Santa Cruz Hillel hires person to work solely on BDS, anti-Israel issues

In what chapter officials are saying is a first for a Hillel in Northern California — and perhaps beyond — Santa Cruz Hillel has hired a staffer to work solely on anti-Israel issues confronting Jewish students on campus.

Jocelyn Robinson has been named Santa Cruz Hillel’s Israel engagement professional, a staff position that has been created on a trial basis. She has been tasked with building support for Israel on campus and helping Jewish students cope with and push back against anti-Israel activity.

Jocelyn Robinson

She will serve in the post for the remainder of the academic year, which ends in June. The position is in addition to the chapter’s Israel fellow.

Santa Cruz Hillel serves U.C. Santa Cruz, Cal State Monterey Bay and Cabrillo College, a community college in Aptos.

Robinson, 23, previously served as Santa Cruz Hillel’s program director. The 2013 graduate of U.C. Santa Cruz wants pro-Israel students to form “a unified front” as they confront anti-Israel activity.

“I want to give [students] space to ask questions if they don’t have a background in Israel and Palestine,” she told J. “For those who do have the background, we need to focus on what we have in common, which is anti-BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel].”

A string of anti-Israel actions, including multiple divestment measures (all defeated or vetoed in the Senate so far), have occurred at U.C. Santa Cruz, along with several disruptive incidents at pro-Israel events.

Jim Atkins, Santa Cruz Hillel’s executive director, said Robinson will be a resource for students seeking guidance.

“She is the one to call when there’s a [mock] checkpoint that blocks access to the library,” Atkins said. “She can help students craft arguments to respond to [divestment] resolutions. She can help them reach out to student government representatives.”

He also said Robinson would serve as the “point person so outside organizations, federations, temples and community members have someone who can update them, and who can access their resources.”

Atkins said the Hillel board of directors would later assess the post and decide whether to make it permanent.

Robinson said campus watchdog groups such as StandWithUs and the Israel on Campus Coalition are valuable, but thinks her position is important because “each campus is different [and] there’s no one right way to approach BDS.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.