September 23, 2018

Cal Poly Students Target Zionist Groups

Screenshot from YouTube.

A group of students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo issued a list of demands on April 13 in response to a racial incident; among the demands included a call for all non-Zionist clubs to have an increase in funding.

Cal Poly’s Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity posted photos online that featured a member donning blackface and other members posed with gang signs with the caption “She want a gangster not a pretty boy.” The university suspended the fraternity, but the fact that they did not expel the students prompted a backlash on campus.

As part of the backlash, a group of students called The Drylongso Collective, which describes itself as a group focused on ending “structural inequality” at Cal Poly, issued a letter with a litany of demands that the university undertake; the most controversial demand in the letter was the one that stated, “We want an increase in ASI [Associated Students Incorporated] funding for ALL cultural clubs, with the exception of organizations that are aligned with Zionist ideology.”

The Drylongso Collective attempted to justify this demand in a statement that was featured on the Cal Poly Multicultural Center’s Facebook page claiming that being anti-Zionist does not mean that they are anti-Semitic. The statement encouraged people to read the works of Jews Against Zionism, Noura Erakat, who happens to be the niece of a Palestinian Authority negotiator, and Angela Davis, who has past associations with the Black Panthers and Communist Party.

“Black folks and other People of Color have a long-standing history of standing in solidarity with Palestinian folks,” the statement reads. “The quotidian experiences of Palestinians include a long history of dealing with violence, colonization (particularly through land dispossession), and oppression. We cannot in good conscience advocate for our own liberation without being mindful of the current and historical liberation struggles of others locally, nationally, and globally.”

Later on, the statement added that The Drylongso Collective was focused on “anti-Black and anti-Brown racism at Cal Poly.”

“To attempt to decenter Blackness from our discussion by focusing on an accusation of anti-Semitism based on a false equivalency of Zionism and Judaism is deeply disturbing and speaks of not only the lack for anti-Semitic acts committed by non-Black/Brown students but also of the coalition work that remains to be done,” the statement reads.

Cal Poly Media Relations Director Matt Lazier told Campus Reform that the university would not consider The Drylongso Collective’s anti-Zionist demand.

“I can tell you that the specific point you reference about organizations aligned with Zionist ideology is not consistent with the university’s values and not something university administration will consider,” Lazier said.

Shiri Moshe of The Algemeiner noted The Drylongso Collective’s “demand would impact Jewish student groups including Hillel of San Luis Obispo, which has supported programming on campus related to Zionism, the movement for Jewish national-self determination in the Levant.”

“No other cultural clubs that cater to students of a particular national or ethnic background would be affected,” Moshe wrote.

The Drylongso Collective has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Racism at Starbucks

I go to Starbucks most mornings during my work week. I order my drink via the mobile app and drive by before jumping on the freeway. My Starbucks of choice is very close to two schools and on any given morning there are a lot of kids there. For every one kid that orders a drink, there are three kids just hanging out. They don’t buy anything, just sit, loudly, and wait for the one kid who is getting a drink.

They use every chair, unaware of anyone but themselves, white, and loitering. In the years I’ve been going to Starbucks I have not only never seen anyone get arrested, I’ve never seen an employee of Starbucks ask one of these annoying kids to leave. I have personally waited at Starbucks without buying a drink many times. I’ve waited for friends, or a blind date, and never been asked to leave or been arrested, no matter how long I sit there.

I have watched the video of two young black men being arrested at Starbucks in Philadelphia and it makes me sad. Sad for not only them, but for every black mother who watches her kids walk out the door, scared of what will happen to them. It is heartbreaking.  I am proud of those two young men for walking out with their heads held high during the humiliating and blatantly racist arrest that happened to them.

I was not there, and I do not know the motivation of the phone call to police, but I am not going to Starbucks this week. It is my way of supporting these two young men. It may seem silly, but it is a way for my voice to be heard, and that is what we all need to do. It is dangerous to be black in America and that should break all of our hearts. Skip going to Starbucks this week. Rise up and keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

Motherhood in Black and White

My soul is crushed each and every time I hear of the senseless murder of an innocent person at the hands of law enforcement, but the murder of Stephon Clark has left me heartbroken in a different way. Stephon was the same age as my own son and I cannot wrap my head around the way he died, so close to being home safe with his two little kids. This one hurts in a way that feels personal.

