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UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine Fall 2011
JEWS AND OUR FRIENDS: Questions and answers about the Jewish minority experience
Inside the issue: Jews and... Minority Activists ............................. 4, 8 Wall Street Occupiers....................... 6-7 Arabs ............................................... 9
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answers a common question about Judaism and science
Rabbi, I’m a cultural Jew; I support the US-Israel relationship, and I am proud to be Jewish. But let’s be honest, I believe that by now we can rely on science as the best way to explain our world.”
A word from
During my first few years of college, I recall often sitting alone on the Quad (University of Texas) feeling as if I was invisible amidst a student body of 50,000. In a very small way, I feel like I can relate to the hundreds of people feeling the powerlessness of invisibility in a society that does not see them. Far beyond the social awkwardness of the playground, there are invisible people everywhere who are victims of deep injustices and oppression. They are the boys who wash our dishes at restaurants and the men who wash our cars. They are the girls who make our hotel beds and the women who serve in our homes. They are the slaves confined by our penal code and the objectified defined by our sexual appetites. They are the homeless who spend their days in our shadow and their nights in our parks. While “underclass” invisibility is caused initially by systems of oppression, shame invariably leads these vulnerable individuals to perpetuate this depressed psychological and social state. “Shame involves the realization that one is weak and inadequate in some ways in which one expects oneself to be ad-
Great points, and you’re right – you should be proud of the Jews and support Israel. But let’s take a look at this philosophy. Science and G-d — This debate didn’t start in a vacuum; it has been raging for thousands of years. Its roots are most clearly indentified in the debates that erupted between the Catholic Church and the rationalists during the Renaissance. Whatever the outcome was, the debate had nothing to do with Judaism. According to Wikipedia (a favorite among college students), Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) “is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe... In modern use, “science” is a term which more often refers to a way of pursuing knowledge, and not the knowledge itself.” It is “often treated as synonymous with ‘natural and physical science,” and thus restricted to those branches of study that relate to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws.” In short, science is a field
that utilizes the physical world to gain knowledge about how physicality works. Things must be measured and weighed in order for them to be considered “scientific data.” G-d, according the Bible, is the Infinite — the non-physical. He is One and All Powerful. He can’t be measured or weighed or quantified in any way. It is true that G-d can’t do everything, but the only things He cannot do are related to the traits that the physical world possesses. He can’t die, be born, forget, or walk away. He can’t stop somewhere, and he can’t start somewhere; these are characteristics limited to physicality. Essentially, science can’t measure G-d, and therefore, G-d isn’t a scientific question. The mainstream Jewish understanding is that unless there are some extenuating circumstances, G-d uses all the laws of science to maintain and govern the world. Maimonides, who was a practicing physician, says that science explains the how, Judaism explains the why, and there is never really a contradiction since both were written by the same Author. Should a person see an apparent contradiction, they misunderstand either Judaism or science.
equate. Its reflex is to hide from the eyes of those who will see one’s deficiency, to cover it up,” explains legal scholar Martha Nussbaum. One who lacks basic needs often wishes not to be seen for fear of shame. This is made worse by our shame at seeing them and not taking action, and the further clouding of visibility that follows. As Nelson Mandela rose to become the first democratically elected state President of South Africa, a country shamed by a history of painful injustice, he shared that “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” We need the courage to see and make seen the victims of injustice among us. We have been granted the power to help make visible the invisible. We accomplish this by letting the vulnerable hiding in the shadows know every time we encounter them that they are recognized members of society, members in good standing even, and especially by letting the public know they exist by advocating for their rights and welfare. Jewish law even demands not only that we see but that we be seen (“yireh, yai’raeh”) in Jerusalem on the festivals (Chagigah 2a). This is training for the rest of the year that our eyes, and hearts, be open to see those who are unseen. Connecting and supporting the unseen is not a distraction from the tradition but its actualization. One of the primary goals of Jewish spiritual life is to see beyond the physical, to sanctify the unseen, and to elevate matter to a higher plane. The Maggid of Mezritch, the great
Chassidic master, helped to introduce us to the idea of “yesh me’ayin” – creation out of nothing – to mean that in helping something come into existence that previously did not exist, or helping something be seen that previously was unseen, it is like we are emulating the very creation of the universe. Greater than lending money or giving tzedakah to a poor individual, the Rabbis tell us, is providing partnership (Shabbat 63a). Our charge is to join the invisible in solidarity and partnership: let us help make their voices heard and their humanity seen. Some of the most terrifying times in my own life have been when I didn’t really feel like I existed; in these moments, I didn’t feel acknowledged by the world, let alone appreciated or loved. I have been fortunate to have the support to get through those times. I would venture to say I am not alone in having had these feelings, neither am I alone in recognizing the crucial role played by friends and family members to remind me of my visibility and humanity. As college students at UCLA, you have the power to make invisible people right here into visible people. Let us be those friends, let us be those family members, and let us be those advocates for those who have none. May we be blessed with the good sight to see the unseen, and the vision to increase their visibility in our blessed nation.
Rabbi Jacob Rupp, a UCSD graduate, got his rabbinic ordination in Jerusalem. For the past four years he has worked as a JAM rabbi at UCLA, teaching, counseling, and, along with his wife, providing fantastic food for Jewish students.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Director of Jewish Life and the Senior Jewish Educator at the UCLA Hillel, Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, a Jewish social justice organization, and a fifth-year doctoral candidate in moral psychology and epistemology at Columbia University. You can now order his book on Amazon: Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century.
Ha'Am Fall 2011
Editor-in-Chief Jacob Elijah Goldberg Layout Editors Eytan Davidovits Tessa Nath Content Editors Diane Bani-Esraili Alan Naroditsky Senior Writers Alan Naroditsky Tessa Nath Ashton Rosin Ben Steiner Yoni Herskovitz Staff Writers Diane Bani-Esraili Sarah Elbaum Ari Huntley Tzvi Wolf Contributing Writers Corey Feinstein Chaya Storch Blog Writers Moshe Kahn Josh Yasmeh Ha’Am Magazine 118 Kerckhoff Hall 308 Westwood Plaza Los Angeles, CA 90024 www.haam.org © 2011 UCLA Communications Board The UCLA Communications Board has a media grievance procedure for resolving grievances against any of its publications. For a copy of the complete procedure, contact Student Media UCLA at 118 Kerckhoff Hall, 310 825-2787, or email@example.com. The UCLA Communications Board fully supports the University of California’s policy on non-discrimination. The student media reserves the right to reject or modify advertising portraying disability, age, sex, or sexual orientation. It is the expectation of the Communications Board that the student media will exercise the right fairly and with sensitivity. Any person believing that any advertising in the student media violates the Board’s policy on non-discrimination should communicate his or her complaints in writing to the Business Manager, (name of student medium), 118 Kerckhoff Hall, Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90024. For assistance with housing discrimination problems, call: UCLA Housing Office (310) 825-4491, or the Housing Rights Center (213) 387-8400. All opinions expressed in this newsmagazine are solely that of the author, not of the Ha’Am Editorial Board or the UCLA Communications Board. Letters to the editor should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening A Jewish Golden Age on the American College Campus
by Rabbi Chaim
Popular opinion in the Jewish community has it that the campus is a hotbed of antisemitism and widespread anti-Zionist activities. Many believe that the well-being of Jewish students is threatened and that, confronted with an orgy of hate, Jews have felt a compulsion to hide their Jewishness and cover up any outer symbols of identification. This could not be further from the truth. Indeed, there have been some notorious, well-publicized incidents on select campuses and, admittedly, there is a steady stream of antiIsrael political rhetoric at many universities. But the latter has been constant over almost thirty years. However, hat which receives scant notice and is ultimately of major significance is that we are in the midst of a genuine Jewish golden age on the American college campus. Rather than being overwhelmed by darkness, we are actually basking in the light, and we haven’t even paused to take notice. What follows is an outline of some leading indicators of this Jewish renaissance on campus: 1. There are more Jewish students attending Ivy League universities now than at any other period, including schools that formerly
