UC Santa Barbara students react to the UCSB student government’s rejection of a proposed Israel divestment resolution. Photo by Rabbi Evan Goodman

Cal State Long Beach, UCSB differ on Israel divestment resolutions

The topic of Israel divestment and higher education returned, front and center, last week as students at two Southern California universities voted on the issue — with differing results.

The student government at Cal State University Long Beach on May 10 voted in favor of Israel divestment while students at the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) voted against it a day later.

Associated Students Inc., an advocacy group at Cal State Long Beach, passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that the resolution alleges perpetuate Israeli oppression against the Palestinians, citing such companies as Caterpillar, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard. The vote was 15-7, with one abstention.

“I was very disappointed with the passage of the bill,” Jeffrey Blutinger, the Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies and the director of the Jewish studies program at Cal State Long Beach, told the Journal. “While I’m not going to say [all] anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, this one is.”

The resolution is titled “Suggestions for Socially Responsible Investing: Companies Complicit in and Profiting from Palestinian Oppression.” General Electric, according to a draft of the resolution, has provided supplies to the Israel Defense Forces “used in violent attacks on people living in Israel and Palestine.”

The vote followed an April 26 statement by Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley expressing opposition to the resolution. She said she could not support it despite her reservations about the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

“A careful study of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement illustrates to me that this movement is opposed to the existence of the State of Israel,” Conoley said.

Blutinger, faculty adviser at Beach Hillel, which serves Cal State Long Beach, said Conoley’s opposition to the resolution garnered criticism from pro-divestment faculty members.

“I thought that was nonsense. The fact that she spoke out does not prevent them from speaking out, and the fact she is the president of the university does not mean she doesn’t have the right to express herself,” he said. “If she was supporting them, they would have been happy.”

While the passage of the resolution at Cal State Long Beach is more symbolic than practical — it will not impact Cal State Long Beach investments — Beach Hillel Executive Director Rachel Kaplan said last week’s events reinforced the unwelcoming environment facing pro-Israel students. “In terms of campus climate, we have a lot of work to do,” Kaplan said.

Further north, the Associated Students of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the UCSB student senate, voted 16-0 with seven abstentions against an Israel divestment resolution, according to the Daily Nexus, the campus newspaper. The vote followed an all-night debate that concluded at 4 a.m. with more than 400 students and observers attending. Among them was Rabbi Evan Goodman, the Edgar M. Bronfman Executive Director at the Santa Barbara Hillel.

“Resolutions like this are symbolically attempting to destroy Israel, so I don’t stand for it and our students don’t stand for it,” Goodman said in a phone interview on May 12.

This was the fourth time in five years that a resolution calling for divestment in Israel has come before the UCSB student senate. Goodman described last week’s meeting as more agreeable than previous ones.

“It was a pretty civil discussion overall, and the comments made [on both sides of the debate] were by and large appropriate,” he said.

Rose Ettleson, a sophomore and president-elect at Santa Barbara Hillel, said a familial atmosphere galvanized the pro-Israel side.

“On our side, it really felt almost like a family gathering. There were lots of rabbis from the local Chabad. And the local Jewish Awareness Movement, JAM, they brought food for everyone. Hillel staff brought food. People were studying. People were writing what they were going to say,” she said. “Some people were sleeping in some moments.”

The campus group Students for Justice in Palestine on April 23 proposed the UCSB resolution, titled “Divest From Companies that Profit From Human Rights Violations in Palestine/Israel.”

The university “has the highest percentage of Jewish students in the UC system and probably the largest total number of undergraduate Jewish students,” Goodman said.

In statements released May 11, pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, which works with college students to combat anti-Israel sentiment, hailed the UCSB vote while condemning the vote at Cal State Long Beach.

Tali Shaddaei, a fifth-year Cal State Long Beach student from Pico-Robertson, said the intention of the resolution’s supporters at her school was to quiet pro-Israel advocacy on campus. But the 22-year-old founder of 49ers for Israel, a pro-Israel education club at Cal State Long Beach, said the passage of the resolution could have the opposite effect.

“My hope is it ignites a fire within the pro-Israel community to fight stronger and be more united in our efforts,” she said. 

