Monday, November 29, 2021

MSU Hillel welcomes Rep. Elissa Slotkin to weekly Shabbat dinner

November 19, 2021
<p>U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin speaks out about recent antisemitic activity in East Lansing at the East Lansing Public Library on Feb. 23, 2020. </p>

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin speaks out about recent antisemitic activity in East Lansing at the East Lansing Public Library on Feb. 23, 2020.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

In between debates on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) spent last Friday night dodging flying challah as Taylor Swift’s “Red” played on the speakers at MSU Hillel’s weekly Shabbat dinner. 

“I just wanted to come and show my support and say hi to folks, and then just kind of end the long day with friends,” Slotkin, who has attended Hillel events in the past, said.

Michigan’s 8th congressional district, which Slotkin represents, includes MSU. Even though most students of the university aren’t permanent residents of the 8th District, Slotkin still believes in connecting with her unofficial constituents and tries to engage with student groups on campus to promote civic action. 

“We just are living in a moment where I just don't think it's a great option to disengage,” Slotkin said. “That means in whatever you're interested in whatever you care about, you should really take the time to learn and meet other people and engage with people who don't agree with you, and actually kind of like contribute right to the conversation.”

For Hillel, having Slotkin present for Shabbat was a show of solidarity with MSU’s Jewish community in the wake of various acts of antisemitism being committed on campus in the past year. Hillel’s Director of Israel Education and Programs Maddi Jackson said that Slotkin’s presence allowed the Jewish Student Union to organize with other groups across campus and promote awareness of issues that matter to them. 

“We also do a lot of coalition building and allyship and relationship building on campus,” Jackson said. “This is a really great opportunity for us to work with College Democrats, ASMSU and the CORES and COPS organizations, and also be able to bring them into our space to have a traditional Jewish dinner, but also be able to work together on supporting somebody that we all can rally around.”

Jackson also explained how Hillel’s political aims align with Slotkin’s policies, and said that providing Jewish students with access to pro-Israel elected officials is a goal of the organization. 

Slotkin gained national attention in September of 2021 for her statements on congressional spending to fund the Iron Dome, Israel’s controversial missile defense system. In a split with the progressive wing of the Democratic majority, Slotkin became a key player in securing around $1 billion in U.S. funds for Israeli military mechanisms. 

“One of our major things is making sure that students on campus understand that support for Israel is bipartisan,” Jackson said. “And today, you see a lot of talk about the Democratic Party that's moving farther away from Israel, or it's more critical of Israel. And so it's really important for us to bring congressional representatives like Rep. Slotkin, who was very steadfast in her support and is also a Democrat.”

Slotkin acknowledged that many of these issues are foreign to non-Jewish students, and said that engaging with groups like MSU Hillel can be an important tool to educate people. 

“I think that Jewish students have a responsibility to be open and educate others,” Slotkin said. “You know, you're coming to a big university where maybe people have never met the Jewish community before.”

In Congress, Slotkin said she’s committed to keeping the U.S. relationship with Israel robust.

“I think that the American leadership role is very important in that, and so urging the administration to engage and to try and make progress, particularly since we have a new Israeli administration,” she said.

Slotkin’s visit to MSU also included a meeting with football coach Mel Tucker, who she recognized by entering into the congressional record MSU’s win over the University of Michigan as an uplifting event for Michigan citizens.

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