Beth El Synagogue: UNC and Duke Plan Unbalanced Conference on Gaza

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

The letter below was sent by Rabbi Daniel Greyber and President Debbi Goldstein of Beth El Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Durham-Chapel Hill. 

Other letters are archived at Israeli Under Attack at UNC and Duke.

March 20, 2019

Dear Leadership of Duke and UNC,

Beth El Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Durham-Chapel Hill with over 400 member families including many students, faculty and staff at both Duke and UNC. We are writing to express concern about the upcoming Gaza Symposium March 22nd through March 24th. Beth El members have been troubled by the recent uptick in antisemitic acts which have occurred at Duke, UNC, and around the Durham-Chapel Hill area. In addition to this, while criticism of Israel is, of course, legitimate and important in a democratic society, portraying Israel only as an oppressor and Palestinians only as victims functions to demonize Israel, and neither leads to constructive dialogue nor advances rigorous academic thought.

Based upon the current composition of invited speakers, the conference program fails to meet Duke and UNC’s high academic standards because it lacks both presenters to articulate a mainstream Israeli perspective and anyone who can suggest actions that might improve relations between the two from an Israeli perspective. The program imbalance, recent antisemitic events in the Triangle, including on Duke’s campus, and the scheduling of the conference on the Jewish Sabbath (which precludes participation by observant Jews) are fueling concern in the Jewish community that the conference will contribute to an atmosphere in which an exchange of perspectives is unwelcome and where Israel will be demonized.

We are concerned about the deleterious effect the conference will have on our local communities on and off campus. We urge Duke and UNC to create forums and opportunities that meet your own highest educational ideals, to take stronger steps to encourage dialogue and relationship building, to reject antisemitism and Islamophobia, and to avoid contributing to further division in our community.


Daniel Greyber, Rabbi, Beth El Synagogue

Debbie Goldstein, President, Beth El Synagogue

Be like Beth El Synagogue and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr.

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr.

Beth El Synagogue Writes Durham Human Relations Commission

Beth El Synagogue, Durham Human Relations Commission, Israel, Durham City Council

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

Beth El Synagogue sent the letter below to the Durham HRC. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November, 2018

Dear Durham Human Relations Commission,

I am writing on behalf of Beth El congregation to thank you for your committee’s careful and thoughtful approach to considering the concerns of members of the Durham Jewish community about the City Council’s statement on international police exchanges. We hope you will adopt the report as drafted at your upcoming December meeting.

In particular, we appreciate the time you took to reach out to many stakeholders and to attend local community forums to learn as much as possible from the community about various perspectives. As our Board of Trustees noted in a June 2018 letter to the City Council, one of our major concerns was that

We are not aware of any effort to reach out to the Jewish community prior to the vote on the resolution, and this contributed to a feeling that our community was not valued. Behind this feeling are concerns about recent anti-Semitic incidents in Durham and elsewhere that suggest that anti-Semitism is a growing and present threat for our community and beyond. We hope that in the future, if similar issues arise that affect any minority community, City Council members will reach out to leaders of the affected communities to seek their input and involve them in the discussion.

The commission report highlights ways the process could have been better, and we concur with many of the observations in the report.

Finally, we appreciate your commitment to educating the community and speaking out against antisemitism. Beth El congregation looks forward to opportunities to partner with you on this effort and are eager to participate in other efforts to address racism, and engage in interfaith, interracial dialogue here in Durham.

Again, thank you for taking the time to thoroughly consider these issues and many perspectives and suggesting a constructive path forward.


Debbie Goldstein, Beth El President and the Beth El Board of Trustees