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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘UCLA’

UCLA Student Council Rejects Divestment Resolution

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The UCLA student council rejected on Wednesday a resolution calling for divestment from five American companies that are accused of abusing Palestinian human rights.

The 7-5 vote by the Undergraduate Students Association Council followed nine hours of public comment and was held by secret ballot after one council member reported receiving anonymous threats by email during the all-night meeting.

Brought by Students for Justice in Palestine, the resolution called for divestment from Caterpillar, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Cemex and Cement Roadstone Holdings — companies that divestment backers said were used by the Israeli military to violate Palestinian human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the resolution included a clause declaring it independent from the wider boycott, divestment, sanctions movement, opponents said passing the measure would nonetheless be taken as a victory for pro-BDS groups.

“If you vote yes, that will be taken as an extension of the BDS movement, whether or not you want it to be,” Bruins for Israel President Avinoam Barel told the council members.

Dana Saifan, the president of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California, Los Angeles, countered that the resolution should be judged on its own merits.

“As much as this might be construed to meaning other things, this is my human rights,” she said.

Saifan also told the council, “We are not asking for an endorsement of the BDS, we made that incredibly clear. Our community supports Jewish self-determination, we’re saying it — we’re not hiding anything.”

In addition to fears of supporting the BDS movement, several council members said they felt UCLA’s Jewish community had not been sufficiently consulted by Students for Justice in Palestine before the resolution was brought to the council, despite having been notified beforehand.

The UCLA resolution is the latest in a series of divestment proposals throughout the University of California system.

The Undergraduate Students Association does not control the university’s investment portfolio, so the resolution would have served as a recommendation to the Board of Regents, which has stated it will not entertain Israel-related divestment.

UCLA Officially Protects Promotion of Anti-Israel Boycott

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

A professor of World Arts and Culture who specializes in Native American cultures at the University of California at Los Angeles, David Delgado Shorter, has been given the official green light to continue using university resources to promote the boycott of Israel by the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom.

Several months ago a California-based group focused on protecting Jewish students from academic anti-Semitism, AMCHA, learned from UCLA students that Shorter prominently features links to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on his official class website.  The students who brought the anti-Israel concerns to AMCHA were too worried about retribution to complain either to Shorter or to anyone else at UCLA.

The founders of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have openly stated that their ultimate goal is the dismantling of the Jewish State.  Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s former Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, has called their campaign anti-Semitic.  It is AMCHA’s position that all boycotts of Israel are deliberate assaults on the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

AMCHA took the students’ information and approached UCLA administrators, asking whether UCLA considered it within the parameters of academic freedom to promote the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  According to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University of California Santa Cruz, and co-founder of AMCHA’s Investigative Taskforce on Campus Antisemitism, there was never any intention to either censor or punish Shorter.  They simply wanted to know, on the record, the answer to their question.

And now they do.

In a letter to Shorter dated July 9, 2012, the UCLA Academic Senate CAF determined that promoting the boycott of Israel on a professor’s class website was “consistent with professional standards,” and therefore that Shorter’s promotion of that boycott, in the context of his classroom, would be protected by UCLA.

AMCHA points out that such a position conflicts with the UCLA Regents Policy on Course Content, which states that the misuse of the classroom for “political indoctrination” constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.  Shorter’s promotion of the academic boycott of Israel on his UCLA class website also appears to be a clear violation of the California Education Code , which prohibits the use of the name of any UC campus for the support, endorsement, or advancement of political or partisan activity or program, with “boycott” specifically named.

But the UCLA CAF was not content to simply exonerate Shorter.  Instead, much of its two page letter to Shorter excoriated Leuchter for listening to an “outside group.”  Apparently the UCLA CAF imposes the same stringent standards for filing complaints as do United States courts: “The only parties who should have the standing to complain about whether the content of a course threatens academic freedom are members of the University directly affected by the content of a course (e.g., students or teaching assistants).”

Efforts to reach a member of the University of California Board of Regents have not yet been successful.

Shagririm: Israeli-American Ambassadors, on Campus

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Imagine an elite network of pro-Israel students in the region where you attend school. They host meetings, enjoy access to events both in their city and nationally, and ultimately work together to increase support of Israel.