University of California, Santa Barbara students following the UC Santa Barbara’s student government rejection of a proposed Israel divestment resolution. Photo by Santa Barbara Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Evan Goodman

CSU Long Beach passes Israel divestment resolution; UCSB votes against resolution

The student government at CSU Long Beach (CSULB) on May 10 voted in favor of Israel divestment while UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) voted against it a day later.

The Associated Students Inc., an advocacy group at CSULB, passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that the resolution alleges perpetuate Israeli oppression against the Palestinians, citing such companies as Caterpillar, General Electric and Hewlett Packard.

The vote was 15-7, with one abstention.

The resolution is titled “Suggestions for Socially Responsible Investing: Companies Complicit in and Profiting from Palestinian Oppression.”

General Electric, according to a draft of the resolution, has provided supplies to the Israeli Defense Forces “used in violent attacks on people living in Israel and Palestine.”

The vote followed an April 26 statement by CSULB President Jane Close Conoley expressing opposition to the resolution. She said she could not support it despite her reservations about the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

“A careful study of the BDS movement illustrates to me that this movement is opposed to the existence of the State of Israel,” Conoley said, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Conoley was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The Associated Students of the University of California, Santa Barbara (ASUCSB), the UCSB student senate, voted 16-0 with seven abstentions against an Israel divestment resolution, according to the Daily Nexus, the campus newspaper. The vote followed an all-night debate that concluded at 4 a.m. with more than 400 students and observers participating. Among them was Rabbi Evan Goodman, the Edgar M. Bronfman Executive Director at the Santa Barbara Hillel.

The UCSB resolution was proposed on April 23 by the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine.

Goodman was not immediately available for an interview on Thursday.

UCSB is the “last University of California campus to not pass a divestment resolution,” the Daily Nexus reported.

In statements released May 11, pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, which works with college students to combat anti-Israel sentiment, hailed the UCSB vote while condemning the vote at CSULB.

Briefs: North Valley JCC stages return, CSULB Senate denounces Prof. MacDonald

North Valley JCC Stages Return

Don’t count the North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC) out just yet. Five years after the center’s Granada Hills campus was sold to an Orthodox trade school in the aftermath of the JCCs crisis, NVJCC organizers have announced plans to establish a physical presence in the North San Fernando Valley or Santa Clarita Valley.

“Nobody thinks we exist,” Executive Director Jerry Wayne said.

The surviving independent North Valley Jewish Community Center Inc. board is currently scouting several possible sites and working with an architect to evaluate development potential. Organizers are also developing a business plan that would allow the center to thrive without ongoing operational support from an outside agency, like The Jewish Federation or the Jewish Community Center Development Corp.

“We need to be self-sufficient,” Wayne said. “And every program we develop is going to give back to the community in some way.”

Wayne, who was director of the center from 1980 to 1992, is drawing a token salary and working with a handful of unpaid former center employees to revive its programming in the meantime.

The center still boasts about 100 member units, and is currently enrolling for its fall series of programs, which include a moms social group, a teen mitzvah group, a dinner club, a Yiddish conversation club and chaverim for young families to seniors. Activities take place at Temple Beth Torah and Temple Ramat Zion in Granada Hills or the Tesoro Senior Apartments in Porter Ranch.

For more information about North Valley Jewish Community Center, call (818) 360-2211 or e-mail nvjcc@yahoo.com.

— Adam Wills, Senior Editor

Long Beach Academic Senate Denounces Professor’s Views

Cal State Long Beach’s Academic Senate voted this month to disassociate the university faculty from the work of Kevin MacDonald, a psychology professor whose writings have been likened to “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“While the Academic Senate defends Dr. Kevin MacDonald’s academic freedom and freedom of speech, as it does for all faculty, it firmly and unequivocally disassociates itself from the anti-Semitic and white ethnocentric views he has expressed,” the senate’s resolution stated.

In an e-mail, MacDonald called the statement “fairly meaningless.”

“Given that such statements have not been made about other faculty, I suppose it’s not fair. But that’s life,” MacDonald wrote. “I am hoping that the statement by the Academic Senate is the culmination of all the ethnic activism that has been directed against me for over two years and that the end of all this harassment is near.”

