Miracles and the Real Issues on Campus

Monday, 17 January, 2011 - 4:20 pm

Yesterday I witnessed a miracle.

This past Shabbat we read about miracles. The splitting of the sea; manna from heaven; low flying fatty birds for barbecues; water out of a rock; the defeat of the arrogant Amalekite nation.

That was over 3300 years ago in the desert south of Canaan.

Yesterday I witnessed a miracle on the streets of Brighton.

As far as I know, Sussex Police have their hands full blocking traffic and closing off roads.

The local council have various events through the year for which the streets get closed. And then there are a range of planned and unplanned demonstrations, protesting one thing or another, for which the city’s major roads are forced to ground to a halt.

And once in a blue-moon, the streets get closed off because a group of people, proud of their identity and heritage, are prepared to march in the open, displaying their beloved Torah for all to see. They swirl in dancing circles in joy, as musicians play lively melodies alongside. The excitement, not just for the brand new Torah scroll, but also for the ability to celebrate its conclusion in the street, is apparent among the hundreds of happy faces. There’s no protest message in our march; just sheer joy that we can be Jews in the open, and the police are grateful.

Yesterday we saw a blue-moon. A modern day miracle on the streets of Brighton.

The masochistic Jewish pessimists are convinced that in two decades we will be living in an Islamic state under Sharia Law. They’re convinced that British universities are hotbeds for anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian rhetoric. I’m constantly being advised that University of Sussex is an awful place for a Jew in the 21st Century.

To the critics I say two things:

Firstly, let us be absolutely frank about the real issues and challenges that young Jewish students face today.

Tragically, it is frighteningly more likely that a Jewish student at U of Sussex will die from a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning than a terrorist attack.

It is highly likely that a Jewish student will leave university traumatised as a result of extreme partying and worse and dropping out without finishing their degree, because they lack responsibility and commitment. It is highly unlikely that a student will leave here after three years traumatised, or fail their exams, because the Union shop won’t sell Jaffa Oranges or other Israeli products.

To be sure, we have an obligation to do what we can to enable Jewish students to feel safe while at university. To this end, it is vital that those who are in a position to do so, defend Israel from those who are determined to delegitimize its existence. I’ll leave it to Melanie Phillips to educate Jewish organisations on where they’ve failed in this regard.

As for the rest of us, it is vital that we address the real issues facing Jewish students today. The alternative is to get so carried away with semantics, that there'll be no Jewish students left to protect.

And here’s my second point:

The streets of Brighton, U of Sussex and every other university Chabad services, will be what we make of them. Teach our kids to hide, and those who want us shoved out of sight, under the carpet, will be thrilled.

Yesterday, Brighton’s Jewish community saw a miracle. At Chabad-Lubavitch, we’ve resolved to bring about even more miracles. We invite you to join us enthusiastically, so that together we can secure an exciting and promising future for ourselves and our children.

The cup is 7/8ths full! Why instil fear in our children’s minds and hearts, thus burying Yiddishkeit alive, if we can dance in the street, light giant Menorahs and show our children that they can proudly take their Judaism along with them to university.

Comments on: Miracles and the Real Issues on Campus

Abraham wrote...

Well said, there needs to be more of a constructive attitude as outlined!