In Southern California, this dream is a reality, through a rapidly growing initiative called Shagrirm, meaning “ambassadors” in Hebrew. The program binds together activists and advocates in Los Angeles and Orange County to build support for Israel.

Shagririm caters to the large population of Israeli–Americans in Southern California and their American born children. The program connects these individuals in order to effectively generate pro-Israel programs and initiatives.

Although its goals are similar to many pro-Israel initiatives centered on young adults, Shagririm is the only program of its kind that currently functions solely on a local, multi-campus level, rather than nationwide.

“Shagririm is different in that its purpose isn’t to go out when anti-Israel activities go on. Its goal is to form relationships with other clubs who can become pro-Israel,” UCLA senior Barbara Efraim said. “It’s a more grassroots approach because the connections we create are original.”

Brett Cohen, the national program director of StandWithUs, agrees that the program is one of a kind.

“Shagririm is a different sort of fellowship from your average Israel advocacy internship,” he said. “While they are responsible for many of the same things as StandWithUs Emerson Fellows [many of] the Shagririm are Israeli-Americans empowered to speak up for their country. It makes it very personal, whereas for most American supporters of Israel the connection isn’t the same. We are always excited to have the Shagririm at our Israel In Focus conference because they bring a unique perspective that I feel helps American supporters of Israel understand a deeper connection that can only come from being Israeli.”

The Shagririm program, which began in 2010 with 12 students from UCLA, USC, and California State University, Northridge (CSUN), has expanded to include 54 students from USC, UCLA, Santa Monica College, Cal Poly Pomona, Chapman University, UC Irvine and CSUN.

Run through the Israeli Leadership Council (ILC), an organization that works to build an active and giving Israeli-American community in Los Angeles, Shagririm seeks to secure the next generation in Israel advocacy, preserve Israel as the Jewish state, gather Israeli-Americans throughout the country, strengthen community ties through program development, and target young Jewish Americans.

“Shagririm has given students the resources and the chances to form relationships with other clubs, further spreading the pro-Israel message,” Efraim said. “It gives us the liberty to do whatever we wish, so all options are on the table and we can use our imagination to create the best event possible.”

The student leaders are trained to build coalitions with non-Jewish campus groups by synthesizing Israeli contributions in culture, art, science, technology and more, with initiatives created by non-Jewish groups on campus; this is a skill whose power was demonstrated during the recent Israel Apartheid Week on Southern California campuses.

“Bringing all the organizations together means that we can pool a greater number of resources,” Efraim noted.

UCLA senior Tomer Schwartz is president of Bruins for Israel and a Shagririm intern. He stressed that collaboration with other groups is the best way to bring a taste of Israel to non-Jewish groups and show Israel beyond the conflict.

“We try to show them that we’re big supporters of Israel or Israelis and show them a different side to what being Israeli is all about,” he said.

He hopes that after Shagririm participants develop connections with other campus groups, the groups’ members will want to support Israel based on the positive interactions and new information they learned about the country through their coalition-building event.

Eran Hoch and Neri Johsnon are Israel Fellows in Southern California and both play a key role in Shagririm. Hoch said that the program’s main goal is to help participants grow and become leaders in their communities.

“We want to see these leaders go back to their campuses and have other people following them and learning from them,” he said.

Beyond planning events, participants can take part in a wide range of education and training opportunities, including StandWithUs’ Israel in Focus conference, AIPAC events and hearing from speakers such as Myra Clark-Siegel of Project Interchange, Israeli Consul General David Siegel, AIPAC’s Elliot Brandt and commentator Dennis Prager.

“StandWithUs is very proud to host the Shagririm at our Israel in Focus conference, because as Israeli-Americans they bring a unique perspective,” Cohen said. “Our mission is to help them articulate their own powerful personal stories to help educate others about Israel.

“StandWithUs works with lots of diverse groups of people to connect them with what interests them about Israel,” he continued. “With the Shagririm, it is a very natural collaboration, because as American-Israelis they can bring their personal connection to Israel into their outside interests, and share that with their peers.”