The vote, though not necessarily its passage, was expected. Tension on campus was building last spring when The Journal profiled MacDonald, leading to a community forum at the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach; this was followed by an entry for MacDonald on the Anti-Defamation League’s Web site “Extremism in America.”

University President F. King Alexander had said that although MacDonald had the right to his own opinion, Alexander found those “views deplorable and reprehensible.” Several departments, including history and the Jewish studies program, denounced MacDonald’s work as “professionally irresponsible and morally untenable”; his own department, psychology, disassociated from his writings because of their popularity with “extremist groups.” And as the year came to a close, a resolution distancing the entire faculty from MacDonald was discussed.

He is best-known for his three-volume series “The Culture of Critique,” which argues that Judaism is not a religion but a group evolutionary strategy, complete with its own eugenics program — the Talmud.

MacDonald claims that Nazism “may well have been caused or at least greatly facilitated by the presence of Judaism as a very salient and successful racially exclusive antithetical group strategy within German society.”

MacDonald also claims that Jewish intellectuals and influentials, from their place at major media and the social sciences, seek to “destroy Europeans” by convincing them of their moral bankruptcy and the Jews moral superiority.

Jeffrey Blutinger, director of Cal State Long Beach’s Jewish studies program and a professor of Jewish cultural history and post-communist Holocaust memorialization, led the crusade against MacDonald and hailed the decision.

“The Academic Senate represents the faculty of the university; it is the premiere institution on campus representing all faculty and speaks on their behalf,” Blutinger said. “When Kevin MacDonald speaks, and he has the first amendment right to speak, he speaks only for himself and not for us.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Iranian Jews Released on Bail for Alleged Kidnapping

Three defendants arrested on the day before Rosh Hashanah for allegedly kidnapping and holding for ransom a man whose diamond business they invested in were released on bail on the morning of Friday, Oct. 17.

Jamshid Daniali, Parviz Daniali and Hayame Lalezarian and his wife, Zhilla Lalezarian claimed they had invited Bension Vardi, an Afghani Jew who had solicited investments from Los Angeles’ Iranian Jewish community, to the Lalezarian’s Tarzana home and requested their $50,000 back. Shortly after Vardi arrived, his fiancée called police and said he was being held for $4.5 million ransom.

The Danialis and Lalezarians were charged with home invasion robbery, attempted kidnapping and kidnapping for ransom. Zhilla Lalezarian was the first to be released on bond because she is undergoing chemotherapy. Last week Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Karen Nudell granted the defense’s request to have bail reduced from more than $1 million to $100,000 for the other defendants.

The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office also dropped the home invasion count but added two other charges: simple kidnapping and criminal threats. The preliminary hearing was continued until Oct. 29.

— BG

‘Beyond 60’ Helps Educators Teach About Israel

Education experts are examining just how to present the complex world of Israel to youth at an upcoming conference, specially designed for current day and religious school principals and teachers in “Beyond 60: A Summit on Israel Education,” said Phil Liff-Grief, associate director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles and moderator of the program.

“There have been changes in both arenas,” Liff-Grief said. “There are so many issues that have to be taken into account today.”

The program will begin with a town-hall discussion, including Liff-Grief; BJE’s David Ackerman; David Leichman, founder of Pinat Shorashim — a park in Israel dedicated to peace and the environment; and Dr. Steven Windmueller, dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.

Theoretical and practical discussions involving youth groups, camps and other topics of interest to education professionals, will round out the last two parts of the program.

Ackerman said the conference is important particularly because “we no longer have the exclusive rights to the story” as young adults have access to all kinds of information about Israel — not all of it accurate — via the Web.

The conference begins at 9 a.m., Wed., Nov. 12. $18 (a continental breakfast, lunch, nature walk, and a tour of the Maria Bennett Israel Discovery Center and Garden are included in the cost).

For more information, visit http://www.shalominstitute.com.

— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer

Head of Lithuanian Jewish Community Visits L.A.


