Friday, August 04, 2006

Students express support for Israel

By Mary Kanaskie
For The Collegian

The fighting in the Middle East -- the firing of missiles, direct strikes on civilian centers and rocket attacks on towns -- has sparked recent support efforts across college campuses.

In response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Lebanon, an effort has begun to unite Jewish students across the country and across the world. The national Jewish student organization Chabad on Campus is compiling a "Unity Torah" to be sent to Israel.

The Torah scroll will include letters of hope and peace from students in more than 40 universities across the country, including Penn State.

The completed scroll will be sent to a university in Israel in November.

"This is a very tangible way to show support," said Rabbi Nosson Meretsky, director of Chabad at Penn State. "Each student contributes a dollar, and it shows that we are all one family. The completion of the project really shows support and it makes a very powerful and important statement," he said.

Students can donate additional letters in honor of friends and family.

Currently, the Unity Torah includes more than 1,000 letters, 35 of which are from Penn State.

"This is a timely project," said Meretsky. "It is in response to our brothers and sisters in the land of Israel. It shows that we can still have spiritual weapons, so to speak. We should have this effort now and bring unity to Jewish college students around the country," he said.

Students can visit the Unity Torah Web site at to purchase their letter to be included in the Torah scroll.

"I think it is most important during this time of war for Jews both here at Penn State and around the world to show support for Israel," Laura Taylor, Penn State Hillel president, said. "The war going on is extremely important to Israel's future, as it is yet another of Israel's fights to exist in an area surrounded by many groups and governments who deny that right," she said.

Hamdan Yousuf (senior-mathematics), president of the Muslim Student Association, said he thought the money could be better spent.

"In light of the impending humanitarian crisis, Hillel's campaign to raise $300,000 for a Torah seems somewhat superfluous," he said.

In addition to the symbolic Torah project done by the Chabad, Penn State Hillel is conducting their own emergency financial drive for Israel as well as a "Heart and Hands of Israel" drive.

"The soldiers who are now fighting the terrorists are very appreciative of the support they receive from Jews around the world who are thinking of them and thanking them for protecting their country," Taylor said. "This is an extremely trying time for them. Any message of support to the Israeli targets of Hezbollah's attacks is comforting to these citizens," she said.

Through the Hillel foundation, letters will be sent to injured soldiers, civilians and children across the nation of Israel.

"There are a million and a half Israeli citizens in shelters," Tuvia Abramson, executive director of the Hillel Foundation, said. "This is a drive to make the contact between individuals."

He said the group's core focus is based on symbolism rather than finances.

"All kinds of events are going on in the community and across the country dealing with Israel," Abramson said. "It's not the value of the dollar, it's the value of the caring."

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