employed admissions quotas that severely limited Jewish enrollment. In fact, schools such as Stanford, Vanderbilt and USC, not known as historically friendly to Jews, actively recruit Jewish students. 2. There is a preponderance of Jewish academics — approximately 20% of the faculty — at the most prestigious universities with an even larger representation on the best faculties of law, medicine, computer science, and theoretical physics. 3. Kosher food programs have been implemented by campuses as diverse as Stanford, Oberlin, and the University of Vermont. Yale provides only its orthodox students with manual dorm keys so as to facilitate entry on Shabbat through doors that otherwise require a magnetized card key. 4. Well-endowed Jewish Studies centers abound at Washington, Michigan, Penn, Maryland, USC, Harvard, Yale, UCLA — to name just a few. Their academic programs offer hundreds of courses ranging from Hebrew language to Jewish philosophy to Holocaust history to ethnic Jewish music to American-Jewish literature to Kabbalah. There is even a smattering of universities at which one can pursue a doctorate in Talmud. At UCLA, I have co-taught seminars with colleagues on the faculty in Pirke Avot (the Ethics of the Sages) and in the philosophic thought of Maimonides. Why, it’s a veritable Yeshiva out there! A recent survey by the Cohen Center at Brandeis University claimed that during their years at university, 40% of Jewish students take one or more courses in Jewish studies. 5. Not only Jewish Studies, but now also Israel Studies has been established at ten universities, including UCLA. The program, which is most often housed at the university International Institute, offers courses in history and politics of Israel, Zionism, Israeli culture, as well as in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is the single most effec-
tive way to firmly and vigorously sustain Israel’s legitimacy in the academic world. 6. Every major university press publishes a line of Judaica, including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of California, and even the University of Alabama Press. In 2004, Stanford University Press embarked on a landmark project: the publication of the proposed twelve volume Pritzker translation of the Zohar by Professor Daniel Matt. 7. Jewish administrators are ubiquitous, serving as deans, departmental chairs and provosts in unprecedented numbers. And over the past twenty-five years, Jewish chancellors and presidents have become so common that almost every leading school has had at least one. The current President of the University of California is not only a legal scholar but a student of Maimonides who has led three groups of presidential colleagues on organized trips to Israel. One of his first acts as President of UC was to reinstate the University’s EAP (Education Abroad Program) at the Hebrew University after years of suspension. UCLA’s Chancellor addresses students, faculty, and community on the High Holy Days at Hillel every year, and the former interim Chancellor is a practicing Orthodox Jew. Oh, how the world has changed! Not only are there Jewish public officials at the university, but some are actively identified Jewish Jews. 8. Increasingly, Jewish student leaders (many from Hillel) are returning to campus politics and are being elected to student government. They are building alliances with representatives of other communities, protecting Jewish interests on campus, and generally mastering the political process. Clearly, Jewish student activists all over the country have had a moderating influence on the campus climate. They are also helping to define the university service-learning agenda most especially with regard to Alternative Spring Break programs
Page 3 Fall 2011 and Challah for Hunger – two signature Hillel programs that have been broadly embraced by the larger campus community. 9. Orthodox students have become a presence on many campuses around the country in the form of the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, co-sponsored by Hillel and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. Daily minyanim, chevruta learning, and regular shiurim proliferate. There was a time when traditional students hesitated to wear their kippot to class. Now they are fully integrated and comfortable at a university that accommodates the Jewish calendar and offers deferrals to those who choose to spend a year or two studying at an Israeli yeshiva. UCLA has become a destination school for students on the West Coast seeking a traditional, orthodox environment. 10. And since 1994, over fifty new Hillel facilities have been built at Columbia, Brown, Stanford, Emory, NYU, Tulane, University of Washington, University of Maryland, Harvard, Yale, and UCLA, among others. It is an expression of the amazing story of Jewish achievement in America and our rootedness at and commitment to the American university. And this building phenomenon points merely to Hillel’s physical renewal but doesn’t touch on the remarkable creativity, growth, and impact realized by Hillel during the last decade. The best Hillels can now boast that they have doubled the number of Jewish students involved in meaningful Jewish experiences, and that Hillel involvement is the greatest predictor of future leadership in the Jewish community, outpacing other shared Jewish experiences. So rather than considering the campus a disaster area, we should note the overwhelmingly good news and view the university as the home of renaissance and opportunity where the Jewish future is being forged. Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is the Executive Director of the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA.
Ha’Am is the central forum for Jewish voices at UCLA, serving both the campus and greater Jewish We seek to foster the intellectual communities unity of the Jewish community by providing a space for various perspectives — online and in on Jewish-interest topics in the form of news, print. opinion, and analysis. We aim to combat
divisiveness within and between communities. Ha’Am is brought to you in partnership with UCLA Student Media and Hillel at UCLA.
Cover art designed by: Jessica Deutsch, a second-year Fine Art major at Parsons, The New School for Design. You can find more of her art at www.JessicaDeutsch.com.
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, P I H S N O I T A L E R A E WE’R N O I G I L E R A T S U J T NO Tessa Nath
Layout Editor/ Senior Writer To an extent, ethnic stereotypes determine how we perceive those around us. The “We’re a culture, not a costume” ad campaign from Ohio University responds to these stereotypes with posters of students holding up photos of different racial and ethnic stereotypes in costume: a suicide bomber, a Native American, an African American with blackface and grills, a Mexican on a donkey, and a geisha. While the campaign has stirred up considerable controversy regarding which costumes are offensive and which ones are funny, still more people argue that their culture was left out of the racial profiling, and that Italian mobster, Irish drunk, and hillbilly are potentially just as offensive, even if they don’t poke fun at the mainstream media’s definition of a minority. According to Jelani Cobb, a professor of Africana studies at Rutgers University and the author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, “To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people
conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters.” But what about those people, comprising less than one percent of the world’s population, who are neglected from even the minority sympathy reservoir? Orthodox Jewish costumes have been left out of the campaign, as Jews frequently are when discussing minority groups around the world. Such an attitude is detrimental to the image of Jewish people in American culture. It is socially acceptable to hate the majority, and since many people perceive Jews as that majority — based on their scientific, monetary, and artistic contributions — it fuels a cycle of antisemitism. Yet while this Ohio University ad campaign might spark many to cry antisemitism by citing that other minorities such as Asian Americans and Middle Eastern Americans make up a larger portion of the population than Jewish people, this would mean classifying Judaism as nothing more than a culture — a group of people united by an accident of birth. According to Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, conceptual founder of Shabbat.com (a networking site for Jews to find host families, lifelong partners, as well as job
Photo courtesy of terrysdiary.com
ALL TOGETHER NOW: Noted photographer Terry Richardson and friends dress up as stereotypical Jews for Halloween 2011.
opportunities) and former JAM (Jewish Awareness Movement) Rabbi at UCLA, Judaism is a relationship between a person and God, not a religion connoting a strict set of ordinances devoid of any tangible meaning. With this in mind, why do Jews place so much emphasis on fitting into the minority culture mold if they defy all molds by definition? They can neither be classified exclusively as a religion, a culture, a people, nor an ethnic minority. They are all of the above, coupled with a relationship that each of them builds with God, setting aside time each week to welcome in the Sabbath and work on themselves, leaving the cacophonous world behind for a day. Instead of harping on why Jews were left out of the “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign, let Jews be thankful that they were for the simple fact that they weren’t labeled exclusively as a minority or culture. Western civilization continues — albeit unsuccessfully — to categorize the Jewish people along with religions like Christianity and Islam. Jews are different, not just with their tradition of Oral Torah, but with their unique emphasis on a personal relationship with God, shunning practices of forced conversion counterintuitive to a meaningful connection. Western civilization forces people into preexisting molds, shaving off everything that doesn’t fall well between the lines. To cite an example in the modern context, such is the case with the trend of yoga. While yoga traditionally refers to the physical, mental, and spiritual discipline on the path to attaining a state of perfect transcendent insight and tranquility, nowadays most young mothers, single women, or fitness enthusiasts practice purely physical yoga as a means of exercise, almost completely devoid of its original purpose and meaning. Yoga, a meditative practice, has become mainstreamed. On a more radical note, let us prevent an encore of Nazi Germany, where Jews were mainstreamed into being perceived as a race deserving of total eradication
Photos courtesy of CNN.com
LABEL ME NOT: Ohio University ad campaign depicts Mexican American student holding up a picture of a Mexican donkey rider costume (above) and a Middle Eastern American with a picture of a suicide bomber costume (below).
by a psychotic mass murderer. As long as the relationship aspect exists and we deny stereotypes, Jews have a greater chance of survival. Therefore, breathe a sigh of relief. Jews are not perceived as a minority worthy of being protected by the campaign, nor a majority hated by the masses — at least for today.