Simon Gurevich, right, executive director of Lithuania’s Jewish community, with Jack Frydrych, chair of The Federation’s World Jewish Communities Committee, and Zane Buzby, co-founder of The Survivor Mitzvah Project

“The miracle of Jewish life is taking place in our country,” said Simon Gurevich, head of Lithuania’s Jewish community, last month in a talk to the World Jewish Communities Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

With an annual budget of $1.3 million, the Jewish Community of Lithuania provides social services as well as educational, religious and cultural activities for many of Lithuania’s estimated 5,000 Jews. More than $300,000 of that total is donated by the World Jewish Communities Committee, chaired by Jack Frydrych, through the Los Angeles-Baltic Partnership. The money supports Jewish renewal, sending some 600 youngsters to summer camp and more than 1,300 participants to the Baltics’ Limmud Conference.

But only $300,000 of the annual budget is targeted to help Lithuania’s needy, including 200 at-risk children and almost 1,200 destitute seniors, many who are Holocaust survivors. These social services include $30 monthly food cards for 104 people, hot meals served daily for 100 people and about 25 hours a month of home care for 126 people.

“Unfortunately, there are more people. We need to look for more resources,” said Gurevich, 27, who emphasized the Jewish community’s number one priority is ensuring a dignified life for all Lithuanian Jews.

And while Gurevich is optimistic about the future of Jewish life in a country in which about 90 percent of the estimated pre-war population of 220,000 Jews were killed by Nazis and their collaborators, he spoke about four unresolved issues.

One is the question of restitution of both Jewish communal and private property, which remains unsettled. Another is the building of luxury condominiums and other developments on the centuries-old Snipiskes Cemetery, where an estimated 50,000 Jews are buried. Even the U.S. House of Representatives, on Sept. 25 of this year, passed a resolution condemning the Lithuanian government for building on cemetery property.

A third concern is the rise of “Holocaust obfuscation,” a form of double symmetry in which Jews, accused of conspiring with the communists, are partly blamed for causing their own annihilation, and Lithuanians are viewed as Soviet victims rather than Nazi collaborators. And while no Lithuanian war criminal has been persecuted since Lithuania’s independence in 1989, the government has accused several former Jewish partisans, including Israeli Holocaust historian Dr. Yitzhak Arad, of killing innocent Lithuanians.

Lastly, Gurevich deplored the recent rise of anti-Semitism, pointing to a neo-Nazi March last spring and the painting of swastikas on Jewish community buildings on Tisha B’Av.

Zane Buzby, co-founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, which raises money to assist more than 850 destitute and forgotten Holocaust survivors in Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, also addressed the committee. She stressed the direness of the survivors’ needs for food, medicines and money for heating, explaining that inflation of 12.6 percent will cause heating bills to average $160 monthly this winter, while pensions remain stagnant at $50 to $80 monthly.

“This is an emergency situation,” she said.

For more information, visit http://www.litjews.org and http://www.survivormitzvah.org.

— Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor

Rachel Bookstein: ‘We work better together’

Working on a college campus, Rachel Bookstein is constantly talking to students about sex. She has very strong opinions about it — as does her husband of 11 years. A self-declared “Torah-observant feminist,” Bookstein found the place where she thinks Judaism and feminism meet in the halachic concept of shomer negiah, which restricts physical contact.

“People are always surprised by what I say, because they expect the standard frum answer,” Bookstein, 35, says in reference to the many Cal State Long Beach students she counsels as director of Hillel, where her husband, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, 38, is the campus rabbi. “Sometimes I’ll say things, and they’ll be totally shocked.”

She tells me about the Shabbat dinner, just after she and her husband became engaged, when their hands brushed under the table.

“It was so erotic!” she exclaims. “We had this moment, and it was really exciting — that future taste of what it would be like to be together uninhibited.”

For the Booksteins, partners in building the Long Beach Hillel community and the co-creators of the popular youth-oriented Jewlicious Festival, work and home are completely entwined. More than rabbi and rebbetzin, they serve as a model married couple for hundreds of Jewish students. Unlike many of Bookstein’s rebbetzin contemporaries, her journey as a powerfully identified Jewish woman began long before she married a rabbi. She studied feminism in college and has long struggled with how to live as an observant Jewish woman in the modern world.

Born in Northern California’s Marin County, Bookstein grew up in an academically and Jewishly engaged family, although not strictly observant. During her freshman year at UC Santa Cruz, she took a seminar on Jewish women, in which she had an epiphany.

