Sometimes all it takes is to write a letter
Much of the time, you don’t get a response, but every once in a while your efforts can have a profound impact that will galvanize further letter writing. I was disturbed when I read about anti-Semitic actions taking place on the campus of The University of Missouri. My sister, Sheree, sent me the article, Over 80 Fliers Promoting University of Missouri Event With Israeli Journalist Systematically Torn Down, from The Algemeiner (see link below). I immediately took it upon myself to write the University of Missouri President, Choi Mun, and let him know that even to those of us in Long Island NY, these acts of anti-Semitic vandalism matter. They affect the self-regard of the pro-Israel Jewish students trying to disseminate the vantage point of Israel in the crosshairs of the hateful acts of terrorists at their border. You can read the article from The Algemeiner HERE.
So I wrote to the President of the University of Missouri:
Dear Dr. Mun,
I was disturbed to hear of the vandalism of 80 flyers advertising a speaker from Israel at the Jewish fraternity at UMizz. Has the administration investigated who is behind it and condemned it as an effort to stifle free speech in your campus? I am certain the pro-Israel Jewish students feel unsupported and vilified. The speaker was providing illuminating information about the suffering of Israeli civilians on their southern border, enduring incoming missiles and incendiary balloon arson attacks, information often downplayed by many media outlets. These attacks have led to massive ecological and wildlife damage. There is no doubt the objective is both to hide the truth and intimidate pro-Israeli viewpoints that present a fuller picture of the reality in the ground. It would be gravely disappointing if administrators were passive in the face of efforts to undermine legitimate presentations seeking to flesh out the truth in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So often what passes as fact is simply pro-Palestinian propaganda that echoes the same unsubstantiated tropes about Israeli "oppression." Please advise as to what your administration’s position in this vandalism has been.
Well, the very next morning I received a letter from President Choi Mun. It read as follows:
Dear Rabbi Silverman,
As leaders of a university that values free speech and dialogue, we are very disappointed to learn of the vandalism. Our Chancellor, Alex Cartwright, has been direct and forceful in his stance against any intimidation and any action that hinders free expression. I will work with the senior leaders at MU to learn more about this issue and to address it.
Shortly after this, I believe the next day, I received an email from Chancellor Cartwright, who wrote me the following:
Dear Rabbi Silverman:
As President Choi has stated, we are committed to free speech and we are extremely disappointed to hear about vandalism. Vice-Chancellor Ward and his team are investigating this and President Choi and I will follow up on those efforts.
Then, I received another letter from a man named Gary Ward. It was cryptic and read as follows:
If you send a number I will call you tomorrow with a status. Look forward to visiting with you!
I was not sure what that meant at all and was concerned that it was from the "other side" of this issue. What is a "status?" What is he saying about visiting me? So I wrote the following:
Not sure what you are talking about. I wrote a letter because flyers were torn up on your campus for an Israel talk. I live in Long Island NY. Please clarify what you mean!
So he responded:
Dear Rabbi Silverman,
I apologize, I should have provided you with more information. My name is Gary Ward and I am the Vice-Chancellor of Operations for the University of Missouri. I was copied on President Choi’s and Chancellor Cartwright’s email to you. If you would like, I can provide you with an update on the status of our investigations. I can be reached at [his cell number]. If I don’t answer please leave me a message and I will call you back later.
So I picked up my phone and called the number, and he informed me that two individuals have been detained– one, a student and one, not a student, who are being investigated with regard to violations of Title IX infractions pertaining to their acts of vandalism. Free speech is one thing, he told me, but paraphrasing, he said, administrators are not handcuffed when it comes to acts of this nature involving harassment, intimidation and vandalism, and it is supremely important to not let matters of this nature get out of hand by ineffectually addressing them.
I thanked him for their responsiveness to this matter and told him that I thought his university should be a model in their handling of intimidation of pro-Israel programs and for the pro-Israel Jewish student and faculty populations who wish to promote balanced views regarding the Middle East.
So if you think writing a letter is waste of time think again my friend!