The Forward 50

Michael Uram

Education

Michael Uram

The Forward 50

In the lead-up to the first national conference of the movement to boycott, divest from, and implement sanctions (BDS) against Israel on the University of Pennsylvania campus in February, tensions were high. Activists on both sides of the aisle anticipated major protests and a breakdown in campus civility.

But then the campus quieted. For the first time in recent memory, anti-Israel speech was met with a cold shoulder instead of an attack.

The brain behind this response was Rabbi Michael Uram, the 36-year-old director of Penn Hillel. Rather than launch a counterprotest — and call attention to BDS — Penn Hillel hosted a handful of small, student-organized events, such as a fundraiser in a bar for an Israeli family affected by terror attacks and a series of dinnertime chats called “Israel Across Penn.” The only fighting words came from Harvard lawyer and noted Israel defender Alan Dershowitz, who strongly condemned the conference, even as he defended the BDS proponents’ right to gather.

Though it had its early detractors, Uram’s quiet advocacy is now held up as an example of the right type of Israel activism — student run, and positive in tone. Donors impressed with Penn Hillel gave it tens of thousands of dollars after the BDS conference. The David Project, a major pro-Israel campus group once known for its aggressive tactics, now urges its student leaders to ditch the “name and shame” approach and to focus instead on educating college students about Israel.

Whether Israel advocates will turn completely from campus confrontation remains to be seen. But Uram’s shifting of the paradigm is proof that silence is sometimes louder than words.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.