The Destructive Phenomenon Of Kiddush Clubs

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

A number of years ago I attended a “Kiddush Club” gathering in the basement of a synagogue. Right when the haftarah reading began, several older men snuck out the back and in a small dark room in the basement opened multiple bottles of alcohol. They drank excessively until the sermon was over and then, not so inconspicuously, returned back for the final portion of the Shabbat morning service.

I remember thinking at the time, “Isn’t it only fair for people to enjoy a nice drink on their weekend?”

Since then, I’ve learned how destructive this cultural phenomenon has become in shuls across the country.

To be sure, I’m not the first to raise this concern. A few years back the Orthodox Union launched a campaign to eradicate the Kiddush Club from our midst, and a number of rabbis courageously succeeded in eliminating or reducing the size of these gatherings in their shuls.

These rabbis understood it was disrespectful to the congregation and a terrible influence on the children. This drinking, though it seems harmless to many, can serve as a gateway to drugs, drunk driving, and fatal decision-making.

One rabbi told me that many women begged him to end Kiddush Clubs because their husbands were coming home from shul so drunk they couldn’t even sit at the Shabbat table, and as a result would spend the entire day drunk in bed.

Is this the holy day of rest? What kind of values are we promoting in shul?

Alcoholism, contrary to what many of us choose to believe, is a pervasive problem in the community, one that JACS, a Jewish organization supporting alcoholics and those who are chemically dependent, works diligently to address.

Some studies have shown that 10-15 percent of Jews are alcoholics; contrary to public opinion, it is not the lowest socio-economic groups that predominantly struggle with this problem.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski, who is affiliated with JACS, noted that “A New York survey indicated that 50 percent of Jewish alcoholics studied had an annual income of at least $50,000 per year.”

Knowing that this is a pervasive yet often silenced issue in our communities, how can we possibly take a permissive approach to housing Kiddush Clubs in our synagogues?

Jewish law prohibits achila gasa (overconsumption) because the Torah teaches that when one has consumed excessively, one risks falling victim to greed and self-indulgence. It is not abstinence but moderation that is advocated. The Rambam prioritizes in his teachings on life ethics the shevil zahav, the golden mean, in order that one emulate the ways of God.

Yet, a reader is sure to ask, aren’t there Jewish festivities that might allow or even encourage a little overindulgence?

The Beit Yosef, author of the Shulchan Aruch, went so far as to rule that “the mitzvah to drink on Purim does not mean to get drunk, because being drunk is a totally forbidden, and there is no sin greater than this.”

If this is true for Purim, then how much more so for a Shabbat morning at 10:45a.m.!

Advocates of Kiddush Clubs argue that “it’s not about getting drunk but just about making a littlel’chaim”.

It is rarely manifested this way, however, and pockets of exclusivity that reinforce materialism and reckless consumption are destructive to our spiritual communities. These clubs exclude women (and many men) and send an inappropriate message to our kids about drinking and about what shul and Shabbat are supposed to be about.

Adults who deliberately ignore and disrespect Jewish communal life in effect make the day-school tuition they’ve been paying a waste of money. It is vital for the efficacy of Jewish education that the positive Jewish character traits taught in school are modeled at home and in the community.

A few shuls have recognized the extent of the problem and have fully banned alcohol from the building, aside from the ceremonial wine. While this is a positive start, we must now attack not only the supply but the demand – the culture that prioritizes personal pleasure over communal responsibility.

We must make it clear that a culture of sanctioned hedonism within our most sacred institutions has no place in Jewish life.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek; senior Jewish educator at UCLA; and a 5th-year Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University in moral psychology & epistemology.

The Tragic Vacuum (Part One)

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Several weeks ago I published a letter from a woman who expressed fear and trepidation at the escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world and the possibility of yet another Holocaust, G-d forbid. Her letter evoked much comment. I was deluged with e-mails, several of which I published. Among those letters was one, written by a Jewish student at UCLA, that left many Jewish Press readers appalled. Among other things, he condemned the older Jewish generation, which, he wrote, is obsessed with the Holocaust.

While he conceded it was a horrific moment in history, he also believed the experience stamped many Jews with paranoia regarding anti-Semitism. He posited that such barbarism was a relic of the 20th century, and for Jews to live in the shadow of that savage past constitutes a failure to recognize the new age ushered in with the 21st century.

