Latest update: July 14th, 2013
On Oct. 21, 2003, in a corridor on the campus of UCLA, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, the director of UCLA’s Hillel chapter, suddenly assaulted me when I merely asked him a reasonable question. He kicked and scratched me while trying to throw me down a flight of nearby stairs.
Fortunately, I was saved from possible concussion by several bystanders who pulled him off me in time. When these Samaritans were finally successful in prying the rabbi off me, he attacked me again. He assaulted me three times in the course of several minutes, and each time I had to be rescued by helpful bystanders. There was a wall of students separating him from me when I finally landed on the staircase and the rabbi stormed off screaming and shouting incoherently.
I later learned that after he assaulted me, he also shouted and screamed at another woman, Allyson Rowan Taylor, and had to be physically restrained from attacking her, too.
I suffered physical injuries that required medical treatment, and I am still trying to overcome the emotional trauma I suffered.
This incident occurred as we were exiting from a lecture hall where we had just heard a speech by the lawyer and Jewish activist Alan Dershowitz. My sole communication with Rabbi Seidler-Feller before he attacked me was a brief question. I asked him whether he was aware that Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian Arab who was scheduled to speak on campus the next evening as a guest of Hillel, had worked as a spy for Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War. I also asked whether he was aware that Nusseibeh had contacted the Iraqi military suggesting targets in Israel for Saddam Hussein’s missile batteries to attack.
Instead of thanking me for this information, Rabbi Seidler-Feller began to assault me.
More than three years later, I received the following letter from Rabbi Seidler-Feller, which was published in the campus newspaper of UCLA, the Daily Bruin, and in the internet edition of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal which stated:
“I am deeply sorry that I hit, kicked and scratched you and called you a liar on October 21, 2003. By taking these unprovoked actions, I have contradicted the pluralism, peace and tolerance about which I so often preach. I also have violated the humanitarian teaching of Judaism regarding kindness and respect for others that I am bound to uphold.”
Rabbi Seidler Feller also stated: “I am accepting 100% responsibility for my actions on October 21, 2003. I had no right to do what I did.”
My purpose in recounting this unfortunate event is not to disparage Rabbi Seidler-Feller, but simply to set the record straight after more than three years of unfair and misleading press coverage of this event in four widely read Jewish newspapers, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, the Forward, the Jewish Week, and the Jerusalem Post.
This unfair and inaccurate coverage has included comments about me by some fifty UCLA professors, by the Jewish Progressive Alliance, and by others within the “progressive” wing of the American Jewish community.
One theme of these descriptions of the assault is the claim that I had provoked it by calling Rabbi Seidler-Feller a “kapo,” an expression referring to concentration camp inmates who were forced by Nazi guards to police their fellow prisoners. Thus, I was cast as the aggressor, having allegedly provoked the rabbi with a grave insult.
In reality, I did not call Rabbi Seidler-Feller any disparaging name nor make any provocative remark to him before he assaulted me. It was only after he grabbed my wrist, dug his nails into it, and called me a “liar” that I blurted out this word.
Many of the journalists and academics who commented on this incident seemed to view it in purely political terms. The humanitarian and moral issues created by the incident did not appear to concern them. They expressed no concern whatsoever for the pain and mental anguish I experienced.
And they have made no effort to get the facts straight or to report both sides of the story.
Following are some examples of the inaccurate and unfair press coverage (not one of these writers witnessed the attack on me and not one contacted me to hear my side of the story before publishing a distorted version of the incident):Rachel Neuwirth
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