Tessa Nath is a first-year English major at UCLA. She aspires to one day be a rabbi and a novelist, and is available to publicize any challahrelated events on campus.
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Unorthodox orthodoxy: a portrait Ashton Rosin Senior Writer
In an age characterized by rapid technological advances, instantaneously accessible information, and unbounded scientific discoveries, one may question whether religion is compatible with such a fast paced, fact-based society. As I understand it, faith is a natural requisite to sincere religious affiliation. Whether that faith is placed in an ethical code, a culture, or a particular historical narrative, it is essentially a declaration that empirical fact is not the only basis for personal conviction. Some may argue that those who “believe” are neglecting the progress that the rest of society is embracing. While some cling to their faith and others abandon tradition in pursuit of something new, we seem to be left with a dichotomy between those who embrace modernity and those who shun it. I find this dichotomy incomplete. I would contend that the individual who truly exemplifies modernity is not one who is first in line for the newest iPhone, nor one who rejects the constraints of tradition for the supposed freedom of secularism. Modernity should take the values of history
These experiences left me with a presumption that I would find UCLA’s Orthodox community to be a passive, extreme, and ultimately secluded community who live their lives “by the book” and shield themselves from the pressures of contemporary society. I expected to see a refusal to adapt to the ways of the 21st century, closedmindedness, and ill judgment of those who practice Judaism differently. I am happy to report that reality could not have been further from my expectations. The Orthodox community at UCLA reveals the beauty with which tradition and modernity can be combined. This fusion of the modern and the traditional is apparent in the festivities these students throw on Motzei Shabbat. Only with a trained eye would anyone notice the absence of non-kosher food and the subtle distance between the boys and girls present. I now associate the Orthodox com-
Take what the world has to offer because it makes you a stronger Jew; take Judaism because it makes you a stronger human.” – wisdom from Ashton Rosin
into account. The modern individual should be one who can strike a balance between tradition and progress, extracting the most valuable aspects from each. Unexpectedly, I have come to this conclusion through my interaction with the Orthodox Jewish community here at UCLA. My own Jewish identity was never subject to categorization as Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform; it was shaped around a devotion to the core moral values of the religion common to every denomination. It is within the context of this personal history that I see myself as an objective visitor to each group within the Jewish community. Alas, my conception of each Jewish sub-community is malleable and incomplete, speckled with memories of superficial encounters with various flavors of Jew.
munity with the ability to flourish in two worlds at once. I am amazed at the balance achieved by the techsavvy student pursuing a degree in computer science who refuses to take Saturday exams, the kippah-clad athlete, the scholarly student who is well versed in traditional Jewish texts and is on a quest to understand the intricacies of Islam, and the avid texter who puts away his cell phone for the duration of Shabbat. The ability of these individuals to maintain a powerful devotion to tradition and to academic and social success secures the community’s triumph over the confusion of modernity. The archetypal party-goer falls into deep conversation about the objective of life just as the party is reaching its climax. The kippah-clad athlete plays beer pong, but not without reciting a
Photos by Jacob Elijah Goldberg
SHTEIGING: Ashton Rosin (above) leading a study group that looks at the Jewish perspectives on life and death with third-year Yoni Herskovitz and first-year Miri Gold (below).
blessing over the first sip. The texter may be disconnected from instant communication for a day, but his ability to communicate more meaningfully is preserved by his technological abstinence for those twenty-five hours. The thoughts and actions that shape the lives of these Jews are grounded in a consciousness of purpose and identity that is sometimes lost in the hustle and bustle of the modern world. I have been privileged to take part in these profound encounters with the individuals that make up the Orthodox Jewish community at UCLA. Developing a close relationship with these Jews has left me with an impression that renders all Orthodox stereotypes essentially meaningless. It was refreshing to discover that a community of this nature could be assertive in its religious conviction yet inclusive of different mentalities and experiences, and totally free of judg-
ment. For the first time, I also learned the degree to which the Orthodox community values dialectic and inquiry. Not only is questioning encouraged, but many of their queries are directed at their own beliefs and practices. Rather than teaching seclusion, the Orthodoxy practiced by my peers at UCLA provides a map for the incorporation of complexity into the Jewish identity. I have come to appreciate that being an Orthodox Jew is not simply defined by constrictive rules and traditional conventions, but is a way of life that guides the individual’s quest through midterms, college parties, late night discussions in the dorms, flyering on Bruinwalk, various student organizations, and ultimately every moment of modern life as a UCLA student. Ashton Rosin is a second-year Global Studies major at UCLA. She is an accomplished gymnast and a connoisseur of profound and multifarious Jewish experiences.
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Occupy Antisemitism: Threat? Alan Naroditsky
Content Editor/Senior Writer The ongoing Occupy protests taking place all across the globe include an amalgamation of differing age groups, contrasting socioeconomic statuses, diverse political perspectives, assorted religions, and multifarious worldviews. While the movement’s political ideology, approach, and proposed solutions provoke a considerable amount of acerbic debate, its inherent credo is an alarmed response to the rapidly widening fissure between the wealthy and the poor, and the recent overall decline of the American economy. By now, many people are familiar with the antisemitic sentiments expressed by a range of protesters in the United States. However, the most important question to ask ourselves is this: should Jews see the incidents of antisemitism at Occupy movements as a real threat, or should these outbursts be ignored to avoid giving them the attention they desperately seek? As multiple factors suggest, the resurgence of flagrant antisemitism in the United States (heralded as a country of tolerance and a second safe haven for Jews in the world) during a time of economic distress is anything but a coincidence and must be met with great awareness and steady resolve. A reader even vaguely familiar with Jewish history recognizes that Jews have been relentlessly branded and categorized by a frequently hostile society. Above all, however, Jews have been a perennial scapegoat for any perceived fiscal injustice and are often stereotyped
as incurably avaricious. Over time, layers upon layers of such damaging typecasts have been sewn into the world’s cultural fabric and continue to pounce on opportunities to manifest themselves. For example, Jewish characters and their accompanying stereotypes in prominent literary works (i.e. William Shakespeare’s Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Charles Dickens’s Fagin in Oliver Twist) have been conveniently packaged and rapidly propagated through the popular entertainment channel. Fagin was a crook, training young boys to steal money from upstanding citizens and collecting the plunder for himself, while Shylock made a living as a moneylender. As far as antisemitic stereotypes are
through history, have often times turned and pointed fingers at the Jews.” He adds that “the more radical factions that get involved, the easier it would be for this sentiment to take root. In addition, even if not everybody believes this, if it’s a very open minded crowd, so to speak, that opinion is not necessarily looked down upon, which is another very upsetting issue.” Like clockwork, recently released poll results from the Anti-Defamation League (a watchdog agency actively combating discrimination against Jews) conclude that “anti-Semitic attitudes have risen slightly in America.” Although “risen slightly” might not sound shocking, the rates were unfortunately very high
The more radical factions that get involved, the easier it would be for this sentiment to take root. In addition, even if not everybody believes this, if it’s a very open minded crowd, so to speak, that opinion is not necessarily looked down upon, which is another very upsetting issue.” — Rabbi Jacob Rupp Jewish Awareness Movement at UCLA
concerned (even today!), the two professions are indistinguishable. Taking this into account, it becomes clear that the anti-Jewish sentiments (however sporadic) within the ranks of the Occupy movements present themselves not as impulsive or whimsical but as an untimely resurrection of established and historically ubiquitous antisemitic demons. In response to the question of why it is important to treat the Occupy movement’s antisemitism as a serious threat, Rabbi Jacob Rupp of the Jewish Awareness Movement at UCLA cautioned that “in general, large groups of people upset over government issues, if you look
to begin with, so even the most subtle increase is decidedly problematic. The survey reveals that 15% of Americans (or almost 35 million adults) “hold deeply anti-Semitic views”. Furthermore, 19% of respondents believe that Jews have too much control over Wall Street (a 5% increase from 2009) and 16% claim that Jewish “business people are so shrewd, others don’t have a chance.” While it is facetiously tempting to interpret the last point as a backhanded compliment, in all seriousness, the cumulative effect of these statistics is disturbing to say the least. The escalation of the general anti-Jewish disposition in this country has everything to do with our time of great