“Everyone had to say their name and ‘I am a Jewish woman,'” Bookstein recalls. “That statement of identification was a moment where I started to think about ‘I am a Jewish woman, what does that mean?’ That was the moment when I decided to engage in Jewish life, text and community.”

She went from wanting to be a lawyer who would change the world to high-tailing it to Israel for her junior year. When she returned, she applied to a Jewish studies master’s degree program at Oxford University. She arrived with “a giant computer and two giant bags,” and when she stepped out of the car, a young man in a yarmulke and jeans asked if he could help carry her things.

When they began dating, Yonah was more observant, and she was still searching for her own path. They engaged in “traditional dating,” spending time together only in public, walking in parks, meeting in coffee shops. They talked on a pay phone twice a day, avoiding each other’s homes and any kind of physical relationship. Early on, Yonah was forthright about his intentions.

“He said, ‘I want you to know I think you’re amazing, and I really like you, but I am not looking for any more friends — I am dating for marriage,'” she recalls.

Bookstein was floored. She’d found the male feminist; the guy who was more interested in her personality than her physical expression. She also loved how Judaism values the institution of dating for marriage, where a woman doesn’t just give away her body.

“To connect in a nonverbal way is really powerful, but if deployed at the wrong time, can keep you in a bad relationship. We could have totally wrecked our relationship if we were too young and too intimate,” Bookstein says. Yet, she admits, “Not being together is really hard if you’re in love with someone.”

The couple met in October, met each other’s families in December, got engaged in February and married in June.

“We were totally certain and totally in love,” she says. “It was unimaginable to us that we wouldn’t want to be married. It was this totally obvious reality that ‘this is my soul mate; this is my life partner.’ My family raised me with enough self-confidence to make that decision.”

Once married, they did everything together: yeshiva in Israel, running the Ronald Lauder Foundation in Poland — he was the director; she the program director — and it was there that she gave birth to their first two children. When they left Poland, Yonah completed his smicha in Israel and then New York, and Rachel decided that his rabbinic journey would determine their geography. Eventually, a private philanthropist hired Yonah to be campus rabbi at Long Beach Hillel, and Rachel was recruited as Hillel director, which made their private and public lives one and the same.

“I can’t balance. I make informed choices,” Bookstein says about negotiating between work life and home life. “When my kids are sick and there are things I need to do at work, work gets put on hold.”

The greatest challenge they face as a couple is getting away from their work. With four young children, going on dates is nearly impossible, but nurturing their relationship is essential. Last year, they sat on the porch, lit candles and drank tea together.

“My greatest sadness is that I don’t have any friends,” she confesses.

She always has to be the rebbetzin, available to students if they want to have coffee or need advice, ready with an ample Shabbos table for constant guests and always astute enough to have something “intelligent, thoughtful and positive to say.” She also says she feels pressure to validate her work for the organizations she works for, the donors who support them and the students she and her husband devote their lives to teaching.

“Working with my husband, one thing I feel grateful about is that we both work better together than we do apart. When we work together, we are more of who we are, more than the sum of our parts,” Bookstein says. “We’re each other’s cheerleader, copy editor, best and worst critic and, because we are totally committed to each other, it gives us a lot of strength.”

All the rabbi spouse stories on one page

Alperts endow Jewish studies at CSULB, ADL en Espanol

Alperts Endow Jewish Studies Chair at Cal State Long Beach

Ten years after its creation, the Jewish studies program at Cal State Long Beach has received a $1 million endowment for a chaired professor.

Barbara and Ray Alpert, whose name is on the Long Beach Jewish Community Center they heavily support, donated the funds for the new faculty position, The Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies.

“The Jewish studies program is an important department for the university, one that can enhance the understanding of history, especially the Holocaust and its implications, as well as the study of language, ethics and other related areas,” Ray Alpert, whose father co-founded Alpert &Alpert Iron &Metal seven decades ago, said in a statement.

“It’s wonderful to contribute to a program that helps students understand and appreciate this great heritage, history and culture, a program that attracts students from all over the world,” Alpert added. “Our hope is that our contribution will further the growth of the program for years to come.”

