SFSU womens confab to boost Jewish profile

Less than a year after weathering one of the worst anti-Semitic incidents in the history of the campus, Jewish organizations at San Francisco State University are showing their resilience by hosting a Jewish women's conference.

"Truth or Dare: Dreams, Politics and Jewish Culture," on Sunday and Monday, April 5 and 6, will feature many Bay Area women who have been leaders in the Jewish community. It will include panel discussions and workshops on contemporary Jewish issues from female perspectives.

"The [concept] of women having a global conversation is still a new one," stressed Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman, head of the campus Jewish studies program and the keynote speaker.

"This conference will closely examine the role that women take in Jewish community leadership and the meaning of service to that community," she added.

The non-denominational event, co-sponsored by Hillel, Hadassah and S.F. State's Jewish studies program, will concentrate on the subjects of community service, diaspora relationships and evolving gender roles.

Organizers say they are not worried about provoking anti-Zionist groups at what has been called one of the most anti-Semitic campuses in the nation.

The vocal groups in recent years have supported the painting of a campus mural that depicted anti-Jewish symbols. They also, in May of last year sponsored Khalid Muhammad, a fiery ex-Farrakhan aide, knowing that he would hurl anti-Semitic invective in a well-attended campus speech.

"We want to present a positive Jewish experience on this campus," said Denise Fox, president of the Shir L'Sondra chapter of Hadassah.

In addition to bolstering the Jewish profile on campus, organizers want to acquaint students with Hadassah.

The women's fund-raising group will have exhibits and give presentations on the causes it supports, such as women's and children's health care.

Fox said the conference will dispel the stereotype of Hadassah as a bunch of older women with blue hair.

The event is the first collaboration between Hillel, an organization for college-aged Jews, and Hadassah in California.

Panels and presentations at the conference include:

*"Herzl's Dream, Freud's Dream and Women's Dreams: The Political, the Personal and the In-between."

*"Israeli Women and the Politics of Peace.

*"The Women's Movement, the High Court and the Religious Law Debate in Israel.

*"The Sudden Jew: Choice Selection and Identity."

*"Jewish Women in the Rabbinate."

There will also be various workshops on women filmmakers, artists and investors.

Special guests at the conference include Linda Hirschhorn of the Jewish a cappella group Vocolot, Holocaust scholar Avner Iven-Zohar of the University of Texas and Marcia Cohn Spiegel, author of "Women Speak to God: The Poems and Prayers of Jewish Women."

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.