financial vulnerability – this particular brand of bigotry is highly combustible and cannot be discounted as just another example of the perpetual global antisemitism we have unfortunately grown to expect. Previously documented cases of antisemitic Occupy rants have been dismissed by some due to the apparent lack of social clout of the speechmakers in question, but one of the most widely publicized outbursts came from Patricia McAllister (the recently fired Los Angeles Unified School District substitute teacher). Her doctrine boiled down to the following now-infamous quote: “The Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve – which is not run by the federal government – they need to be run out of this country.” While other protesters may not control great spheres of societal influence, McAllister was a community leader and role model for the young children she worked with (at least she should have been). For obvious reasons, it is simply terrifying that someone ignorantly spewing messages of hate regularly worked with children in the most impressionable time of their lives. Therefore, while some antisemitic demonstrators are relatively harmless, the sentiments can spread like wildfire if propagated by a schoolteacher – someone responsible for the education of America’s youth. It is important to understand that the correlation between hatred towards the rich and antisemitism does not represent an entirely unsubstantiated link. Jews are indeed the wealthiest minority in the United States: they comprise about 1.75% of the entire population yet account for nearly 50% of its billionaires. The purpose of this article is not to discuss the complex underlying reasons behind this phenomenon, but to reinforce the conviction that Jews did not achieve financial success through illicit
Photos courtesy of jerseynut.blogspot.com, theblaze.com, yourdaddy.net
means and are not involved in a collective conspiracy aiming to impoverish the middle class. In 1930’s Germany, Adolf Hitler addressed a poverty-stricken, war-ravaged nation and singlehandedly convinced a jury consisting of millions of people of the Jews’ total culpability, citing “evidence” of precisely such a fictitious conspiracy. Some defenders of the Occupy movement claim that the anti-Jewish sentiments are voiced by a small squad of bigots, but as an article in the New York Post astutely observes, “Germans dismissed prewar Nazis as a harmless bunch of clowns, too.” While I am not contending that the arguably erratic instances of antisemitism in the Occupy protests might spark an event similar in magnitude to the Holocaust, I wish to emphasize how quickly a certain idea or sentiment can spread given the right circumstances. In addition, as Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post notes, many political leaders who have voiced their support of the movement have yet to distance themselves from these dangerous antisemitic notions. While this doesn’t mean the politicians agree with the sentiments by any means, turning a blind eye sends all the wrong messages. In today’s floundering economy, people are losing money, losing their homes, and losing faith in capitalism. The angry crowds are looking for someone to blame. Therefore, it has once again become imperative to make sure that our society’s angst remains appropriately channeled and does not give in to the age-old temptation of scapegoating the Jews for the fiscal woes we face. As history has shown, overlooking even the most brazen antisemitism in a time of financial peril is something we simply cannot afford.
Triviality? Ari Huntley Staff Writer
I always think the same way when presented with claims of antisemitism in the Occupy movements: who cares? But then again, I’m a professional who-carer. While the Coffee Bean in Hillel: The Yitzhak Rabin Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, I overheard a friend ranting about antisemitic remarks made at some recent Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA rallies. He cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, perhaps checking to
Alan Naroditsky is a third-year Economics and English major at UCLA. He is a U.S. Open Piano Champion, a Candidate Master chess player, and is allergic to grass.
person. In an interview with Fox 11 News, Patricia McAllister stood by her previous antisemitic statements, saying “The Zionist Jews [need to be] run out of the country because they are printing our money and they own the Federal Reserve Bank.” But the mere fact that she said it does not mean that people will believe her. In fact, based on the strong outcry from the general Los Angeles community and all of its news outlets, I would say they strongly repudiated her statements. Crazy is crazy, and LAUSD just happened to hire (and then fire) a crazy person. To be sure, our society is certainly home to a few blatantly antisemitic individuals. It is natural, then, that in a forum for the expression of a potpourri of opinions such as the Occupy movements, antisemitic rhetoric will surface. Since the movement by nature is so visible,
The people who talk about the Jews controlling the world are smallminded bigots. Those kinds of antisemitic slurs are never something that we want thrown about, but they are, in essence, harmless.”
ensure that none of the antisemites at the rally had followed him in, and proceeded to urge the folks at his table to “take action!” He informed them of the certainty of those comments’ detrimental effects and how they signaled a shift toward an antisemitic majority in our country. I asked him if he could see any similarities between his claims and those of the demonstrators holding “The end of the world is near!” signs. He may have taken my question seriously, so here goes. There are three different approaches you could take in understanding the sorts of remarks made at Occupy rallies: You could fear that the alleged antisemites brainwash others into thinking along the same lines, that their presence signifies a dramatic uptick in American antisemitism, or that none of this means a damned thing. Keep in mind that the first two approaches are discrete entities. If the first is true, currently open-minded individuals will lose their rationality and become antisemitic; if the second is true, they already are antisemitic. Try to guess my position. Here’s the deal: nobody listens to a crazy
all the racist and antisemitic sentiments, which are normally swept under the rug or simply ignored, come to the fore. Simply being made aware of an ever-present social undercurrent is no reason to panic. That isn’t to say antisemitism as a whole is not worrisome. I just mean to point out that the antisemitism that requires our attention is not that which goes on at a circus such as Occupy LA. There is, I believe, a different, more insidious antisemitism afoot. Rather than attacking Jews directly, some people will attempt to sway public opinion on matters that indirectly affect Jews. While I consider the claim that Israel is an “apartheid state” to be absolutely nonsensical (Arab citizens have equal rights, there has been an Arab-Israeli in Knesset since its inception, and systematized discrimination is illegal), it is a claim with which uninformed people can sympathize without feeling hateful. But the claim exists simply to delegitimize the Jewish State. Intelligent antisemites, who knowingly include this claim in their rhetoric and exploit the ignorance of the masses, are much more effective at harming the Jewish people. This more sub-
tle manifestation of Jew-hatred has motivated the U.S. Department of State to draft its definition of “antisemitism” to include: “The demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders [as an indicator of] an antisemitic bias.” Such demonization is effective, and it is, therefore, something to worry about. This malevolent form of antisemitism is the the one toward which we should direct our energies. The futile battle waged against the “Patricia McAllisters” of the world serves only to distract us from a truly imminent threat. Furthermore, our wasted effort is not the only casualty of such a crusade. Consider this: the average non-Jewish American hears you referring to Ms. McAllister and her remarks as antisemitic. They think, “Ah yes, that must be what antisemitism looks like.” They assume that all antisemitism will be just as apparent and blatantly irrational. Then they encounter this more devious antisemitism and think that since it sounds nothing like the “traditional antisemitism” of the Occupy movements, it must be legitimate criticism. But there is another option: We can respond rationally and in unison when some mamzer makes a claim like “Israel is an apartheid state!” If we ignore the blatantly absurd antisemitism and focus on the instances that can make a difference, we will score victories on both fronts. The general public will still recognize the former as ignorant and farcical, and they will begin to see the latter as the vicious attack it really is. We all agree that the people who talk about the Jews controlling the world are small-minded bigots. Those kinds of antisemitic slurs are never something that we want thrown about, but they are, in essence, harmless. In a world where such preposterous antisemitism is about as common as herpes, I think we need to we focus our energies wisely. The routine subversion of the tenets of the Jewish State by those who hate and wish to destroy the Jewish people is a serious danger to our survival as a people, and must be confronted. The antisemitism within the Occupy movements? Not a terrible threat to the Jewish people. Ari Huntley is a third-year Physics major at UCLA. Apparently, he is a professional who-carer.
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Irvine 11 at UCLA: Jewish students turn offense into friendship
Photo by Flora Li-Ma
RED RAGE: Miriam Shamout and al-Talib managing editor Noor Teebi listen intently (right) to keynote speaker and Irvine 11 protester Taher Herzallah (left).