Our society, he wrote, “is not tolerant of racism or anti-Semitism. What we are witness to today is not bias against Jews but an objection to the policies of Israel and the Zionism it represents.”

This was written by one of our own – a Jewish student. There are readers who will shake their heads in disbelief. “No,” they will say, “this is an isolated case, not at all typical of Jewish students on campus.”

I wish I could agree, but to my sorrow I have found there is a great divide between secular Jewish youth and the older generation of our people. These students have no familiarity with the glorious history of our people, with the sanctity and majesty of Sinai – the moment when G-d imparted our Divine legacy to us – and with our eternal heritage spanning the centuries. Nor do they have any familiarity with Israel, the Holy Land given to us by G-d as an integral part of our Covenant. To them, a visit to Israel means having a good time, not much different from touring other countries. Their knowledge of Israel is based on anti-Israel propaganda fed to them by the media and leftist professors.

To be sure, the student is correct in stating that Jew-baiting anti-Semitism is no longer acceptable in our egalitarian, liberal, open-minded world, but what he does not know is that anti-Semitism and anti Israelism are one and the same. In one form or another, anti-Semitism has pursued us from the genesis of our history. “B’chol dor va dor .” – “In every generation, they come to annihilate us, but G-d always saves us.”

Of course, I realize this is not something with which the UCLA student can identify, so I will say to him that, despite his belief that anti-Semitism is no longer palatable in contemporary society, we should realize that the anti-Semite is very cunning. In every generation he cloaks his hatred in a garment that is marketable. Today it’s anti-Zionism/Israelism, but in reality it’s just another mask behind which the same old evil lurks.

Tragically, the average secular Jew has minimal or no knowledge of his faith. To appreciate the depth of the ignorance, I often illustrate with the following example: Ask him who was the mother of Moses, and he will stare at you with a blank expression. Ask him who was the mother of Jesus, and he will immediately respond. So it is easy to sell him a bill of goods when it come to Judaism, for he has no way of discerning the truth and the vacuum in his heart and mind is quickly filled with anti-Israel propaganda.

Sadly, this UCLA student is a member of a spiritually orphaned generation – a generation with no knowledge of whom they are or whom their ancestors were. To be sure, they have expertise in every field – the sciences, finance, the arts – but they are incapable of identifying the holy books of our people, never mind understanding their content. So it is no wonder they become easy prey to hate-mongers, who fill the vacuum in their minds and hearts with poison – and they are totally unaware of it.

If you don’t know who you are as a Jew, your Jewishness becomes a burden you are only too happy to cast off. Alas, this is the tragic condition of the assimilated Jew in our world today.

I recently was invited to address a group of students on a campus that has always been renowned for a large traditional Jewish student population committed to Israel. To my shock, prior to the program I received an e-mail from the organizer of the event telling me that on the very day I was scheduled to speak, Muslim student groups would be marking “National Apartheid Week” by demonstrating against Israel.

Though I knew this is common fare on most campuses (just recall Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren being booed off the stage), I never would have believed that on this campus, known for its strong, traditional Jewish population, there would be a National Apartheid Week demonstration against Israel.

Yes, Israel bashing has become a widespread phenomenon. Yet many of our Jewish people delude themselves by thinking this bias has nothing to do with anti-Semitism but is just a protest against Israeli policies. They refuse to believe it is directed not only against Israel but against every Jew.

(To be continued)

More Reader Reaction: Don’t Dismiss A Survivor’s Prophetic Words

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

I had planned to respond this week to the letter from the UCLA student (which appeared in the March 11 issue in response to a letter the week before from an elderly Holocaust survivor), but so many e-mails have reached my desk that I decided to devote yet one more column to reader reaction.

The subject of assimilation and Jewish self-hate that is so prevalent nowadays among many young people has touched a sensitive chord, especially in the older generation that still has vivid recollections of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

I ask our many readers to please understand that while I greatly appreciate their taking the time to write and share their thoughts, and while I find their letters worthy and deserving of publication, I cannot possibly publish them all. The following letter also responds to the concerns raised by the Holocaust survivor – but from a far different perspective than that of the UCLA student. It speaks for itself and requires no further elucidation. B’ezrat Hashem, in my next column I will share my own views.

