Building Bridges

This weekend, the University of Houston will host the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference. NSJP is a hate group that is using our campus as a platform to promote their hostile agenda, create division and conflict within our community, and denounce the Israeli people. As a Jewish and pro-Israel student at the University of Houston, it is deeply concerning that UH would host such a hateful group on our campus. I respect and encourage views that challenge my own, and I will always promote dialogue and coexistence. NSJP, however, refuses to listen to opposing views, and would rather focus on destroying the only Jewish state in the world instead of engaging in dialogue and promoting peace. I firmly believe that any group that attempts to silence anyone’s voice or alienates individuals should not be welcome on our campus.

We must not let the divisive nature of the NSJP conference distract from the positive work that the Jewish and pro-Israel community is doing on our campus and throughout Houston. While NSJP will be promoting hate and bigotry this weekend, I am choosing to focus on all the good in our community with a “Week of Positivity.” Our student body is too strong to let an outside group detract from our values.

Houston Hillel has made it their mission to support not only students but also the broader community in Houston. After the destruction we saw from Hurricane Harvey, Houston Hillel became a safe haven for all those affected. From providing pastoral care to families in the area to handing out care packages to community members, Houston Hillel cultivated a sense of unity not only on campus but throughout Houston.

Houston Hillel’s mission of creating unity on campus and in the Houston community has been instrumental in creating the success of the events that we have had this week. On Monday and Tuesday, Hillel hosted the talented group Artists 4 Israel to come and spray paint custom t-shirts for over 400 diverse students that asked the question “what does diversity mean to you?”

Our celebration of positivity continued on Wednesday when over 150 students participated in “Gratitude Days” where students came and wrote what they’re grateful for in their lives. On Friday night, Hillel will host an Interfaith Paint Night and Interfaith Shabbat dinner with diverse members of the University of Houston community to show the beautiful diversity and unity of our community.

This “Week of Positivity” would not be complete without servicing others. On Sunday, Houston Hillel students will partner with Undies for Everyone, a non-profit organization that has distributed more than 10,000 packages of new, clean underwear to people in need throughout the devastated region. Houston Hillel students and community members will join together to compile care packages for those affected by the natural disasters that have ravaged the United States over the past few months.

While Houston Hillel has supported those affected by the hurricane, we also strive to create a welcoming community for students throughout their four years at the University of Houston. I’ve come to find my best friends, biggest supporters, and my home away from home at Hillel. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that strongly believes there is a better way forward when our community stands united.

I call on my fellow UH students to join me in focusing on the good in our community. UH students have proven to be a positive force on campus and in the greater Houston area. This weekend, we cannot allow the NSJP conference to silence our voices and divide us. We must speak out against hate, promote peace, and continue to embrace a positive movement on campus and in our community.

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