Jacob Elijah Goldberg Editor-in-Chief
I was sitting in the Student Media office a few weeks ago when I received a text from my friend Lana, who is a member of the Muslim Student Association, reading, “Irvine 11 speaking at CPO banquet tonight!” I was not yet familiar with the work of the Community Programs Office, but I was intrigued that they would host such provocative speakers while the drama surrounding their conviction was, unfortunately, still unfolding. The hall was decorated in red in honor of “Indigenous People’s Day,” which most Americans recognize as Columbus Day. Hundreds of students and faculty members dressed in red filled the seats arranged before the stage. The Community Programs Office was introduced as a department at UCLA that aims to address the needs of communities on campus that experience difficulty with access and retention at the university. The office hosts student organizations that represent these minority communities, including the Afrikan Student Union, the Muslim Students Association, and MEChA de UCLA, each of which designs its own initiatives that operate though the CPO. The presidents of these organizations were invited to the stage. Despite the fact that the access and retention needs of the Jewish community are not as dire as those of other underrepresented communities, it was vexing to see that the Jewish community and these other minority communities run parallel but totally separate courses at UCLA. The chasm between these two ends of the minority spectrum was further ex-
posed when Taher Herzallah, Irvine 11 protester and keynote speaker for the evening, took the podium. What proceeded was a deluge of antiAmerican, anti-Israeli grandiloquence in which Herzallah repeatedly accused both countries of genocide. It was all devoured heartily by the finger-snapping, crimson-clad audience. “The fight against Israeli ethnic cleansing is the continuation of the fight of Ghandi, Malcolm, Martin, and Nelson.” Reckless comparisons were a recurring motif in his presentation. Herzallah proceded to explain that his own actions were specifically targeted by
contain myself, as did the few other Jews in the audience. This I discovered when we all converged on Tony Sandoval, the director of CPO, after the event ended. Most of us were deeply offended by the content of the keynote speaker’s address, but that was not the grievance upon which we decided to focus. What was more disturbing was the fact that an office funded in part by student fees and that purports to address the particular needs of minority communities at the university would offer its stage to such a polarizing personality without consulting the parties that would be affected. It appeared for that moment that in the mosa-
What was disturbing was the fact that an office funded in part by student fees and that purports to address the particular needs of minority communities at the university would offer its stage to such a polarizing personality without consulting the parties that would be affected.”
the legal system because of his religion and his appearance. “I’m brown. Along with black males, I’m public enemy number one.” Despite their tenuousness, these comparisons struck an emotional chord with this particular audience. A roomful of students were instructed to believe that there is only one way of looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Herzallah concluded with a claim that protesting Israel is illegal in the United States, and that protests conducted within legal parameters are ineffective as they do not challenge the status quo. He affirmed, “I’ll be breaking that law again.” Don’t think that I didn’t consider vengefully expressing my own free speech at the speaker’s expense. I struggled to
ic of cultures acknowledged by the university department, there was no place for the Jews. The next day, the Jewish students who were at the banquet, including Academic Affairs Commissioner Raquel Saxe, Hillel Student Board President Sarah Baron, and USAC President Emily Resnick, met with Sandoval and CPO’s student leaders to discuss the outcome this incident. Also present were the Jewish videographer for the event, also named Emily, my friend Lana, who had invited me to the event, and myself. There was certainly a sense of bitterness among the Jewish students. We felt ignored, and we were honest about it. A political bias that many Jews find threatening seemed to have been chosen to represent the entirety
of a very important university department. However, we decided that holding a grudge, declaring someone to be our enemy, and turning the campus into a battlefield would not be the most productive courses of action. For two hours, we shared our communities’ histories, our common goals, and our desire to communicate more honestly and even to work together in the future. Finally, Jews would inhabit an office toward which they had never traditionally gravitated — not just as individuals, but as members of UCLA’s Jewish community. As a result of that meeting, two internship positions were created for Jewish students to participate in the admirable work that CPO does, and plans are under way to incorporate Hillel’s multitudinous social justice initiatives into CPO’s community service program. The barrier that has kept these two like-minded communities separate for so long is steadily melting away. Perhaps a useful point would have been made had the Jewish students in the audience raised their voices and sabotaged the event. People should know that the Jewish community has needs and sensitivities as does every community. Maybe we would even have profited from the attention that a legal scandal would have garnered. Nevertheless, we chose the route of partnership over enmity, and we succeeded in building rather than destroying. In the absence of any concrete positive consequences of their protest, perhaps Herzallah and the people he has influenced would do well to take a page out of the Jews’ book. Jacob Goldberg is second-year International Development Studies major at UCLA. He is a proponent of concrete positive consequences, a relentless supporter of free speech, and a proud Jew.
The Disproportionate Yet Necessary Deal that Brought Gilad Home
Content Editor/Staff Writer
Walid Abd al-Aziz Abd al-Hadi Anajas (36 life sentences) – took part in the
execution of the Café Moment bombing (2002), the Hebrew University bombing (2002), and the Rishon LeZion bombing (2002).
Nasir Sami Abd al-Razzaq Ali al-Nasser Yataima (29 life sentences) –
planned the Passover massacre (2002) in which 30 Israeli civilians were killed and 140 were wounded, while celebrating the holiday.
Maedh Waal Taleb Abu Sharakh (19 life sentences), Majdi Muhammad Ahmed Amr (19 life sentences), and Fadi Muhammad Ibrahim al-Jaaba (18
or of taking extreme measures to ensure national security. In the case of Gilad Shalit, the question of disproportionality is directed not at Israel’s preemptive military measures, but rather at the steep rate of exchange to which Israel agreed in the trade. How can such an irrefutably uneven exchange be justified when it involves the release of so many who are eager to repeat their actions and further terrorize Israeli civilians and soldiers? Ahlam Tamimi, who assisted in the August 9, 2001 bombing of a Sbarro’s Pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15 and wounded 130 innocent Israelis, said that she did not regret her actions and would again carry out such a large-scale attack. “This is the path,” she said. “I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success…You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 Sbarro’s Pizzeria attack]… Do you want me
life sentences) – responsible for the attack on bus No. 37 in Haifa in 2002.
These are just a few of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners that were released on October 18, 2011 in exchange for one Israeli soldier — Gilad Shalit. Since June 25, 2006, when terrorist organization Hamas captured the then-19year-old Israel Defense Forces soldier in a cross-border raid near Gaza, Shalit’s family and the broader Israeli and international communities, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, rallied for his release. After over five years of cruel captivity, of being held virtually incommunicado, deprived of basic human needs, and in constant fear of execution, Israel and Hamas mutually agreed to the 1,027-for-one deal that would finally bring Gilad home. In terms of a strictly numerical ratio, oneto-1,027 is indeed lopsided. Is the freedom of one single soldier worth the release of over a thousand Palestinian prisoners with so much Israeli blood on their hands? Is Israel asking for lethal recidivism? The Shalit exchange reintroduced what has become a trope in Israeli affairs: the question of “disproportionality”. Israel is often accused of using what is commonly termed “disproportionate force”
What is more, releasing terrorists would be an utter injustice and betrayal of Israel’s terror victims and their loved ones. This is not the first time Israel has agreed to such a deal. In 1985, Israel released 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for three Israelis captured in Lebanon in 1982. In a country like Israel, these prisoner swaps suggest that logic is not the only consideration in these deals. In Israel, the political is irrevocably entangled with the personal. The mandatory (and unfortunately necessary) system of conscription in Israel means that virtually every citizen knows someone who is serving, someone who is in harm’s way. This harsh reality makes for an Israeli community that is inclined to view the capture of any single member as deeply personal, even familial, loss. As Bruins For Israel executive board member, Molly Cornfield, puts it, “Gilad is
Gilad is more than just a single soldier; he is every Israeli soldier... The return of Gilad Shalit had become a mandate of the state of Israel’s collective sense of self. That is, It was important for Israelis to demonstrate to themselves and others their own sense of compassion and humanism.” — Professor David N. Myers History Department Chair
to denounce what I did? That’s out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.” Anyone concerned for Israel’s long-term security would deem this deal a kiss of death. Former director of the Prisoners of War department of the Mosad, Rami Igra, called the exchange “a shameless and bottomless surrender to Hamas’ demands.” Critics like Igra argue that releasing these Palestinian prisoners, in addition to posing the risk of repeat lethal offenses, will lead to the abduction of more Israeli soldiers for ransom. On the very day of the exchange, Palestinians were already chanting, “we want another Gilad.”