Dearest Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I was inspired to comment on the letter you published in the March 4 issue of The Jewish Press from a rapidly expiring breed of Jew – a Holocaust survivor – because her words, or I should say her poignant plea, struck a chord in me due to my age (60), my family’s history in the Shoah, and my having a 22-month-old grandson and a daughter who, b”h, is engaged to be married.

The Holocaust survivor wrote, “Ours is a youth culture, and people have no respect for the elderly. When I speak, my children and grandchildren listen respectfully – but they dismiss my words and attribute everything that I say to my Holocaust experience and my ago . I follow the news regularly and, frankly, am terrified by what I read, see, and hear. I see pre-Holocaust Europe being repeated all over again and no one is paying attention. And now that Eretz Yisrael is being surrounded on all sides by Muslim terrorists who openly proclaim that their main agenda is to, heaven forbid, annihilate our people, I am overwhelmed with fear. It doesn’t leave me for a second! I am not afraid for myself – I am already eighty-five – but I fear for my children and grandchildren and for all our Jewish people.”

This unknown woman eloquently put forth the quintessential message of Parshas Zachor and Purim. Unfortunately (and maybe rightfully so), she views many of us – Jews in America and around the world who are younger than she and did not see, feel and hear what she and you did – as those described in the Hallel prayer: “They have a mouth, but cannot speak. They have eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear . O’ Israel trust in Hashem; their help and their shield is He!”

Her words, though simple, have a powerful message that cuts to the heart of the meaning of the word zachor in the Torah, and I agree with her that it is time to heed it because as I see it, whether we believe her or not, they are prophetic. So let’s not dismiss her as an old fool – as revisionists no doubt would – but as a woman who speaks with a Ruach HaKodesh that comes out of the flames of Auschwitz, one of the dwindling number of such voices that will, within a matter of years, be lost to us forever.

As we know, Megillas Esther does not mention G-d’s name even once. Why is this? Because all of G-d’s actions surrounding the events of Purim were hidden, and though there were vivid hints, only Mordechai and Esther saw and acted on them. This woman who wrote you that letter is a modern-day Esther.

Look around – we too have vivid hints of impending tragedy, so why are we not seeing them – the fractions among Jews; the unrest and terrorist bombings in Eretz Yisrael; and the spreading political upheaval in the Middle East and the rest of the Arab world that may yet lead to a united and strong Islamic kingdom.

Then look at the significant rise in global anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, not coincidentally sparked by poor economic conditions and an underlying hatred of Jews and apathy for our enemies – just like in the days preceding the Shoah.

If an 85-year-old woman is able to see all this, why can’t we?

My purpose in writing, however, is not to identify the problem but to reiterate a timeworn but often pushed-aside solution, which in this case is quite simple yet for whatever reason quite hard to put into practice, especially among our youth, both learned and unlearned.

Mordechai and Esther saw the signs and sparked a return to tefillah and teshuvah. It was this combination that succeeded in toppling Haman the Amalekite and neutralizing King Achashveirosh.

And how do we neutralize our enemies in our day? We must understand that we will not succeed without Hashem’s intercession. Our salvation can be found in increased and improved tefillah, and better midos from ourselves and our children at all ages.

And while we must support Israel, in hard economic times we should look at what has worked in the past and will work in the future and first support our own makom tefillah and local yeshiva where we pray and where the next generation of Jews is being educated. We must also do a lot of kiruv rechokim, bringing lost souls back into the fold. And I think we also need to work on kiruv kerovim, bringing the frum world back to basics; as observant Jews we should no longer take our middos and our rushed prayers for granted.

Readers Respond To Secular Jewish College Student

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

In my March 4 column, “What’s Happening in the World? – I’m Afraid,” I featured letters from two women who wrote of their fear at what is going on in the world. The second letter, from a Holocaust survivor, was particularly descriptive, as the woman decried the escalation of anti-Semitism, the savage terror attacks in every country, and the barbaric, murderous attacks on our people in Eretz Yisrael.

That second letter evoked much comment. In last week’s column a self-described secular Jewish student at UCLA wrote that he felt Jews are suffering from “paranoia” and tend to see anti-Semitism lurking behind every door. He also stated that Jews have remained oblivious to our new democratic worldthat is intolerant of bias and prejudice.

