Food, Fun, & Falafel: Jewbilee Draws Students from 12 Independent Schools

Full of events celebrating Judais, Jewbilee and Jewish Cultural Weekend, both held last weekend, featured a presentation by acclaimed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz on his book “The Case for Israel.” Other events included a special Shabbat service and dinner on Friday, as well as performances by comedian Yisrael Campbell and The Harvard Klezmer Band on Saturday. Jewbilee, planned by the Jewish Student Union in cooperation with The Curriculum Initiative, a Jewish educational resource,brought 60 students from 12 regional independent schools to campus for workshops, cultural events, and camradere. The students from all over New England gathered on campus on Saturday afternoon, spent the night in McKeen Hall, and participated in events all day before leaving Sunday evening. For many visitors, the highlight of the weekend was Mr. Dershowitz’ speech. In it, he challenged the validity of arguments that Israel should not exist and maintained that it is a moral imperative for Israel to defend its own people. Asserting the importance of Israel to the world’s Jewish community, he called upon Jewish students to defend Israel’s right to exist. Mr. Dershowitz explained that Israel is judged by a double standard when compared with Middle Eastern nations. He said that this double standard that is responsible for much of the argument over the viability of Israel as a state, adding that, Israel must be judged in the context of its unique situation. When the environment is considered, the extent of the government’s anti-terrorism actions is clearly necessary. Rabbi Neil Kominsky said “The [Jewish] Cultural Weekend… strengthens the internal sense of Jewish identity.” Rabbi Kominsky emphasized that efforts were made to encourage participation by students of all faiths. Despite efforts to attract a diverse crowd for the events, Rabbi Kominsky said that the attendees consisted primarily of Jewish community members. Rabbi Kominsky commented on the difficulty of appealing to both audiences, “the weekend was balancing act between internal and outreach agendas for the Jewish community.” On Saturday night, Mr. Campbell’s comic narrative brought a full crowd to the Underwood Room. Having converted from Catholicism to Reform Judaism, then to Conservative Judaism, and finally to Orthodox Judaism, Mr. Campbell brought experience with a range of Jewish faiths to his witticisms. Underscoring the moral value of his routine, Mr. Campbell said, “Something my audience can learn from me is to follow your heart to find your identity.” Dershowitz, who spoke Sunday morning, is well known as a speaker, writer, and lawyer and has had experience in such high-profile legal cases as the O.J. Simpson trial. As an author, Dershowitz has published over 20 books on Israel, Judaism, American Politics, and morality. Copies of his latest book, “The Case for Israel,” were on sale during his speech. The structure of Mr. Dershowitz’s speech was similar to that in his book. In his book, he attacks 32 common accusations against Israel with the same systematic logic displayed in his speech. He presents each myth, rebuts it, and provides proof. One of the best-heard voices in the debate over Israel, Dershowitz presents a two-state solution to the issue. The two-state solution is the subject of much of the discussion currently surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.