more than just a single soldier; he is every Israeli soldier.” Professor David N. Myers of the Jewish Studies and History Departments says, “The return of Gilad Shalit had become a mandate of the State of Israel’s collective sense of self. That is, it was important for Israelis to demonstrate to themselves and others their own sense of compassion and humanism.” On October 18, Aviva and Noam Shalit, parents of Gilad, were not alone in their celebration. Israelis all over the country flooded the streets, waving Israeli flags and holding banners that read, “Welcome home, our son.” According to Alon Ben Meir, a Senior Fel-
Page 9 Fall 2011
Photo courtesy of thejerusalemconnection.us
low at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, Israel is the only country in the world that has a department within the foreign ministry dedicated to rescuing its citizens experiencing difficulties outside the country. Because Israel is miniscule — demographically and geographically — and because her security is so often in jeopardy, tremendous value is placed on every individual life. It comes as no surprise, then, that those living outside of Israel would be perplexed by the lengths to which Israel is willing to go to for one life. Professor Myers urges, “Go and spend some time in Israel where you can begin to understand the immediacy and urgency of life there, whether it is a matter of Gilad Shalit or where the best hummus is to be found.” Once one understands this cultural urgency for life and universal investment in the wellbeing of all members of the IDF, the gap between one and 1,027 suddenly and drastically shrinks. The exchange should not be deemed either “victory” or “failure.” It should not be seen, despite its pitfalls, as a total “surrender,” as Igra posits. In blunt terms, the deal was for Israel both bad and necessary. All too often, the two must coexist. Israel is left with no choice but to make these kinds of extreme concessions. What is both reassuring to Israeli soldiers and their families and commendable about Israel’s agreement to this uneven deal is that it shows that the Israeli government regards each of its contributing citizens as an irreplaceable individual, and in preserving something so valuable, hardly any price can really be disproportionate. Diane Bani-Esraili is a third-year History major at UCLA. She is a new and valuable addition to the Ha’Am team.
Tamimi Aref Ahmad Ahlam (16 life sentences) – Assisted in the execution of the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing (2001). Yihia Ibrahim Hasan Al-Sinwar (4 life sentences) – took part in the kidnapping of Nachshon Wachsman who was later killed by Hamas during a failed rescue attempt by an IDF unit. Founder of the Hamas security apparatus in Gaza. His brother organized the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006.
Bassam Ibrahim Abd al-Qader Abu Asneina (1 life sentence) and Riyadh Zakariya Khalil Asayla (1 life sentences) – Killed the yeshiva student Chaim Kerman. Fuad Muhammad Abdulhadi Amrin (1 life sentence) – killed 15-year-old Israeli schoolgirl Helena Rapp in 1992.
Ahmed Jibril Othman al-Takruri (1 life sentence) – Carried out firebomb
attack on a bus in Jericho, in which a mother and her three children, and a soldier who tried to rescue them, were killed. DANGER: “Beware of terrorists in the city.”
Photo courtesy of news.walla.co.il
Fuad Muhammad Abdulhadi Amrin (1 life sentence) – killed 15-year-old Israeli schoolgirl Helena Rapp in 1992.
Page 10 Fall 2011
Lebanese encounter reaffirms of people throughout Lebanon and what they see as a solution to the conflict.” the need for For the next hour, the Lebanese delegation proceeded to present one of the most dismal dialogue Corey Feinstein
President, Olive Tree Initiative “Is he a Zionist?” “What?” Trembling, the meeting’s administrator says, “They want to know if he’s a Zionist.” “Is it a problem if he’s a Zionist?” A cacophonous storm of twenty people speaking simultaneously begins: “Yes, there are implications – it is against the law for them to be in a room with a Zionist. You don’t understand, we are at war with Israel. [They] can be thrown in jail.” This event, hosted by the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), featured a delegation of leaders of various Lebanese political parties sent by the Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. About four of these delegates entered right away, but 20 or so refused to enter before confirmation of a Zionist-free zone. UCLA routinely caters to international guests and diplomats, so I was not expecting such a snag. “Our group is about engaging many different narratives [and] perspectives. Why don’t you come in and have a seat? I think you’ll find us very interesting.” The hubbub in the hallway began again. “But is he a Zionist? We need to know…these people represent political parties. We are at war with Israel. They cannot meet with a Zionist”. I reentered the room and sat down next
displays I have ever seen, nearly quashing my once strong optimism for peace. I study the conflict intensively and definitely did expect to hear a lot of anti-Israel rhetoric. However, the method and wording of their comments were absolutely disheartening. “We are at war with Israel. We do our part – but there will not be peace until Israel [is] no longer in the region. They are the problem.” I should point out that not once did they reference Hezbollah during the entire meeting. At one point a woman in the audience stared directly at me and said in Arabic: “Israeli soldiers rape our women every day.” I felt horrible. Obviously, she was extremely affected. “We are born to hate Israel. They are born to kill us, we are born to hate them,” she concluded. At that point I said to myself, “I don’t know if I can do this. I should just go protect Israel. Forget about building understanding – it’s hopeless and I’m too idealistic! It’s not possible and never will be. There is simply too much hate.” I was about to give up on peace talks just like they had in the region. It wasn’t even the conversations our group had with the delegation – it was the fact that over 80% of the delegation would not even enter the room because they saw a boy sitting in there with a kippah on his head. If people cannot even enter the same room to talk about peace, how is peace ever to be achieved? From this experience, I take away the lesson my advisor taught me: “You just go into the bathroom,
I was about to give up on peace talks just like they had in the region. It wasn’t even the conversations our group had with the delegation – it was the fact that over 80% of the delegation would not even enter the room because they saw a boy sitting in there with a kippah on his head.”
my three colleagues: an American Orthodox Jew, a Muslim Palestinian-American, and an American catholic foreign policy expert. I explained to the Lebanese delegation that our OTI examines areas of conflict in our world, currently concentrating on the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. We travel to conflict regions and meet with the top political leaders, chief negotiators, and citizens from all sides of the issue. We are completely neutral, apolitical, and are not an advocacy group. On campus, we try to recruit leaders within the community that are Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestinian, and interested in government careers or international relations. Thus, we help bridge relations between Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian students on campus to pacify the current hostile tensions and protests, and try to foster more productive talks to find a mutually agreed-upon solution for peace. The first prompt the delegates answered was: “Comment [on] the current viewpoints
wipe the spit off your face, look into the mirror, and go back into the negotiation room.” I cannot give up on my ideal. If I want peace for the Jews, if I want peace for the Palestinians, if I want peace for the Arab world, if I want peace for the world in general, I have to do what is right. As much as the Olive Tree Initiative is about education and an intensive study of foreign policy, it is about understanding. If we cannot understand one another, understand the level of humanity that exists within each of us, how can peace ever be achieved? If we cannot even step foot in the same room as someone we suspect has different feelings, how can any progress be made? If there is a way to achieve peace without peace talks, I’d like to know it. Let’s try to understand, set aside our differences, renounce violence, and talk like human beings. Corey Feinstein is a fourth-year International Development Studies major at UCLA. He is a talkative ex=actor, and his optimism is good for the Jews.
Education A word about ‘those liberals’ in academia Ben Steiner
Senior Writer Many in my community have questioned the integrity of academic even-handedness at UCLA in the wake of supposedly pervasive and pernicious anti-Israel sentiment in the classroom. It is generally assumed that the liberal establishment controls academia, and that this arrangement stifles free speech and facilitates “bias.” For example, while discussing my academic pursuits here at UCLA at the Passover seder table, I expressed my passion for history to a family friend, who dryly informed me that historians had particularly impressed
heritage: her literature, her music, and most importantly, her people. The evidence is readily available if one would only seek it. The elevators leading to the history department offices in Bunche Hall are replete with fliers advertising visiting Israeli writers, composers, academics, military strategists, and politicians. Recently I counted three talks about Israeli culture out of maybe ten in total. Another flier promoted a memorial lecture for Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Israeli-Palestinian film-maker who was recently murdered in front of the theater he founded in Jenin. This over-emphasis, however, is not a mere excuse to over-criticize.