Of course they are all personal because we live in this country together, and I cried for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Gregory Gunn, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and countless others who were murdered but those who were meant to protect them, but I can relate to the Clark family in ways that bring it into my home. Had it been my son in the same situation at Stephon, I can promise you he wouldn’t have been murdered. This is racism, plain and simple.

My son would have been offered a conversation. A chance to explain who he was and what he was doing. My son wouldn’t have 20 bullets blown into him steps from the safety of his home. It is black and white. Stephon Clark was killed because he was black, and when it comes to black people in America, we shoot first and ask questions later. It is 2018 and being black is America is very dangerous.

My son is a proud Jewish man, but if he was in a situation where anti-Semitic things were happening, he could join in the rhetoric to remain safe and get himself out. He would be able to come home because he can become what he needs to be. That is white privilege. That is a blessing afforded my son. I am able to watch him go out into the world with a level of comfort black mothers don’t have.

Ever since my son was very little I would send him off to school or out with his friends with the words, “Be safe out there and make good choices”. Those have been my parting words to him for as long as I can remember. I don’t have to tell him to keep his mouth shut, put his hands in the air, or get down on the ground without answering back. I haven’t raised my son with a fear of authority.

I worry about him 24/7 because I am his mother, and that is what mothers do, but I do not have the same constant fear that black mothers have. It is exhausting to just think about it. I would never want my kid to go outside. It would simply be too big a risk. The black and white reality is that this is about black and white. I cry with every black mother who fears the death of their beautiful children.

We have many problems in this country that need attention. Tomorrow I will march with the students of Parkland in support of changes to gun laws. I will march knowing that Black Lives Matter. I will march because when we unite our voices we can make change. We have to do better. We cannot think we are the greatest country in the world when this keeps happening. Wake up and start keeping the faith.

 

 

Florida Shooter Spewed Racist, Anti-Semitic Invectives

Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool

Messages from an Instagram group chat obtained by CNN reveal that the Florida shooter issued messages containing anti-Semitic and racist content.

The CNN report described Nikolaus Cruz’s posts in the chat as “hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist Instagram videos”; one of his messages actually stated that he hates “jews, n*****, immigrants.” The chat also reportedly featured Cruz ranting about how Jews are conspiring to “destroy the world” and how he wanted to murder Mexicans, blacks and gays.

Another one of Cruz’s messages read, “My real mom was a Jew. I am glad I never met her.”

Despite the messages, there is no evidence that Cruz was ever affiliated with a white supremacist organization, as earlier reports had stated.

Cruz confessed to the shooting, where he murdered 17 people and injured 14 others. Five of the murdered students were Jewish.

The FBI was reportedly notified twice about the shooter being a potential threat, and yet they did nothing about it. The first instance involved a YouTube video blogger notifying the FBI in September that a user with Cruz’s name commented on one of his videos, “Im going to be a professional school shooter”; the second involved the FBI being tipped to Cruz’s “erratic behavior and disturbing social-media posts.” The FBI didn’t follow up on either instance and didn’t inform local officials about it.

Letters to the Editor: Racism, Trump, Jerusalem and Suissa

Label a Person Racist When It’s Deserved

We must agree to disagree about the premise of Shmuel Rosner’s questions (“The Rush to Racism,” Jan. 19). There are more than two criteria to label someone a racist.

President Donald Trump has a history of denying leases to African-Americans 40-plus years ago. He accepted, after denying he knew former KKK member David Duke, Duke’s endorsement during the campaign. His words have emboldened haters like no president before. His policy to deny people who are not white entry to United States and most recently his “shithole” comment all point to the same conclusion.

If you act/feel like a racist, you quack like a hater/racist and you call neo-Nazis “good people,” you are a racist.

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark


Trump’s Comment About ‘Developing’ Countries

I (and I suspect many other Journal readers) take umbrage at Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that we are all shitholers (“We are All Shitholers,” Jan. 19).

That and similar terms aren’t ones I use. I was born in the United States. Yes, my grandparents came from Russia and Poland, as did the ancestors of many people.

And I disagree strongly with her assertion that the leftist media get hysterical over everything President Donald Trump says and does.

