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Published: Saturday, 3/13/2004

Anti-Semitism seminar to address campus attitudes


Joseph Kohane, director of Hillel at the Ohio State University, is scheduled to give a talk in Sylvania tomorrow titled "The New Campus Anti-Semitism." There's one problem, however: There's little or no anti-Semitism on the Columbus campus.

"The climate here, as always, is very hospitable to Jewish students, " Mr. Kohane said this week.

Most of the complaints, he said, have to do with freshmen or other young college students unknowingly making an insensitive remark to a Jewish roommate.

Mr. Kohane's talk at the Jewish Community Center was scheduled long before The Passion of the Christ made headlines over allegations of anti-Semitism, but he said Mel Gibson's movie has not had a noticeable effect on OSU's 4,000 Jewish students.

"Not many of them have seen it yet because the movie came out as we were entering finals for the quarter. But next quarter, we have plans to have conversations with some of our Christian ministries on campus," Mr. Kohane said.

"But the climate on campus certainly hasn't changed because of the film and I don't anticipate that it will," he added.

The same peaceful atmosphere prevails, for the most part, at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University, according to Rabbi Shmuely Rothman, adviser to Hillel at both schools.

"I think it's a blessing that there is no clear, outspoken anti-Semitism," Rabbi Rothman said.

There are some tensions, however, when some students promote anti-Israel sentiments on the Internet, in student newspapers, or in other public forums.

"When you find anti-Israel sentiment, by definition it crosses over the line between anti-Israel and anti-Semitism," Rabbi Rothman said. "It creates a level of discomfort on campus."

Hillel, a group whose mission is to convey Jewish civilization to college students, was founded in 1923 at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and opened a chapter at Ohio State two years later.

The organization is now active on college campuses around the world and has more than 600 professionals on its staff.

OSU's Hillel building features its own kosher restaurant, deli grill, and fitness center and it oversees about 25 student groups.

Among the Hillel groups on the Columbus campus are social action teams, theater and music groups, a Holocaust Awareness Council, an Israeli folk dancing troupe, and "Jam with Da Jewz Pick Up Basketball."

"We try to create as many

interests as we can for students, who come from many different backgrounds," Mr. Kohane said.

"You can imagine the level of complexity here, not just religious but socioeconomic, racial, ethnic - the whole gamut."

Rabbi Rothman said the UT Hillel has about 50 active members this semester and hosts at least one event every week during the school year.

Joseph Kohane, director of Hillel at the Ohio State University, will speak at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow in the Jewish Community Center, 6465 Sylvania Ave., Sylvania.

For more information, call 419-724-0360.

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