Academia is about a love of learning, not a tenacious zeal to either demonize or unequivocally support Israel and her policies.”
him in coming out unanimously in favor of two historical facts. First, that Jews were not disproportionately involved in antebellum slave-holding, and second, that the Holocaust was a historical reality. His perception of academia was so low that any positive “concession” regarding Jewish concerns was a godsend. Such claims of ubiquitous favoritism towards liberal perspectives in academia are in my experience overstated and misguided. They rely on factors such as statistical analyses of academics’ political voting records. They are liberal, the argument goes, so they must oppose Israeli policy, and their intellectual ideas must be informed by that opposition. Alternatively, some point to specific statements and writings by professors which reflect lopsidedness in their academic ethos. I want to be very clear in my rejection of this generalized assessment of the American liberal arts education system, with reference to my experience as a student in the UCLA History Department. I firmly believe that such insensitivity stems not only from misinformation but from a complete disregard for the intricacy of academic historical method and analysis. In my understanding, no other topic captures a greater place in the imaginations of UCLA historians than Israel. This is not to say that the academic record is unequivocally supportive of Israel, or to deny the significant amounts of dissent towards many Israeli actions within segments of the UCLA population. However, I have found mostly healthy debate, not ingrained prejudice, emanate from my educators. I speak not out of my own internal bias but out of knowledge of historical study at UCLA. Not only is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict painstakingly analyzed at this university, but Israeli culture is the subject of greater academic pursuit then just about any other topic. I do not just mean Zionism and questions of racial tension in the Holy Land — I mean intricate studies of Jewish religious practice in Israel. I mean celebration of Israel’s cultural
Last spring, I took a course about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I know there were some Jews and even more Muslims in the class who were troubled by the way the conflict was portrayed. True, no personality or action escaped the brunt of my professor’s critical assessment, which may offend some sensibilities. In lieu of my midterm in the class, I critiqued a broad neo-Marxist assessment of America’s policy in the Middle East over the past century with a more detailed account of Kissinger’s peace overtures following the October War in 1973 in an essay. Biased? Honestly, I do not even know what that means in this case. Does neutrality mean portraying only the perspectives within the realm of “rightness” because all other positions are intellectually destructive? The academic ideal values any informed interpretation of factual material. True academic writing is not about bias at all, but about argument. I do not deny that “biased” statements are made, but such statements work both ways. Furthermore, proper historical methods, in my experience, transcend pithy titles such as “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel.” Academia is about a love of learning, not a tenacious zeal to either demonize or unequivocally support Israel and her policies. At UCLA I have encountered an array of historical methodologies, including military history, diplomatic history, intellectual history, economic history, feminist history, and Marxist history, but never biased history. So please, if you want to cast shadows over my education or over academia in general, I invite you to do so. Exercise your first amendment right to free speech. But before criticizing me and the statements I have made here, I entreat you: read my textbooks, come to my lectures, and talk to my professors. Until then, these flagrant generalizations imposed on my education need to stop. Ben Steiner is a fourth-year History major at UCLA. He is an avid carpenter, and there’s a good chance that he is interested in Jewish feminism.
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Combating Bigotry: Lessons from the Hitler Letter Yoni Herskovitz Staff Writer
I recently visited the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance to see the Hitler Letter, an exhibition displaying Hitler’s earliest recorded antisemitic sentiments— a four-page letter dated September 16, 1919. A portion of what historians now call the Gemlich Letter reads, “…antisemitism based on reason must lead to the systematic legal combating and removal of the rights of the Jew.” The letter serves as a testament to the power of hatred infiltrating minds of reason and manifesting itself in methodical massacre. In the document, Hitler contrasts the emotional hatred of Jews (resulting in pogroms) with the systematic removal of the Jews altogether under a strong government. By stripping the Jews of their rights, Hitler managed to dehumanize them and successfully convinced nearly an entire nation of the “need” to sys-
LACMA Spotlights Jewish Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein Sarah Elbaum Staff Writer
Through January 1, 2012, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is housing the “Monet/Lichtenstein: Rouen Cathedrals” exhibit, which features both artists’ creative interpretations of the French Gothic monument located in the northwest of Paris. The pairing of Monet and Lichtenstein is definitely an eye-catching and somewhat surprising one. The artists’ works do not at all resemble one another. Monet helped build the prototype for what later became known as Modernism in art, which gave Lichtenstein, a Pop Art superstar, the opportunity to explore the comic book format and abstract sculpture in his work. Monet laid the groundwork for the Pop Art that came onto the scene in the 1960s. His smudged and blurred brushstrokes broke the mold of paintings as pure window into a realistically-rendered environment, which had been the holding trend for the previous five centuries. Monet’s artistic liberties, displaying his brushstrokes on the canvas in a sketchlike fashion, were innovative, and established artist making him or herself known
tematically exterminate them. The Hitler be conducted in a sensitive manner. On Letter proves that the Holocaust, during campus, there are various initiatives adwhich 15 million individuals were merci- vocating minority groups’ equal treatlessly killed, was set in motion by appeal ment, and equal human and legal rights. to “intellect” and “reason” through propa- These initiatives undoubtedly have noble intentions. What unnerves me, though, is ganda. that these groups’ At a univerwarranted arsity like UCLA, guments are students are adorned with taught to emthe unwarranted brace reason, equivalence of to accept dithe discrimination versity, and to they protest to fight marginthe Nazism that alization. Sturesulted in genodents should cide. What we reflect on the find in Hitler’s letrepercussions Photo courtesy of batangastoday.com the Hitler Let- DEATH SENTENCE: Hitler expresses his hatred for the Jews. ter is the hope of complete annihilater had and consider the power and momentum words tion of an ethnic minority; thankfully, no can have. Rabbi Marvin Heir, the dean group in the United States faces such a and founder of the Museum of Tolerance, threat today. Mark Rothman, executive director of points out that this letter essentially became the Nazi party’s Magna Carta just the Los Angeles Museum of the Holotwenty-two years after it was composed. caust, remarked: “I fear the true meanWhile this exhibit demonstrates the ing and understanding of terms like [Nazi historic and current need to defend mi- and Holocaust] are being bled out of norities and prevent injustices perpe- them from people hurling them around trated against them, this defense should carelessly…absolute misuse of the term
[Nazi], that to me suggests more and more there is a disconnect from the true meaning of the term.” Indeed, employing these expressions to reflect a feeling about a particular issue not only insults the intellect of the uninvolved public, but also detracts from the gravity of the Holocaust itself. I do believe that this exhibition’s (among others at the Museum of Tolerance) intention is to sensitize museumgoers to the results of allowing others to impede upon legal and/or human rights, and to show that such actions begin with words. A collective intolerance can only take place once individuals have constructed some cerebral justification for it, and words, writing, reading are the perfect vehicles for such justification. The Museum of Tolerance paid $150,000 for the Gemlich Letter. Why? What return are they looking for? The hope is that the document will inspire future generations to eliminate bigotry from its root beginnings. Let us begin that mission here, at UCLA, but with sen-
to the viewer, instead of disappearing behind a flawless canvas as was the norm in centuries past. Lichtenstein took Monet’s legacy, which ultimately became the twentieth century art legacy, to the extreme, laying bare not only on the artistic process as Monet had done, but the economy and society at large. While Monet showed the artist’s hand, Lichtenstein played with the proportions and scale of art to highlight his own handiwork. Both strategies proclaim: the artist was here, this is no seamless illusion. As obvious as that sounds to us now, this broke with a millennium of artistic tradition that upheld illusionism and strict, painstaking mimicry of reality. For the artist to break the fourth wall, as it were, to address his or her own presence to the viewer, was revolutionary. Lichtenstein is best known for his paintings that imitate comic book frames, as well as his larger-than-life, three-dimensional sculptures of brushstrokes. The fact that his work is juxtaposed with Monet’s at this exhibit suggests that Lichtenstein’s work closes the loop of the Modernist legacy that Monet began. This juxtaposition credits Monet with pioneering modern art and credits Lichtenstein with reiterating Monet’s innovations with a Pop Art sensibility. Consumer product as revered art object is the hallmark of the 1960s’ Pop Art movement, which we most easily associate with Warhol’s
themes in his artwork, Lichtenstein found fame in his cheeky comic book framestyle canvases and chunky, bold sculptural forms. Though the subjects of his artwork are not inherently Jewish, the wit behind them, as well as the talent and intelligence of his singular vision, can certainly be claimed by us as a community, and proudly.