I’m not sure which media outlets she is referring to as leftist — does she mean legitimate news outfits like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC? Reporting on presidential outrages in word or deed is not hysterical, it’s legitimate reporting.

At least Bloch appears to understand that Trump’s bigotry is un-American. She should also point out that it violates biblical injunctions, too.

Daniel Fink, Beverly Hills

In the past few decades, I have traveled to nearly 50 countries, mostly as a negotiator on deals to sell American products in places such as China, South America and Europe but also (more recently) as a tourist.

Most of these trips were to “developing” countries that President Trump called “shitholes.”

Yes, I have been to some rough places in the world: I went to Syria to help a Texas mom whose 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped by an ex-husband and was being held near Damascus. I discovered an international criminal group in Europe on a case I was working on (that had bilked U.S. investors out of $1.5 million) and had to go “undercover” for a while.

But the only place out of 50 countries I have been to, where my life was really in jeopardy, was in the United States — in East Texas — when I was kidnapped by a white guy. Not Nigeria. Not South Africa. Not Asia. True story. All of these events are documented in my book “Better Times Ahead April Fool.”

So don’t call nations “shitholes,” Mr. Trump, because I found great people in the worst of places, and some terrible people in the “best” of places.

Michael Fjetland, via email


Zioness Organization’s Time Is Now

Thank you for your wonderful story about the Zioness organization (“Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March,” Jan. 19). This is an organization whose time is long overdue. There is a strong need on the left for this type of organization. We Jews on the left have been slammed with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate speech and actions. Occasionally, it comes from other Jews and Jewish organizations.

I’m writing because of an Israel-bashing Muslim woman who spoke at the Women’s March. This marred an otherwise inspirational event, and was so unnecessary. I would say that almost all people at the march had multi-ethnic and multiracial sentiments.

This Israel bashing is nothing new. It seems always to be lurking in the mass movements on the left. My first exposure to it was in the women’s movement in the 1970s. Then it was in the LGBT movement. Then it was in the anti-Iraq War movement. Now, here it is at the Women’s March. I will always be a progressive because I put people’s lives first. There’s nowhere else for me to go.

Let’s hope the Zionesses become powerful and strong!

Sue Roth via email


Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Last month, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem the capital of Israel, yet I did not see any positive comment that I know of from rabbis with the exception of Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob, who asked the members to send letters or email to thank Trump. Even though Jerusalem belonged to Israel for 2,000 years, Trump was the first president who promised and delivered. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

Benny Halfon via email


Suissa’s Hits and Misses

Thank you, David Suissa, for an outstanding column (“Abbas Fails His People —  Again,” Jan. 19)!

Mahmoud Abbas and his friends appear to be the “fundamental obstacle” to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He retains power by focusing on the presumed “victimhood” and the misery under which his people live, claiming Israel is the oppressor. Abbas’ argument: Israel is to blame for all the hardships Palestinians are suffering.

Prediction: Just as is happening in Iran, one day the Palestinian people will wake up and realize the truth, and get leaders who truly want to help their people to enjoy a better life. Then they will welcome Israel as a partner rather than the enemy.

Meanwhile, Abbas enjoys his share of the billions of dollars donated from around the world — just as Yasser Arafat did before him. Furthermore, he uses much of those funds to reward and encourage terrorism. And the U.N. condones it all, blaming Israel for the plight of the Palestinians. In this regard, let’s wish for lots of luck for U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and President Donald Trump.

George Epstein via email

The publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal is on a trip to the land of Oz! Suissa is dreamy and nostalgic for the smells of the land that decreed Jews’ station in this land to be dhimmi: to face humiliation from birth to death (“A Hunger for Memory,” Jan. 12).

Perhaps if Suissa wasn’t daydreaming about the good old days in a country that held its Jews in humiliation and bondage, he might have remembered to speak up for the Jew Robert Levinson, who is believed to be rotting in the mullahs’ gulag. But then, how could Suissa be expected to remember Levinson when he’s dreaming about the good old days living the dhimmi. All the space in this not-for-profit Jewish weekly showing concern for the protesters in Iran and not a bloody word for the Levinson. Perhaps Levinson is in a cozy gulag in his Muslim cell.

