In the recent past, Phil Weiss, Didi Remez and I have been documenting American Jewish support for the most extreme elements of the Israeli settler movement. As David Ignatius reported in the Washington Post a year or so ago, over $33-million has been donated by American Jews over a 2-3 year period to those settlements and extremist organizations which have fomented much of the worst anti-Palestinian violence in the West Bank.
But if truth be told, one could argue that the Hebron Fund, Machanaim and Od Yosef Chai were groups somewhat marginal to the American Jewish scene. You can’t argue this about Yeshiva University though, the leading Orthodox Jewish educational institution in the United States.
I reported some time ago the embarrassing news that YU’s rabbinical school dean told students at the school’s Israeli campus that they should shoot any Israeli leader who divided Jerusalem and resign from the IDF. Interestingly, the rabbi (yes, rabbi) never retracted his remarks and no one at the school did either. But the rabbi mysteriously disappeared from the country a day or so after his ill-conceived remarks were leaked.
Now, we have incontrovertible evidence that the above incident was not a one-off exception. Back when I was in high school, there used to be 4H and Future Farmers of America that hosted after school activities some students attended. That’s what I recalled when I heard that YU is recruiting future settlers of America. YU is sending its students to Hebrew language courses in “Judea and Samaria” in a deliberately ideological gesture intended to support the settler movement and indoctrinate future settlers:
For participants in the Yeshiva University schools’ newest exchange program, the last month has been one of slumber parties, shopping trips, Hebrew-language immersion and settler ideology.In early December the Queens, N.Y.-based Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls became the first American girls’ school on record to immerse its students in West Bank-based programming.
The Wang school now has 10 of its 15- and 16-year-old girls attending Ulpanat Tzvia, where they study Hebrew and live in dormitories alongside their Israeli peers at the school’s campus in the West Bank community of Ma’ale Adumim — 4.5 miles outside of Jerusalem.
“Judea and Samaria is number one on our list of priorities,” Shoshana Frankel, an English teacher who runs the exchange program at Ulpanat Tzvia, said, referring to the West Bank by its Hebrew names. “Eretz Yisrael Hashleima [the Whole Land of Israel ideology] is very much our policy here and we don’t keep any secrets about it.”
…Since settler ideology is what Frankel calls “the underlying principle of the school,” the visiting American students attend meetings organized by Ariel — the right-wing breakaway from the mainstream religious Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva.
The following passage indicates how well the students have absorbed the ideological training that will turn them into willing second or third-generation recruits for the settler enterprise:
But it was not long into the visit before politics came into the picture…On December 9 classes finished early so that any member of the student body who wanted could get to Jerusalem in time to take part in a large demonstration against the freeze on buildings in the settlements.
By this time, some of the American girls already had strong feelings on the issue, which they made known in classroom discussions. “One girl was saying that she felt that we shouldn’t go and protest because she felt that would be a chilul hashem [desecration of God’s name],” said Rivka Cohen, 15, of West Hempstead, N.Y. “But I disagreed — I think that it would be a chilul hashem if we didn’t go and protest.”
Rivka and friends said they did not go to the demonstration because, due to the terms of the exchange, the visiting students are less free to travel the country on their own than are the Israeli students.
But the American students were all alone in the 150-student capacity dorms that night — and many were at the demonstration in spirit. “I feel that we should protest and that we should be able to keep building,” Rachel said.
Yolly said that the political initiation has been eye-opening: “Back in America I never knew what they were talking about. Now I see all these places and now I understand — oh, to give away this place or that, now I understand how it will affect Israel.”
Note how the girls are already reflecting the poisonous settler attitude that the latter’s own peculiar interests are the same as those of the entire state of Israel. The Judean movement needs new blood in order to survive. To a great extent this will happen naturally from the settler’s own procreative activities. But the movement also needs the prestige and support of Diaspora Jewry if it doesn’t wish to become entirely insular. These new recruits will lend stature to the enterprise and become the next generation of settlers and Hilltop Youth.
All thanks to the support of mainstream Orthodox institutions like Yeshiva University. While I concede that most YU donors would be in accord with such rightist activism, there may be a few for whom this is unpalatable. It is for these that I publish this post. The next time Richard Joel, YU’s president, attempts to put his university in the mainstream of American Jewry, a few of us will cry out: “Not so!”