Campbell’s soup cans and Oldenburg’s enormous sculptures of hamburgers that redefined American iconography and consumer consciousness. LACMA’s decision to show Lichtenstein alongside Monet highlights not just the chronology and legacy of Western art, and of Modernism from its infancy to its golden age, but also the oft-forgotten Jewish contribution to the art world. Rather than depicting specifically Jewish subjects and
Yoni Herskovitz is a third-year Life Sciences major at UCLA. He maintains a deep interest in the arts despite his South-Campus affiliation. He does an impeccable impersonation of Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Sarah Elbaum is a graduate student in the African Studies program at UCLA. Her Arabic skills have improved dramatically since last year.
Photos courtesy of discoverlosangeles.com and latimes.com
LIGHTING UP AN OLD FAVORITE: Lichtenstein’s rendition of Monet (above) and the lamp display at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (above).
How To: be an A+ Jew and not fall behind
Photo by Tessa Nath
OY VEY: First-year David Joseph struggles to balance his calculus homework and his study of the Jerusalem Talmud.
Staff Writer I had gone over it several times in my head. I was going to approach my professor after class and explain the situation: “I am an Orthodox Jew and I am unable able to take the final on Saturday due to religious observance of the Sabbath.” Hopefully, that was all he would need to change the time of my final exam. It was fall of my freshman year, and I was sitting in my first lecture of Introduction to Computer Science listening to the professor review the syllabus. When I signed up for the course over the summer, I saw that the final was on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. I knew that I would have to talk to the professor on the first day in order to get it changed. After all, it would be quite difficult to take a final while I am religiously forbidden from writing. Some might ask why it is so important
that I do not write on the Sabbath. Why can I not just make an exception in this one case? When answering this question, I like to refer to the popular musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Tevye, the play’s protagonist, explains that traditions help us keep our balance, “and because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.” Taking a break from this tradition is not an option. My traditions are part of what define me, and they are something I do not want to change. When the professor got to the part of the syllabus that dealt with the exam schedule, I was pleasantly surprised. The last line in the section stated: “If you are affected by the fact that sunset on Saturday, December 4, is at 4:44 PM, you must inform your instructor early in the quarter.” It was as though the instructor had read my mind. Since then, I have had four exams successfully rescheduled due to religious obser-
Last spring, within a couple of days before the start of the quarter, I noticed that a midterm for my LS3 (Life Sciences) class was scheduled on the night of the Passover seder. I e-mailed both the professor and the LS core office immediately. The professor replied and assured me that I could take a make-up test and told me to come to her office at 3 P.M. on erev chag (Passover eve). Since her office was located in a building that is difficult to navigate, I arrived in the hallway outside her office about 45 minutes before the scheduled time. The teacher poked her head out and said “Oh, you’re a bit early, I’m still writing the test, but don’t worry I’ll have it for you by 3.” Mind you, she’d known about the need for a make-up test for four weeks. While I was waiting, another Jewish student arrived to take a make-up exam. A couple minutes after 3 PM, the professor called us into her office and apologized that there were only 60 questions on our test, while the rest of the class would get 63 questions. Her reason was that “you just can’t imagine how hard it is to think of test questions.” She then said dismissively “it shouldn’t really impact your grade, if it does, whatever, we’ll work it out later.” Having a test graded out of 60 versus 63 questions is really a very slight difference in terms of point-per-question value, so I didn’t say anything. When tests were graded and returned the next week, the professor announced in class that although the test originally had 63 questions, it was only graded out of 60, meaning that everyone except the two Jewish students started off with about a 5% freebie. There were a number of fair options (including but not limited to writing just three more questions or grading the tests of the two Jewish students out of 57) which could have been achieved with minimal effort and some better planning on her part. Additionally, according to this teacher’s test-return policy, you had to go to an LS office to get a copy of your Scantron printout (which the teacher insisted on providing – we weren’t allowed to bring our own). When we took the test early, however, we just wrote the answers on the side of the page. Therefore, I was barred from reviewing my own test because she had neglected to provide a Scantron. I considered protesting the inequity of the point allocation/Scantron policy, but was afraid that it would negatively impact my grade, as the professor had clearly demonstrated a lack of dedication to fairness.
vance. However, not everyone is as fortunate as I have been. A student, whom we will call DJ for the sake of anonymity, contacted me prior to the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret. “I had requested an extension for a take-home midterm because it was assigned on Erev Shemini Atzeret [Wednesday] and was due that Monday,” says DJ. This would have left her with only Sunday to complete the assignment. “When I asked [my professor], she told me that the only grounds for a date-change on an assignment are medical emergencies.” This is not true. According to UCLA Policy 870, Section II (B) 8 states that “the University must accommodate requests for alternate examination dates at a time when that activity would not violate a student’s religious creed… Accommodation for alternate examination dates are worked out directly and on an individual basis between the student and the faculty member involved.” DJ persisted in trying to get an extension from the professor, but the most the professor would give was four extra hours. DJ’s TA ended up giving her a longer extension without the knowledge of the instructor. Although this was a very unfortunate case, there is little that can be done about unaccommodating instructors beyond the first few days of the quarter. A student in such a circumstance can and should contact the Office of the Dean of Students, although it does not make the situation any less unsavory. We, Jewish students, must be responsible to secure accommodation from professors on our own. Therefore, I suggest a series of tips for the observant Jewish Student:
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It will be much easier for both the student and the professor to remember the agreement made. Make sure to include relevant dates and times in the email. As a general rule, I would offer to provide a letter from your rabbi verifying the religious obligation.
Check in with the professor a week before the exam. All of us forget things sometimes. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t forget to thank your professor. Accommodations do impose extra work on the instructor. Show your appreciation with a simple “thank you.”
UCLA’s student policy is on the side of the student, as long as the situation is dealt with properly. The policy states that the requirement to accommodate requests due to religious creed “does not apply in the event that administering the test or examination at an alternate time would impose an undue hardship which could not reasonably be avoided” (UCLA Policy 870, Section II (B) 8). What constitutes “undue hardship” and how can a student prevent his or herself from causing such hardship? I asked David Smallberg, the computer science professor who wrote the syllabus I mentioned above, about the best way a student could request an alternative exam date. “Tell the instructor as soon as you know,” he answered. “If there are challenges in coming Have a calendar with Jewish Holi- up with an accommodation, the more lead days and Candle-lighting times handy when time, the easier they are to resolve. I can’t signing up for classes. Try to avoid classes imagine anyone doing this, but waiting until with exams on Jewish holidays. If this is the last minute to claim a religious reason unavoidable, it is not the end of the world. At seems indistinguishable from someone makthe very least, be aware of the conflict so it ing up an excuse to get extra time for an ascan be dealt with on the first day of instruc- signment.” tion. Overall, be courteous, but do not be afraid to ask for accommodations. According to Dean of Students, Robert Naples, “a faculty Talk to the instructor on the first day member may not negatively impact a grade of class. This is both the smartest and most because a student requests alternate exam courteous thing to do. It gives the professor scheduling or misses class sessions for relithe maximum amount of time to make acgious observation, provided the student noticommodations, which is good for both the fied the faculty member in advance.” Naples student and the professor. puts it plain and simple: UCLA’s Student Policy is in favor of the student. If the steps above are followed, there should be no grounds to Send an email to the professor constitute “undue hardship,” and accommowithin the first week of class. It is sad, but dations should be easily attainable. Tzvi Wolf is a second-year Computer Science major at UCLA. He currently many of us cannot commit to anything unserves as sexton for the JLIC quorum. You can catch him wearing a stylishly less we have it in writing. Start a paper trail. retro hat every Sabbath.