University President F. King Alexander and Jewish studies faculty said the Alperts’ donation would help the program expand both in size and scholarship. The program, which offers a minor and major in Jewish studies, provides more than 20 courses annually, hosts a speakers series, invites guest lecturers and organizes campus symposia.

“This gift,” said Jeffrey Blutinger, program co-director and a professor of Jewish history, “will have a profound impact.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Wells Fargo Donates $10,000 to SOVA

In response to increasing demand at SOVA’s three food pantries, Wells Fargo has donated $10,000 to the program of Jewish Family Service (JFS).

As The Journal reported last month, the downturn in the economy has hit Jewish social service organizations from both sides: Resources are declining because of higher gas and food prices and decreased public and private funding, which coincides with increasing demand.

SOVA Community Food and Resource Program, which provides food, counseling and referral services for Jews and non-Jews from locations in the Valley, the Fairfax district and the Westside, has seen monthly client visits double since 2002. June’s 5,600 visits were the most since November, a historically high-traffic month because of Thanksgiving.

“With demand soaring and donations declining, our local food banks are in desperate need of support,” Shelley Freeman, Wells Fargo regional president, said in a statement. “Wells Fargo is encouraging corporate leaders in greater Los Angeles to donate time and money to the regional food banks to see them through this crisis.”

For more information about SOVA, call (818) 988-7682 or visit www.jfsla.org/sova.

— BG

ADL Publishes Spanish-Language Version of Its Israel Advocacy Guide

Continuing outreach to Latinos, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has published a Spanish-language version of its Israel advocacy guide.

The 85-page guide provides a glossary of terms, background on major moments in Israel’s history — the British Mandate, the Oslo accords, the Second Intifada — and facts for countering anti-Israel messages. “Israel: Una Guía para el Activista,” according to the ADL, also “identifies common inaccuracies about Israel and offers strategies for getting the facts to elected officials, the media and around university campuses.”

“With the ongoing conflict in the region, there are those who continue to level unfair and inaccurate accusations against Israel,” Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, said in a statement. “The Spanish-language edition of the guide is a critical resource for those in Latin America, Spain and Spanish-speaking communities worldwide who wish to counter those misconceptions.”

With their swelling American influence and higher frequency of anti-Semitism, Latinos have been of increasing interest to Jewish leaders. (The Pew Hispanic Center reported last year that 44 percent of Latinos held favorable views of Jews, compared to 77 percent among all Americans.)

For the past 15 years, the ADL’s Los Angeles office has brought Latino and Jewish leaders together through its roundtable dialogue. The American Jewish Congress last year hired a Latino outreach director to focus on business leaders and politicians. In addition, last fall, the American Jewish Committee celebrated Sukkot with a number of Latino pastors, some of whom the organization took to Israel this May.

“Assimilation works,” Amanda Susskind, ADL’s regional director, said last year. “Going to schools with Jews, going to different parishes, learning about diversity in the school system and on the playground actually changes the way Latinos look at Jews. It is nothing genetic. It is just what they learned. But they can de-learn.”

The guide was published in English in 2001. The Spanish-language edition can be downloaded at http://www.adl.org/latino_affairs/.

— BG

Alpert JCC hosts community forum on CSLUB prof, ADL-hosted trip to D.C. unites diverse teens

Alpert JCC Hosts Community Forum on Controversial Cal State Professor

Cal State Long Beach is quieter these days, with most students gone for the summer, but discussion of the writings of professor Kevin MacDonald has not died down.

In response, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Long Beach/West Orange County Jewish Federation and the Jewish studies program at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) will host a community forum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at the Alpert Jewish Community Center. The goal, said Jeffrey Blutinger, co-director of the Jewish studies program, is to increase pressure on the university to condemn MacDonald’s writings without infringing on his academic freedom.

MacDonald, who has taught psychology at CSULB since 1985 and received tenure in 1994, is best known for his three-volume commentary on Judaism, which he considers not a religion but a “group evolutionary strategy.” The series, known as “The Culture of Critique,” has been likened to “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

His academic career had proceeded without much notice, even when he testified on behalf of Holocaust-denier David Irving, until this year, when criticism from colleagues began mounting. The CSULB history and anthropology departments and the Jewish studies program each issued statements denouncing MacDonald’s writings as “professionally irresponsible and morally untenable”; faculty in the psychology department opted to disassociate from his work because of its popularity with extremists like David Duke.

