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Bi-Co Chabad Calls for Abstention from Emergency Plenary

On the evening of February 19th, just ten hours after Students’ Council announced their intentions to present a ceasefire resolution at an emergency plenary, the Chabad Student Board issued a letter via their texting service, Chaibot, urging students to abstain from the process.

Addressing “members of the Haverford Community,” the Board acknowledged the Students’ Council’s efforts to consider feedback on the resolution draft. However, they contended that it failed to adequately reflect Chabad’s perspective on the matter, claiming that the language used in their email inaccurately implied Chabad’s stance on “Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.”

Pictured: Chabad Student Board’s February 19 letter to Members of the Haverford Community

The letter emphasized Chabad’s support for a “just and lasting resolution to the conflict,” and voiced opposition to endorsing a resolution that they claimed equated the civilian casualties of Israel’s campaign in Gaza with the attacks by Hamas on October 7th. The Chabad Student Board also disagreed with the perceived portrayal of Israel’s detainment of Palestinians as equivalent to Hamas’s actions of abducting Israelis and “holding them as hostages and human shields.”

The letter maintained that although the stated intent of the resolution writers was to create “common ground that unifies [the student body],” as outlined in the email sent by Students’ Council Co-President Maria Reyes Pacheco ’24, the adoption of the resolution will have the opposite effect. 

The Board affirmed that Chabad is committed to pursuing actions they believe genuinely unify, but claim that this particular resolution is counterproductive towards the cause. In response, they urged students to abstain from the process, claiming that “engaging in this process is to declare a very strong stance and one which will not unify the Haverford community.”

To close, the letter reiterated Chabad’s commitment to providing “positive Jewish programming with love, learning and volunteering opportunities.” The board does not “plan to further engage with this matter,” and ended by restating their hopes for “true unity within our midst, and honest, true and lasting peace in the Middle East and beyond.”

In a statement to The Clerk, the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) board stated that although they were also disappointed by the language used in the resolution, specifically due to the fact that they felt it failed to adequately demonstrate “the brutality faced by the Palestinians from the state of Israel,” they still agreed to become co-signatories as the initiative provided “an opportunity to lay a foundation for Haverford to call for a ceasefire and hopefully inspire other universities to do the same.”  

“We felt that this was our opportunity to fight for the right to speak up for ourselves as Muslims instead of being silenced by the school for its own gain,” said the statement. “Haverford College has not represented the wishes of the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students that it serves by continuing to stay silent rather than call for a ceasefire.”

Following the release of the letter, Students’ Council Co-President Jorge Paz Reyes ’24 expressed his disappointment with the Chabad Student Board’s decision to call for an abstention from emergency plenary: “Something that was emphasized, during the Board of Managers [meeting], by the President of the College, by different community members, is that Haverford has systems in place, and we should let those systems in place play out,” stated Paz Reyes. “That’s what Maria and I were envisioning with this process; where we, the student body, use plenary to figure out how we feel about this particular issue that directly affects our members of the community. It affects a significant portion of community members that Maria and I, we have to represent … So this is something that we cannot afford to ignore.”

Paz Reyes clarified that within negotiations, the conversations with the representatives of each organization advocated for the needs and desires of their community members. He restated that one of the main goals of the process was to find unity in the Quaker values of peace and anti-militarism. Although the text of the resolution did not reflect every value of some student organizations to the fullest—such as Haverford Students for Peace (SFP), who as a result made the decision to not sign on as a co-sponsor—the resolution authors reported being “encouraged by their general support.”

Paz Reyes elaborated on this, citing a series of emails between Chabad student representatives and the Co-Presidents. These emails showed that the initial conversations between Chabad and Students’ Council were received well, and their initial feedback reflected their concerns relating to the specific language used in the resolution. However, after receiving the first round of feedback, Students’ Council did not receive any further response.

On February 2, Students’ Council initiated a meeting with all potential co-sponsors, and circulated the first draft of the ceasefire resolution, soliciting feedback from the organizations. As the week progressed, Students’ Council set deadlines for the feedback, hoping to receive a response from student representatives by February 5, and outlined their plans on how to finalize the resolution. On February 6, Chabad student representatives responded, expressing the need for additional time to gather community input due to the complexity of the issue, and difficulty in coordinating schedules with Rabbi Eli and Blumie Gurevitz, leaders of Bi-Co Chabad. 

Following a meeting with the Gurevitzes, Chabad’s student representatives briefly voiced concerns about the language used in the resolution and emphasized the importance of refocusing on the safety of Israeli citizens. Despite assurances by the representatives that Students’ Council would receive their feedback in full by Sunday, February 11, Students’ Council was still waiting on Chabad’s response by Wednesday, February 14. 

That day, Students’ Council emailed the student representatives once more to express their gratitude for Chabad’s collaboration and shared the finalized draft of the resolution, as well as an outline and timeline for the emergency plenary. In this email, the Co-Presidents admitted that “It is not easy to engage in a process that tries to balance the many needs and priorities of all community members. This resolution might not satisfy every single piece of feedback but we hope that this end product is impactful enough to have you as one of the co-sponsors.”

By February 18, having received no further communications from Chabad or the student representatives, and having received the co-sponsorship of three student organizations—MSA, the Jewish Student Union (JSU) Board, and Bi-Co Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)—they decided to advance with the announcement of the resolution.

In a final email, sent in the late hours of Sunday, February 18, the Co-Presidents reiterated their desire for further involvement from Chabad, writing that their goal was to give Chabad “as much time as possible regarding the answering of the ceasefire resolution feedback.” The resolution, sans additional Chabad input, was sent to the Haverford community the following morning, inciting Chabad’s mass text ten hours later. “We want the dialogue,” Paz Reyes affirmed, expressing disappointment with Chabad’s stated disinterest in further conversations regarding this issue. “So, I think this is unfortunate. I think they’re closing the dialogue before starting it. Something that we also emphasized yesterday after telling them ‘thank you for working with us’ is that they can also submit amendments. So they have the opportunity to do a friendly or unfriendly amendment where if they think this equates something to something else, they can change a particular text in the resolution, and then it will be voted on by the student body. And yet they still don’t want to engage in dialogue.”

Bi-Co Chabad did not respond to The Clerk’s request for comment.

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