Jerry Daniels, Marina del Rey


Why Israelis Like Trump More Than Americans Do

Shmuel Rosner clearly explained why Israeli Jews like President Donald Trump more than American Jews do (“The Trump Gap,” Jan. 19). I would like to add one more element to his explanation: What is good for America is good for Israel. The Israeli euphoria should be dampened by the fact that his erratic attempts of diplomacy have alienated him from our (and Israel’s) natural allies and greatly diminished American leadership in the Middle East. Thus, despite his rhetoric, he has lost America’s ability to act as an honest broker in future peace negotiations and give political cover in international relations.

At home, his attack on American institutions already is causing greater division and rivalry among our population. If not reversed, this can cause a weakening that will reflect in our ability to influence world affairs, and particularly support for Israel.

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

Bigotry in Context—the Dangers of Trump

The media “sh*tstorm” is perpetual. Donald Trump has managed to suck up the media oxygen virtually 24/7. If it isn’t his “sh*thole” comments about much of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, it’s his tweets about compromises in Congress or his unrelenting dismissal of opponents with derisive diminutives.

The media has little choice but to report, analyze and comment on the daily distractions. What the media should do, but usually don’t, is put Trump’s actions and words into perspective. Admittedly, there is little precedent for the narcissistic self-aggrandizing occupant of the White House—what president has come close to his performance and personality? Historians suggest that he is truly sui generis. But an effort should be made to educate Americans as to what might transpire were his prescriptions to be enacted.

There are historic precedents for the kind of jingoistic, ethnocentric bigotry that has emanated from this administration regarding immigration and its implications—short term and long term—are pretty ugly.

For starters, we should all be reminded—-as the Bible admonishes—-to never forget from whence we come, “remember that you were slaves in Egypt”(Deuteronomy 15:15).

We were almost all immigrants at one point in the not too distant past. The kind of hostility and simple-mindedness that Trump (and his attorney general) have demonstrated should chill every thinking American. But the impact is attenuated by the historic ignorance that abounds.

A partial curative emerged today from one of the bulliest pulpits in the land short of the White House—The New York Times. Bret Stephens, the Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning columnist has a brilliant column reminding us all that bigotry, fear, lies and distortions are  nothing new in the immigration debate. In fact, virtually every one of the “America First” tactics of the Trump administration has been employed before against different sets of immigrants—what’s new is the administration’s ability to reach tens of millions with their hate and lies.

The target cohort that Stephens chose as an example of historically similar nativism is Jewish immigrants to the US of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Not unlike today’s targets (El Salvadorans, Iranians, Haitians, et al.) Jews were decried as purveyors of crime (the NYPD police commissioner falsely asserted that half of all crime in New York City was committed by Jews); Jews were viewed as socially undesirable (“social discards”) as compared to northern Europeans (sound familiar?); Jews were attacked as “moral cripples” “reeking of the ghetto” who were unprepared for citizenship, and on and on.

The list of accusations from a century ago is extensive and the ring of familiarity is chilling. What Stephens brilliantly does is ask the question, what if the bigots had prevailed? What would America be missing if those of supposed “genetic inferiority” had been denied admission, if the restrictionists had prevailed?

A question that our historical perspective allows us to answer. A media bound to today’s headlines can’t ask what would America be missing if we pulled up the gangplanks and closed our ports of entry. We have only history as a guide, and it suggests that Trump’s ethnocentric fears are insidious foolishness.

Yet imagine if the United States had followed the advice of the immigration restrictionists in the late 19th century and banned Jewish immigrants, at least from Central Europe and Russia, on what they perceived to be some genetic inferiority. What, in terms of enterprisegeniusimagination, and philanthropy would have been lost to America as a country? And what, in terms of human tragedy, would have ultimately weighed on our conscience?

Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different.

Stephens’ piece is powerful and right on target. Today’s bigots see the world through their distorted prism, it takes reason, logic and some historical context to counteract their warping of reality.

Bravo Bret, an important piece that should be mandatory reading in every home in America!

The Rush to Racism

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during an interview with Reuters at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

About a month ago, when I last traveled to the United States, I purchased “The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896” by Richard White. It is the latest volume of history produced as part of the authoritative Oxford History of the United States, and it takes a while to read.

It takes a while because of its length and detail — almost a thousand pages of scholarship and storytelling — and the way it constantly forces the reader to think about parallels of past and present.

