Letter: Hanukkah event coverage shouldn’t be related to Marc Lamont Hill

Only last week, you published an issue featuring Jewish life on campus, highlighting aspects of Jewish pride and the amazing diversity at Temple University. I, myself, had an article in the issue about Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, easily one of my favorite pieces I’ve written for The Temple News. When my fellow Jewish Owls and I saw the host of cameras and reporters you sent this past Monday to the Chabad Community Chanukkah event, we were all eager to show the Temple community how special this holiday is, eight days commemorating the miracle over assimilation and celebrating Jewish pride. You can understand my hurt and outrage at seeing The Temple News use this event, one of the most well-known Jewish holidays, as a mere political jumping off point to discuss the hot-topic and controversial issue of Professor Marc Lamont Hill.

The title of the article immediately struck me. “Student org celebrates Hanukkah days after Hill’s comments.” A caption in the article reads “The annual menorah lighting took place in the midst of the ongoing controversy surrounding media studies and urban education professor Marc Lamont-Hill.”  There have been student events specifically in response to the recent controversy. At least one, an open panel for questions and answers, was hosted by the a Temple Jewish student organization. But that was not this event. Chabad at Temple’s community hanukkiah lighting has been an annual tradition on campus for many years, yet this is the first time Temple News has reported on it. Not in celebration of Jewish life on campus, however, but as a segway, an afterthought. Almost all quotes used in the article focus on the professor, a detail that was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. Reporters specifically chose their interview questions, orchestrating the lense of the article long before the first candles were lit.

Purposeful or not, the immediate connection drawn between a Jewish event and a condemnation on Israel was thoughtless, crude and hypocritical of the Jewish support shown in just the last issue of Temple News. Not long ago I stood, vulnerable, in front of hundreds of students at the Bell Tower vigil to share my story as a member of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community. Jewish students are encouraged to show pride in their heritage and religion, yet an event doing just that was used as a mere means to an end to make a political point. From the article, a reader could not even tell what the Festival of Lights commemorates.

The holiday of Channukah has existed long before Professor Hill, and will continue to be celebrated long after whatever resolution is reached in regards to his words and their controversy. To use a gathering of more than 60 students and community members who came together in Jewish pride (double what was reported in the article) as merely a vehicle for further discussion of an issue which has been given its print time in numerous other articles is grossly insensitive.

Are we to be worried that when we gather in pride for our religion that we will be used as a tool for others’ agendas? As one of your writers, I implore you to uphold your journalistic integrity. Anything less is a disservice to our school, and in this case is a negligence bordering on anti-Semitism.

I will say what this event did do: It brought together Jews and allies from all corners of Temple University and our larger Philadelphia community to celebrate a joyous holiday and highlight its inspiring message. As I write this letter there are still three more nights of Chanukkah. I plan to commemorate them by bringing a little more light into the world.

Ruth Oshlag is a senior communication studies and English major. She can be reached at roshlag@temple.edu. 

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