of the successive American administrations, Israeli governments and Jewish communal leaders. Whether it is over the demolition of Palestinian homes, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, or Islamophobia in our communities, J Street U is a home for folks who both accept and demand responsibility and accountability from our Jewish community.

We in the Jewish community and at Rutgers generally have to ask ourselves: Do we stand by these remarks — or do we stand for a tolerant and respectful Jewish community? Going forward, will we take responsibility for our own actions here and in Israel or choose to remain silent at critical moments? An apology from Getraer for these remarks would be an important and commendable step in the right direction.

If you are a student on this campus looking for a safe space to discuss these issues to take action on your values and work toward a secure Israel and future state of Palestine, or you are just curious about the work we do, we welcome you to our 2 p.m. meetings every other Friday.

Gilad Abarbanel is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in computer science. Samantha Glass is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English. Jeremy Goldsmith is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in psychology and social work. Aaron Kessler is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in education. Thomas Krapin is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in psychology. They are part of the executive board of J Street U at Rutgers.


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