That letter prompted an avalanche of e-mails of which I will share just two – one from a gentile, the other from a son of Holocaust survivors.

Letter 1: A Non-Jew Speaks Up

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I wrote to you last week in response to the woman who feared for this world (I agreed). I want to send a quick follow-up message regarding the very thoughtful letter from the Jewish student at UCLA. I read and understand what he says, but in your answer, please emphasize that anti-Semitism is huge. It is still with us (along with all other prejudices) and has grown exponentially, to the point where it is now acceptable in even the most revered circles – not only in Hollywood and the entertainment and fashion industries but all areas of society throughout the world.

As I said in my earlier letter to you, I am a non-Jew but I hear and am sensitive to such comments.

They are not always as in-your-face ugly as those made by the designer Galliano (incidentally, does he have any clue as to the history of the fashion industry or to the identities of a vast number of its clientele?). Most forms of bias start subtly, but are consequential, leading up to pogroms and Holocausts.

The UCLA student may be forgiven for his youth – I too was once young – and I am still a basically tolerant and in many areas a liberal person, but not when it comes to dealing with individuals and systems whose sole intent is the annihilation of another group or groups of people. Look where that got us in the 1930s. Is history so hard to learn? It is happening again, and you and a few others called it.

I certainly don’t want to be a Chicken Little over every little perceived incident of insult or wrongdoing, but the blatant anti-Semitism evidenced in today’s media venues is real and will kill us all if left unchecked. A young, idealistic student has a lot to learn, and he will, but the majority of people – Jewish and non-Jewish, young and not so young – turn their heads away or dismiss these incidents as non-lethal expressions of freedom of speech.

I am all for freedom of speech and expression, even ugly speech and expression, but that does not mean I do not take these utterances seriously or that I dismiss them as “just words.” I pay attention and I take note. I also vote. I will never support any candidate who does not respond decisively against persons and organizations espousing any sort of anti-Semitism. Everybody has a stake in this. Our world is very small and it won’t take much to destroy it. That young Jewish UCLA student reminded me of a young African American girl I knew several years ago who told me there is no longer any racism – we are now a “post-racial” society.

Only the young can proclaim the death of prejudice. It is both a blessing and a curse to be so idealistic. You and other Holocaust survivors are the still-vibrant reminders of what can and will happen if we ignore the clarion call of evildoers. It’s a shame, because they tell us far in advance what they intend to do to us. What could be clearer?

Letter 2: A Child of Holocaust Survivors

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I was appalled by the letter from that secular Jewish UCLA student. I know there are many Jews who are disconnected from their people and their heritage, but in this letter I detected a sentiment that bordered on Jewish self-hate. It’s one thing to be non-observant but something else again to accuse your own brethren of paranoia at a time when blatant anti-Semitism saturates the world.

I am the child of survivors. Both my mother and father experienced barbaric torture and unremitting agony in the death camps of Hitler. They emerged from that nightmare as living skeletons – forever scarred by that unspeakable, satanic evil that was thrust upon them. If my parents, of blessed memory, were alive today and were to read the letter from that UCLA student, they would tremble in disbelief. They would cry out and ask, “Could it be that a Jewish student would deny the continued existence of anti-Semitism when survivors of the Holocaust are still alive? When concentration camps, gas chambers and crematoria are still standing in place testifying to the unremitting horror of what occurred there? Could it be?”

As the child of survivors, I believed that Jews, no matter their persuasion, share this collective pain of the Holocaust that is forever engraved upon every Jewish heart and soul.

To my great shock, I’ve slowly discovered this is not the case. Not only are there those among us who believe the Holocaust has been overplayed, that it’s time to forget it and move on; there are also those among us who believe Jews are guilty of bias against Arabs and are blind to the suffering of the Muslims – the new downtrodden, exploited people of our generation. Sadly, many Jews have become “self-haters” and have joined forces with those who scheme to annihilate us – and even more Jews have chosen to abandon ship and have disassociated themselves from their people and their heritage.

Not only is that UCLA student off the mark, not only does he have a self-hating attitude, but he has obviously joined with those who hate us and hide their anti-Semitism behind the cloak of anti-Zionism – and he refuses to understand that, in the end, it is all the same: anti-Zionism is the politically correct way of expressing anti-Semitism.

