Rabbi Shmuley Got it Right About NYU

The organizers of an event with Ron Prosor say their strongest opposition comes from within the Jewish community

For those who don’t already know, we’ll be bringing Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor to speak for students from NYU and other universities around New York at The Great Hall of Cooper Union this Tuesday. Non-students are welcome, too. If you haven’t already, get involved now and register here:

It’ll be a great event, but it hasn’t been easy. And that’s not for reasons you’d expect.

Yes, I’ve spent the past eighteen days hurtling eight-hour workloads stacked atop classes and schoolwork. That’s what it takes to fill the 855 seats of Cooper Union’s Great Hall. But when you’re bringing one of the Israel’s most eloquent spokesmen to defend the Jewish State on the battleground of the American campus — it’s a small price.

What has made these days such a nightmare isn’t what I’ve had to do but rather what others have refused to do. I was sure that bringing a man with the stature and reputation of Ron Prosor would win me easy partners at NYU. After all, with 8,000 Jewish undergrads, you’d expect some seriously functional pro-israel activist-structure to be in place. The sad truth, though, is that it isn’t — and I haven’t managed to get any support at all from any groups at NYU, except from Chabad of the Bowery, whose help I dearly appreciate.

I had heard about this tragic legacy of pro-Israel inaction on campus. As campus after campus voted to boycott Israel this year, I learned about one tepid response after another — headstones in the graveyard of lost opportunities.

This time, however, I experienced it first hand.

Both Hillel and its pro-Israel arm, TorchPAC, turned me down. Hillel’s excuse was that they, too, had an upcoming event with Ron Prosor just a few weeks after ours (not about Israel, of course, but anti-Semitism). The two events were in conflict, they explained, and “since it is difficult to bring out a crowd twice in three weeks for the same speaker…we just don’t have the bandwidth to do this well.” Fair enough. Or at least it would have been fair had this event actually existed. The sad truth was that the Ambassador’s office knew nothing about any such event. In the words of one representative: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And don’t look for it; that event — the one that inhibited them from helping us —  isn’t happening. Ridiculous as it may sound, Hillel had used a theoretical event to justify their inability to support a real one.

The TorchPAC episode was even more upsetting. I approached them a few weeks ago pleading with them to come on board. A day later I was turned down in an e-mail. They didn’t consider it a student event. When I responded that I, a student, was organizing the event, they expressed some interest. But even that was short-lived, and they offered a new excuse. Now they claimed they hadn’t been sufficiently involved. Of course, they didn’t offer to get involved, but said that since they hadn’t been involved they felt uncomfortable even sending out an e-mail or a link on social media. In case you’re having a hard time believing this — which I completely understand — here’s a block-quote for you:

“…We are not promotion machines for every Jewish event in New York City. I speak only for myself … but I’m fundamentally uncomfortable doing anything beyond linking to the event, and quite frankly even that, with so few details about how the evening will be conducted.”

Quite frankly, even a link? One of Israel’s most senior diplomats is coming to speak for the students to whom you claim to represent Israel, and you can’t post a link?

Welcome, readers, to the world of pro-Israel activism at NYU.

It didn’t even end there. After my father publicly expressed his disappointment in Hillel in a column for the Observer, two students who had nothing to do with any of this decided to attack the two of us. They titled their piece: “At NYU, Facts Are Optional for Rabbi Shmuley.” Ironically, they then proceeded to spread outright falsehoods — claiming that TorchPAC had asked to be involved but were “met with a resounding ‘no!’”.

There is a clear e-mail record and none of that was true. In the exchange the reader will immediately detect the ‘runaround’ that was given to me.

While Daniel and Chloe did quote a few convenient lines from the e-mail chain (which TorchPAC must have leaked to them), here’s a few they chose to leave out:

“[We] feel that lending TorchPAC’s name to this evening would not be in line with TorchPAC’s goals, aims, or standard practices.”


“We cannot justify lending our name — it just wouldn’t sit well with us and would be intellectually dishonest.”


“[This event] is not in line with our mission of advocacy”


“We are not promotion machines for every Jewish event in New York City…I’m fundamentally uncomfortable doing anything beyond linking to the event, and quite frankly even that…”


“Promoting your father’s events which we’ve had no part in planning was certainly not what we had in mind…”

So, if Daniel Mael and Chloe Valdary had any integrity, they would edit their article and write that it was my father and me — and not TorchPAC — that were “met with a resounding ‘no!’” To borrow their language: the facts are not optional.

The truth is, we don’t need to defend ourselves. My father, thank G-d, has proven himself one Israel’s most avid and capable defenders throughout the world, and his years in Oxford proved him the most successful Jewish campus activists in the history of our people. His work on campus set the platinum standard for pro-Israel activism, where he hosted six Israeli Prime Ministers. His ideas and campaigns are copied today throughout the world.

While I haven’t yet done nearly enough, I know I’ve made the defense of Israel a priority since I arrived at NYU. Together with some courageous lovers of Israel, I protested Mahmoud Abbas’ hateful speech while Hillel and TorchPAC members sat inside. I organized an event with Elie Wiesel and Samantha Power to counter Abbas’ claims of an Israeli-Perpetrated Genocide in Gaza, and brought in over 700 people. We led a student group that infiltrated an SJP event and held up signs defending the Jewish homeland in the face of their libels. And now we’re bringing Ambassador Ron Prosor.

And with all that, Hillel and TorchPAC have responded not by assisting but by attacking us.

TorchPAC, Chloe, and Daniel can all choose to continue this useless quarreling. Or they can put aside the excuses, stop defending inaction, and face the truth. Israel is under assault at American campuses. We’re doing our best to help fight back at NYU. Come and join us and help us promote the Israeli Ambassador to the UN speaking this Tuesday to respond to the avalanche of lies against the Jewish State.

Fighting Israel’s enemies is where our efforts truly belong.

 **Though they may be few, I want to thank those students who have chosen to join us in promoting this important event. I invite you all to join us, and look forward to seeing you.  

About the Author
Mendy Boteach spent two years with Chabad in Frankfurt, Germany, and was ordained as a Rabbi in Pretoria, South Africa. He's now a student at NYU, and works with This World: The Values Network.
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