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Hillel at Stanford stands with Israel and our students

Dear Hillel at Stanford family,
 
Like all of you, we were devastated to wake up on Saturday morning and the Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah holiday to the news of the horrific Hamas attack on Israel. In the face of such pure evil, there are no words, really, but there is the power of presence. In this time of tragedy and fear, we hold close to our hearts all of those impacted by this senseless and ongoing violence and pray for the speedy return of all hostages and soldiers to their homes.
 
As you can imagine, we have been incredibly busy supporting Jewish students in the days since. Among our 600 undergrads, 1100 grad students, including more than 100 Israelis, not a single person is untouched by this trauma, and as you have likely already seen in the news, events at Stanford have been particularly complicated. The Hillel professional team and student leaders have been everywhere, at all hours – ensuring students' physical safety and helping them cope with the mental and emotional devastation of recent days, gathering them in community, and supporting them to advocate for themselves and our shared values with their peers and the university. What we haven’t had as much time to do is write communications to you, respond to individual emails, or talk to the press, but please know you have been on our minds too.

 

Hillel at Stanford’s top priority is our students’ health and safety, whether physically, psychologically, or emotionally, and our buildings are the community’s refuge

 

  • Hillel staff are here from 8 am to 10 pm every day, with food, quiet spaces for study and grief, and rooms to be together in community.

  • When we hear about students who are isolating themselves, we are reaching out personally to engage them.

  • Our external threat assessment remains low, but our anxiety levels are understandably high, and we are acting accordingly. We have been working closely with the Stanford Public Safety Department since Saturday to ensure our community is safe. We have visible SPSD presence in front of the buildings, adjusted the entrance protocol, have increased SPSD patrols around the Ziff Center for Jewish Life, and will have in-person security all day today and tomorrow.

  • We have hosted 2 webinars (one for students and one for parents) with SPSD so these groups have a forum to get information & ask their own questions.  If you are a current student or the parent of a current student and would like to view a recording of your webinar, email Leah at lnewman1@stanford.edu

  • Working with Stanford’s Vaden Student Health Center and utilizing the resources we’ve created as part of our SHEFA wellbeing program, we’ve been holding group sessions, connecting students to culturally-sensitive private support, and assisting students financially to get the mental health support they need.

 

The first Hillel taught “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”, so we advocate:

 

  • We are proud of the role we played in getting Stanford to speak out and clearly condemn Hamas’ vile actions. Hillel at Stanford was disappointed by the university’s initial response to Hamas’ terror and took action to educate the administration about our Jewish community’s needs and expectations of support. We did not do this alone, but played a key role as the on-campus Jewish organization most closely connected to Jewish students and faculty, Hillel at Stanford. We are grateful for the work of the many people that helped get the voice of the Jewish people at Stanford heard. You can see the university’s updated statement here.

  • Many of you have heard about the appalling behavior of a Stanford lecturer, which has made national headlines. The university moved quickly to suspend their classroom presence and initiate an investigation. We are calling for their removal from the university. This behavior, directed toward any group of students, has no place in any classroom, and especially not Stanford. Hillel at Stanford condemns this lecturer’s actions in the strongest possible terms and expects the university to move swiftly on this matter.

  • We are in constant communication with university administrators and a number of strategic partners, helping to address issues as they emerge, including in classrooms, living spaces, and public spaces on campus.

  • We are supporting students to stand proudly for themselves and our shared values by writing in The Stanford Daily and other publications, crafting thoughtful counter-protests to hateful messages, and advocating for their right to feel secure and welcome at Stanford. This work is intense and time-consuming, and so far not best served by making public statements or talking a lot to the press.

 

“It is not good for humans to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); We gather the Jews of Stanford.

 

  • We have fed so many people this week, we filled a dumpster with pizza boxes. And we are so grateful for the gifts of baked goods and caring notes shared by multi-faith partners here at Stanford and by caring community members. Thank you!

  • More significantly, we supported students to lead a vigil on Sunday night for around 400 people on Meyer Green, and then again with 2000 people at the Palo Alto JCC on Tuesday. Chabad also hosted a campus vigil on Tuesday with wonderful faculty speakers.

  • Students are starting a community kitchen and support network to assist our Israeli students, especially those here with families. Undergrads will make dinner and supervise kids so parents can have a few hours of respite.

  • Tonight, we are hosting Stanford’s President, Provost, and faculty to join students at Shabbat dinner. We appreciate them all being with us as a show of support for Jewish life on campus. 

 

We grieve, but we also learn and educate:

 

  • In the first few days, our community could not absorb anything but grief and outrage. Those feelings remain, but as capacity expands, Hillel is ready with serious learning opportunities, drawing from the best of our Jewish wisdom tradition and the best of our campus scholarship & network.

  • On Wednesday night, Ambassador Dennis Ross and former PA official Gaith al-Omari, now colleagues at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, helped 90 students unpack who Hamas is, their objectives and ideology, and what this attack means for the region and international relations. They told me as we said good-bye, “Your students ask fantastic questions, and are so engaged”, and they’re right.

  • Today we are encouraging you to join our students from 2-3:15 pm PT for an FSI webinar, featuring Visiting Israeli Fellows Or Rabinowitz & Amichai Magen, and Stanford faculty members Larry Diamond and Abbas Milani, “The Hamas Terrorist Attack and its Implications for the Middle East”. You can register here.

  • Our quarter-long learning groups, the Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) and Kol Yisrael also started this week, launching our first communities of learning for the academic year.
     

As this situation continues to evolve we will do our best to send updates to you in a timely manner. In the meantime, an uptick in issues impacting our students on campus also means an uptick in Hillel’s activity. We are working around the clock with students and faculty to ensure that every Jewish person at Stanford is safe and that all those who seek it have a place at Hillel. We are proud of this work and are also aware of the unforeseen cost every additional gathering adds. If you would like to support Hillel in our efforts to support students during this difficult time, you can donate here.
 
We are here for our students and we are here for you. We appreciate your patience if we are slow to respond to outreach. The volume of emails has been overwhelming, and we are trying to focus as much energy as possible on being present for students. The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (and lately, neither do we), so above all, we are praying for the safety and well-being of all Israelis, our Jewish family everywhere, and all impacted by these horrific acts of violence.
 
With gratitude for your partnership,

Rabbi Jessica Kirschner
Executive Director
 
P.S. Are you asking how you might get help for a Stanford student or faculty member affected by this week’s events?

  • Students and faculty, come to the Ziff Center for Jewish Life, Taube Hillel House at 565 Mayfield Ave, we are here for you.

  • Never hesitate to email us and we will get back to you as soon as we can, although we might be slower to respond as we address in-person needs first.

  • Our community of Hebrew speakers and Israeli students is large and we are always available to support you, in Hebrew – email Rotem at rotemsd@stanford.edu for more information.

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