Response to Community Forum on Anti-Semitism

18 Jun
In the May issue of the Jewish News, we asked the question: What are your thoughts on the current state of anti-Semitism? We received response from those letters, including the following:
From: Iris S. Nahemow
I am replying to the comments left by Sue Jacobson. Let me begin by saying that she is a woman who has worked hard as a volunteer in the Jewish Community of Sarasota, and I therefore want to recognize her efforts and know that she is sincere in her goals of making this community and the world a better place for all.
Since Ms. Jacobson questioned the clarity of facts presented by the New College student in an earlier column, I hope she will allow me to also question some of her facts in the interest of making the atmosphere on the New College campus a safe, comfortable and civil one for all students.

First, I note that you mention that one of the students in the Daughters for Life program is an Israeli. In the spirit of clarity, it should be noted that she is an Israeli Arab. This is, of course, not a problem, but it doesn’t create the kind of inclusiveness and diversity in the program that using just the word “Israeli” might create in a readers’ mind. I would need to meet her and speak with her to know if her opinions expressed in the group really does bring diversity to the program.
I’d like to add here that many Israeli Universities, including the prestigious Technion University, have large numbers of Israeli Arab students. Presently, it is about 25%, representing the percentage of Arabs who are Israeli citizens with full rights of citizenship.
Second, you mention instances of civil discourse between students of varying opinions about Israel. I am sure they exist. But, perhaps you are not aware of an instance of most “uncivil” discourse that occurred on your campus in April when a representative of AIPAC was meeting with students on your campus.
The meeting was angrily disrupted by a group of students, including several members of your Daughters for Life group, in a manner that prevented any discussion. Your President is aware of this incident and you might discuss it with him if you are unaware of the disrespectful manner in which your students behaved.
Ms. Jacobson, I have no doubt that you and I both seek a world in which our differences can be dealt with fairly, respectfully and productively. We must be able to see the situations on campus today in all their complexity and admit that problems exist which must be addressed.
That is the reason for my extensive reply. Your students need you to be a partner in solving the problems that exist on your campus and that requires seeing them clearly. I look forward to working with you toward this result.
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2 Responses to “Response to Community Forum on Anti-Semitism”

  1. Deri Joy Ronis June 18, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    I am happy to see an engaged dialogue on this topic, because it is through open communication that we learn from and about each other. In that light, some or many of you may not know that it has taken about 5 years of concerted effort on my part, and I am grateful to report that New College now has the first Peer Mediation Program, where I train the college students interested in learning to solve conflicts without violence. We are then invited to schools in Sarasota County to do a train the trainer program with the New College students assisting in the process. Thus far we have been in four Sarasota High Schools and were invited to present the intensive 14 hour program at Pineview for their High School students and Booker High School this fall. The great thing about mediation and conflict resolution skills is everyone learns it is okay to agree to disagree and then choose to find areas of consensus as the process of dialogue and agreements move along. Of course this process can not work if their is mental illness or sexual/physical abuse.

    Respectfully,

    Deri Joy Ronis, Ph.D.

    http://www.sarasotaworldaffairscounci.org
    Lead Trainer
    Peer Mediation Program

  2. Iris S Nahemow June 18, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    Best of luck to you with your program

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