I hope you will publish my letter and I anxiously await your response to this misguided student.

A Secular Jewish College Student Responds

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I am not Orthodox, nor am I actively involved in Jewish life. My background is Reform. My family attends High Holiday services; we are not kosher, but my parents have a seder on Passover – though we don’t strictly observe the law of not eating bread during the entire holiday. My parents would never consider bringing really non-kosher food like ham or bacon into the house, though they do eat everything in restaurants. They are devoted to the land of Israel and they raised us with good Jewish values, and I visited Israel with our Temple youth group.

I have an uncle who became Orthodox and lives in New York (he sent me your column last week). He calls himself a “ba’al teshuvah.” I don’t quite know what that means, but I do see that his new identity has made him a fanatic. We rarely see him, except when we visit New York or he comes to California. He keeps in contact with my father and always tries to convince him to become religious. My father indulges him by pretending to listen to his arguments, but of course he always dismisses them.

When my brother married a gentile girl, my uncle really became an annoyance. Not only did he barrage my parents with letters and phone calls, he got on my brother’s case with a vengeance. He wouldn’t let go. He pushed and pushed and he even asked a local Chabad rabbi to intervene, but he only succeeded in making our family angrier.

When my brother got married, my uncle didn’t attend the wedding and that caused a very big rift in our family. My parents were very hurt – I don’t think they ever got over it. They are still in contact, but the relationship has become very strained. And now he has gotten on my case. He just never gives up.

I am a student at UCLA. I go to High Holiday Services here and attend programs and an occasional Shabbat dinner at our local Hillel. At present, I don’t have a serious girlfriend, but my uncle keeps writing to me about the importance of marrying a Jew. I don’t want to be disrespectful to him, but I hardly ever respond to his letters. To be honest, they irritate me.

You might ask at this point why I am writing to you. I have no problems. I am not seeking your guidance and I understand that is largely the focus of your column, but my uncle sent last week’s column thinking it might cause me to change my way of thinking – that I would realize that we, the Jewish people, are alone in the world, that our lives are once again being threatened and we are living in an environment similar to pre-Holocaust Europe.

Frankly, I find that comparison far-fetched, totally unrealistic, bordering on Jewish paranoia – and I wrote the same to my uncle. Of course he was unreceptive and told me I just don’t understand. He suggested that in my present environment I am so far removed from reality that I don’t have a clue as to what is going on in the world.

I feel prompted to write this letter now because I think it is time to address this “Jewish paranoia.” Yes, the Holocaust occurred. Yes, it was an unbelievably horrific time. Yes, mankind descended to the level of the jungle. But genocide has not been limited to Jews. Tragically, it has been the lot of many people in many parts of the world.

I’m not trying to whitewash that cataclysmic, hellish nightmare, but I think it is time for us Jews to move on. We can’t forever live in the shadow of the Holocaust. We have to understand that the world today is different. In most countries, democracy prevails. Certainly, in our own United States we have a democratic government that is not tolerant of racism or anti-Semitism. What we are witness to today is not bias against Jews but an objection to the policies of Israel and the Zionism it represents. So when I read those letters you published in your column – letters that promote scare tactics and constantly recall the Holocaust – I said to myself that I would not only respond to my uncle, but to you as well.

I have many Arab friends on campus, and believe me they have no bias against Jews. Their only problem is with the Zionist state, which they feel is the cause of all of the suffering in the Middle East. While I do not take their side and am a supporter of Israel, I also feel compelled, as a fair-minded individual, to appreciate their point of view, which would be wrong to ignore. Objecting to Israel’s policies does not mean one is biased against Jews. I truly believe that here in the United States anti-Semitism is a thing of the past and that it is time for us to free ourselves of the sinister shadow of the Holocaust.

I very much doubt you will publish my letter since it doesn’t reflect your point of view or that of the publication for which you write. Nevertheless, I have written to express my opinion.

A Jewish Student at UCLA

My Dear Friend:

Not only am I publishing your letter in full but, please G-d, I will also respond to it. Watch for next week’s issue in which I will address your concerns in full.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-secular-jewish-college-student-responds-2/2011/03/09/

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