Rutgers Hillel honored a campus pro-Israel activist who was targeted by a student satirical publication.
Towards the end of an awards ceremony at Hillel’s annual gala, held May 1 at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, executive director Andrew Getraer announced a “surprise” award for Aaron Marcus.
Marcus received thunderous applause and a long standing ovation as Getraer praised the West Orange student for the pro-Israel columns he has contributed to the campus newspaper, The Daily Targum.
Marcus gained wide attention after The Medium, a satirical weekly, published an April Fool’s item that mocked him by placing his byline on a parody column praising Hitler (see page 7).
Marcus “has been defamed and libeled and suffered indignities of every kind,” said Getraer. “Yet Aaron has continued to stand up for the truth. We look forward to his continued advocacy for Israel as he goes forward in his career.”
Marcus’s award was inscribed with a quote from the Book of Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be terrified or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go.”
More than 300 attended the gala, which honored both supporters of Hillel and student “rising stars.”
Among supporters, Peter Weidhorn of Manalapan received the Innovation and Excellence Award; Renee Gross and Stuart Feinblatt of Highland Park, the Rabbi Julius Funk Alumni Award; and Melissa Schoffer of New York City, the Young Alumni Award.
“Rising stars” were Amanda Cove of Somerset, Lenny Haas of Hillsborough, Zeke Pariser of Teaneck, Scott Siegel of Denville, and Shaina Stiefel of Englewood.
Weidhorn, immediate past chair of the board of the Union for Reform Judaism, was credited with helping establish the Reform Outreach Initiative last year, which saw the hiring of Rutgers Hillel’s first Reform rabbi. Weidhorn said he hoped the initiative “would become an incubator for campuses across the nation.”
He developed a strong Jewish identity through his synagogue, Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, he said, adding that he has passed that connection on to his children and grandchildren. He spoke of the need to instill such identity in youngsters at an early age through religious school, youth programs, and camp.
Gross and Feinblatt, who have been married 25 years, met at Rutgers Hillel. They are active members of the Highland Park Conservative Temple Congregation Anshe Emeth and the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley, where Feinblatt served as board president.
Schoffer is staff attorney for Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y and is on the young leadership board of CAMERA: Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
Throughout the evening the crowd was provided with updates from the ROSCAR (Rutgers Outstanding Students Celebration and Recognition) awards being held back in New Brunswick that same night. Hillel won five of the 14 awards for which it was nominated. Hillel associate director Rabbi Esther Reed was named adviser of the year.
Hillel’s gains on campus over the past year — including progress in an $18 million Capital & Endowment Campaign for a new building on the New Brunswick campus (see related story) — was somewhat overshadowed by accusations by Marcus and outside groups like the Zionist Organization of America that the university hasn’t done enough to protect pro-Israel students from harassment. The federal Department of Education is pursing a complaint by ZOA, which names Marcus, charging that Rutgers has failed to condemn previous anti-Semitic incidents on campus.
Administrators have defended their handling of such complaints.
Last week, state Jewish leaders wrote a letter to university president Richard McCormick, urging the swift completion of a bias investigation into the Medium incident.