MacDonald’s opinions and the effort to distance the university from its infamous academic were detailed in The Journal last month; two weeks later, the ADL’s national office published an extensive report, which will be distributed at the forum.

“He is probably the foremost anti-Semitic intellectual of his time,” said Kevin O’Grady, ADL’s Long Beach director, “and his writing is both anti-Semitic and racist and championed by the white supremacist, neo-Nazi movement, and we think it is important people know he is spreading these ideas.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

ADL-Hosted Trip to Washington, D.C., Unites Diverse Teens

For 10 years, the Anti Defamation League’s (ADL) National Youth Leadership program has offered high school students free educational trips to the nation’s capitol. This year, 100 teens from across the United States, including 10 from Los Angeles — courtesy of the Grosfeld family — will visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other landmarks from Nov. 16-19.

In preparation for the trip, where students will learn about the Holocaust and ways to fight prejudice, participants will engage in six meetings facilitated by ADL’s Dream Dialogue program on topics such as racism and stereotyping.

“This year will be particularly special,” said Marisa Romo, assistant project director for A World of Difference Institute. “It’s not only Israel’s anniversary, but will fall right after the presidential election. Washington, D.C., will be a very interesting place to be.”

The trip culminates with a ceremony highlighting the importance of youths’ roles in bringing lessons they learned from their experiences back home to their own communities and schools.

“The students will also explore the consequences of unchecked hate, probe their own attitudes and discuss prejudice and hate in their own lives,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.

The deadline to apply is July 8. For more information, contact Marisa Romo at (310) 446-8000, or e-mail mromo@adl.org.

— Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer

Hike-a-Thon Raises $50,000 for Aleinu’s Child Safety Institute

Aleinu Family Services had their first annual Hike-a-Thon on June 1 at Kenneth Hahn state park to raise funds for their Child Safety Institute, which recently launched a “Safety Kid” program. The concept for “Safety Kid” was first inspired by cases of abuse locally.

“There were some child abuse problems, and it was decided that we need to be more proactive, rather than being reactive,” said Nettie Lerner, the director of the Child Safety Institute. “The program was developed so that we could educate the children with the model of the schools, parents and children working together.”

The institute consists of three instrumental parts: A parent-education program run by Lerner, teaching parents their role in ensuring that their children remain safe; training the school staff to become safe-school certified through a seminar run by psychologist Debbie Fox, a Child Safety Institute member ; and the “Safety Kid” presentations — annual developmentally appropriate sessions for children from preschool through eighth grade. Originally funded by the Gindi Family, the recipient organizations now pay for the services offered to them by Aleinu’s Child Safety Institute.

The Hike-a-Thon provided a day of fun for kids and adults, with a range of activities and safety presentations including those by Hatzolah and the Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments. Hikes for all different levels of enthusiasts were available, with all the money “going to help continue [to] allow the program to flourish,” said Wendy Finn, one of the founders of the “Safety Kid” project.

The event raised more than $50,000 for the organization.

— Jina Davidovich, Contributing Writer

Briefs: Professor criticised for ‘hate speech’ at CSULB; Purim is fun and sober for L.A. teens

Professor Scolded for ‘Hate Speech’ at CSULB

The Jewish Studies Program at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) last week reprimanded Kevin MacDonald, a professor at the university whose writings on race are popular with anti-Semites and white supremacists, for views that are “professionally irresponsible and morally untenable.”

“We wish to make it clear that in no way do we wish to impede Dr. MacDonald’s First Amendment rights or interfere with his academic freedom,” the letter stated. “But just as he has the freedom of speech to advance his white nationalist agenda, so too do we have the freedom of speech to deplore his prejudicial views of Jews and non-whites and state that Dr. MacDonald’s writings on white ethnocentrism, Jews, race, and immigration do not enjoy the respect of many of his colleagues.”

Signed by the programs co-directors, Arlene Lazarowitz and Jeffrey Blutinger, and history professor Donald Schartz, the letter urged CSULB administration to distance itself from MacDonald.

