The Hillel Jewish student organization will welcome the strongly pro-Palestinian Authority ''J Street' lobby, which calls itself "pro Israel' into its building at the University of Pennsylvania campus to launch a new grassroots campaign next month. J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami will broadcast a speech during the event, which will take place on February 4 at Steinhardt Hall, where the U Penn Hillel is located, in Philadelphia.
The J Street announcement is promoting the event as a “call to action live to thousands of supporters at local gatherings across the United States.” The announcement added, “Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about J Street Philadelphia and join brainstorming groups to move forward our common pro-Israel, pro-peace agenda.”
The event is vehemently opposed by counter-protest groups, among them an organization calling itself “Z Street,” which noted that one member of the J Street Philly Host Committee “compared Israel's treatment of Gaza with the genocide in Sudan." Another Host Committee member is involved with ICAHD, a radical group which interferes with Israeli efforts to stop terrorism and which advocates "Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”
J Street strongly criticized the Jewish State for the counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last year that largely stilled the constant rocket and mortar fire which for eight years had rained down on civilians in southern Israel. It supported the Goldstone Report.
Israel's Ambassador the U.S., Michael Oren, has characterized the group as one that “not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it [also] opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It is significantly out of the mainstream.” He refused an invitation to speak at the J Street convention several months ago.
'Z Street' added pointedly in an Internet posting, “If the local people associated with J Street have such extreme positions against Israel, what do you think college students will learn from J Street? Do we want Jewish college students to associate Hillel with J Street?”
The Hillel organization, known as The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, promotes itself as the largest Jewish campus organization in the world and for decades has enjoyed a reputation as "the" address for Jewish students to turn to. On its website, the organization states that its mission is to help students "find a balance in being distinctively Jewish and universally human by encouraging them to pursue tzedek (social justice), tikkun olam (repairing the world) and Jewish learning, and to support Israel and global Jewish peoplehood."
Visitors to the Z Street site were encouraged to contact Hillel to express their views about the matter. An email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) proved to be inaccessible when tried by Israel National News, but both the phone number (215-898-8265) and fax numbers (215-898-8259) were viable.
Hillel director Rabbi Howard Alpert has not replied to Israel National News after a message was left on his voice mail.