I come from a family of big University of Michigan fans. My parents, both alumni, started taking my sister and me to football games in Ann Arbor as toddlers. I have fond memories of pre-game lunches at Drake’s and one particularly cold game day when my parents forgot to have us wear gloves.
Growing up in an affluent Detroit-area suburb with a large Jewish community, my family belonged to a Conservative synagogue, but we were not observant at home nor were we actively involved in Jewish causes. However, I always felt a strong Jewish identity, which I developed further with a formative teen trip to Israel one summer.
By the time I applied to colleges, the maize-and-blue blood had been coursing through my veins for too long to seriously consider attending any other school. As my dad put it, as I had the grades to get into such an excellent in-state school, it was hard to justify going elsewhere.
On campus, my relationship with the Jewish community remained the same — connected, though not deeply involved. I had Jewish friends and joined a historically Jewish sorority, but I didn’t feel compelled to participate in Jewish life on campus; we had one another, and many of us had our own connection to Israel. In many ways, we took that all for granted.
Everything changed during my junior year, in 1991, when the United States went to war with Iraq. There were anti-war rallies on campus, as well as students who supported the U.S. involvement in the Middle East. I was not politically active as a student, but I tried to make sense of the issues.
When Iraq began to launch Scud missiles into Israel, I felt sad, helpless and scared. This beautiful homeland I had experienced a few years before was under attack. I watched TV footage of the missiles hitting Tel Aviv at night and civilians donning gas masks in shelters. Among them were fellow University of Michigan students studying abroad. War suddenly felt much closer to home, and my Jewish identity felt like something I needed to protect.
Years later, after I received my master’s in health services administration and business administration at the University of Michigan, my husband and I started our family in Chicago. Like my parents, we joined a synagogue and sent our three children to Jewish preschool. We took our first family trip to Israel, and I was so grateful to enjoy with my children Israel’s beautiful land, food, history and people and, most of all, to feel a strong bond to this special place.
As my and my family’s relationship to Judaism and Israel grew stronger, I made my first significant investment in Israel bonds and started purchasing bonds as gifts for relatives’ and friends’ life cycle events. I also became a volunteer lay leader for Israel Bonds and now serve as the chair of the Chicago Women’s Division. Supporting Israel through Israel bonds is different than writing a check to support a nonprofit. Israel bonds are an investment for the security of Israel, as well as for my own financial portfolio.
Since I’ve become more involved with Israel Bonds, anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitism on college campuses have been on the rise. Two recent studies, one by researchers at Tel Aviv University and the other by the AMCHA Initiative, which tracks and works to oppose anti-Semitism on campus, both reported a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents last year, compared to the previous year.
Reports of vandalism on and around Michigan’s campus in 2017 have included incidences of spray-painted swastikas and phrases such as “Jews Die,” as well as anti-Semitic imagery near the West Hall Arch and the C.C. Little building. These are places I walked by throughout my seven years on campus, without ever a feeling, let alone a fear, of such a threat to my Jewish identity.
Clearly, today’s college students live in a very different environment than I did. We cannot take support for Israel or the Jewish community for granted, as perhaps I or my parents did when I was in college. I’ve asked myself, how can I make a difference so students today, and soon, my own children, can rest assured that their university is doing everything it can to welcome and celebrate the Jewish community?
The answer: I can buy Israel bonds. And in this case, I bought bonds and donated them to the University of Michigan.
By purchasing Israel bonds for the University of Michigan, I am fulfilling my commitment to support my alma mater. This year, I made donations to each of the three U-M schools I graduated from in the form of Israel bonds. I am proud to bolster the investment coffers of the university and invest in the State of Israel at the same time. Moreover, I am supporting the creation of a connection between the University of Michigan and Israel.
Tracy Goode Loewenthal is a volunteer chair of Israel Bonds Chicago Women’s Division. She earned a BA from the University of Michigan in 1992 and an MBA/MHSA in 1996.