“In the 14 years that he has been writing this stuff, no institution on campus — no department, no program, no college or the university — has ever issued a statement about him. The only thing the university has ever done about Kevin MacDonald is they have given him a sabbatical. We feel that it is time the university stood up and said something,” Blutinger said. “We are leading by example.”

An evolutionary psychologist, MacDonald is best known for his claim that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy” that allows its members to succeed by undermining other groups, such as white Europeans. This argument was published in a three-volume series named after the final book, “The Culture of Critique.”

“Not since Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ have anti-Semites had such a comprehensive reference guide to what’s wrong with ‘the Jews,'” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported last year.

In a lengthy response, MacDonald wrote that the Jewish program accurately characterized his belief in the need for a white “ethno-state” and failed to refute his argument.

“The claim that the best way to defend ethnic interests is to develop an ethnostate certainly reflects the reality of ethnic relations in the last century or so,” MacDonald wrote. “Jews of all people should understand the attraction of establishing an ethnostate.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Sober, but Joyous, Purim for L.A. Teens

More than 600 Los Angeles teens attended Purim parties this year thrown by an Orthodox youth group intent on showing the kids a festive holiday while keeping them sober and off the streets.

Because drinking alcohol is a ritual part of celebrating Purim, teens often find easy access to liquor and wine on the holiday, which in the past has led to some dangerous and illegal activities. This year, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) of the Orthodox Union sponsored Purim parties.

“Teens are out there looking for ways to celebrate Purim. We needed to create a responsible venue to compete against unsupervised and potentially harmful experiences,” said Rabbi Effie Goldberg, West Coast director of NCSY.

About 100 teens gathered for an NCSY bash, complete with live band, at Golan Restaurant in North Hollywood. At Congregation B’nai David-Judea on Pico Boulevard, about 500 teens celebrated with a costume contest, dancing, arcade games and a Wii competition. No alcohol was allowed in, and inebriated teens were turned away.

Aleinu Family Resource Center, a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles that serves primarily the Orthodox community, launched an “Absolut Choice” campaign. The organization sent out 7,000 postcards offering parents pointers for talking to their teens about celebrating Purim responsibly and the dangers of binge drinking. At synagogues on Purim, Aleinu distributed 3,500 water bottles with an “Absolut Choice” label that included information on the dangers of rapid drinking and drinking and driving.

In addition, Hatzolah emergency first response service put up posters around synagogues and other venues warning of the dangers of binge drinking, and rabbis urged people not to serve minors drinks as they went door to door delivering Purim baskets or collecting money for charity.

“I believe Purim was a safer Purim in Los Angeles this year,” said Debbie Fox, Aleinu director. “When the community works together, we have a safer community.”

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Israel At 60 Bash to Raise Funds for Sderot

Shalhevet High School students are organizing a community festival on March 30 for Israel’s 60th birthday.

Fully student-run, the carnival will include a live performance from the Moshav Band, Israeli vendors, kosher food, a petting zoo and rides. Maxine Renzer, 11th grade student co-chairperson of the school’s Israel Action Committee, has planned the event over the past four months along with three other students. Last year the festival raised more than $3,000, and this year they hope to raise much more, Renzer said.

“The Jewish people at this time are going through a lot of hardships, and we need to help in any way we can, especially students,” she said. “If this is how we can help, it will be an amazing thing,” she said.

The event, co-sponsored by StandWithUs, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, Beth Jacob Congregation, NCSY, Bnei Akiva and The Jewish Journal, will have its funds matched by an anonymous donor, with proceeds going to Table to Table, an Israeli organization that helps feed the hungry in Sderot.

For more information, call Shalhevet High School at (323) 930-9333.

— Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer

Children, Adults Spice Up Summer Activities With Yachad

The Orthodox Union’s Yachad National Jewish Council for the Disabled is offering summer programs for developmentally disabled children and adults to participate in travel, sports, arts and drama. Yachad’s offerings include a two-week “Yachad Getaway” to New York for ages 18 and older. Campers will stay on a private estate and can choose from daily activities such as swimming, dancing, baking and creative arts projects.

Attendees can learn how to become coaches or counselors and are placed in positions suiting their specific abilities.