The fate of immigrants is one such tempting parallel. When historian White writes about groups who rejected Catholics or Jews, or about groups who rejected immigrants from southern European countries or from China, the reader can hardly avoid the resemblances — and the differences.

One reads a book to get away from the daily noise of the news, and yet the news creeps in through the cracks.

Of course, the Gilded Age was a long time ago. But the inherent tension that underlies all debates about immigration is here: on the one hand, the benefits a country reaps when it accepts immigrants; on the other hand, the inevitable cultural change that immigrants force on their new country. And note that it was much worse then than it is now. As White describes it: In the 1890s, “concern over immigrants began to look more like panic.”

Trump is guilty of being reckless with the language he uses, but is it wise to call him a racist?

Every state has some kind of immigration policy. A state without such policy is not a state. And when devising such policy, opposition to immigration, as well as support for it, is natural and not irrational.

Sadly, the opposition often manifests itself in ugly racism, bigotry, populism and incitement. Thus, one cannot always identify the true motivations and fears behind it: Does the president oppose immigration from certain African countries because he thinks that these immigrants are less likely to integrate into the U.S. — or because of his dislike of the color of their skin?

In the past week, more newspapers and activists began using the term “racism” to describe the policy of Donald Trump, relying on a plethora of disturbing evidence. Indeed, Trump is guilty of being reckless with the language he uses. And he has a history of troubling incidents that prompt the question of racism.

But is it wise to call Trump a racist?

Consider the following argument: “Racism” is a terrible trait. It is also a trait that delegitimizes a person or the positions he or she is holding. At least, this is what most decent people hope. For this to be achieved — for “racism” to remain a uniquely negative allegation — two terms must be met: “Racism” must be clearly and narrowly defined; and the definition must be one that the vast majority of people accept.

Why? Because a broad, or a vague, definition of “racism” makes it a political tool that is hurled at too many positions and hence loses its effectiveness at being a red line beyond which positions become illegitimate, and because a nonconsensual definition of “racism” turns it from the ultimate sin to yet another matter of disagreement.

What happened last week when Trump was called a “racist”? There are two possibilities. The first: His legitimacy and his views eroded (because decent people do not want to be identified with racism). The second: The power of the term “racism” eroded (if you define the views of a third of the population as “racist,” you now have many people who no longer think that “racism” is so terrible).

Is Trump a racist? It is encouraging to see that the president himself vehemently rejects such accusations, hence proving that “racism” is still a negative enough term to scare off people. Still, some insist on calling him that — and curiously enough, it is often the same people who think it immature of Trump to insist on the term “Islamic terrorists” when describing a group of, well, Islamic terrorists.

Is it foolish for the president to specifically talk about “Islamist terrorism”? If the cost outweighs the benefit, then it is.

Is it essential to call the president a racist? Maybe, but first consider the possible negative impact that such expansive use of this terminology could have.

Think how bad it would be if the attempt to delegitimize Trump ends up even slightly legitimizing racism.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

What Would My Father Say?

People often ask me how many years it has been since my father’s death. I never want to answer. For them, it may be counted in years or even decades — such a long time. For me, it feels like yesterday. Some might say the trauma of his death is still with me, but I would say that his presence remains so vivid in my life that talking about his death feels odd and unreal.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, has been present in my life this past year with particular strength because of the many horrors that I know would have been devastating for him to witness. He always used to reassure me that the Nazis were defeated, that the United States was safe, that what happened would never happen again. To see the KKK marching in the streets, neo-Nazis celebrating, with ugly racism coming from the White House — and so much more — I know he would again be pacing the floor, unable to sleep, as he was pacing and sleepless over the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Today the Jewish world seems horrifically engaged in a kind of internal civil war, a war that is anything but civil. For my father, life was precious, every moment. He used to say, time is life, and to “kill time” is to commit murder. He was intensely engaged at every moment. The efforts today by Jews to attack and try to destroy one another out of political disagreements would have horrified my father. Zionism was supposed to unite us, not divide us. Racism he called blasphemy, satanism, unmitigated evil. There are Jews who confuse the Code of Laws with God. Some people try to be religious the way their grandparents were religious — my father called that ‘spiritual plagiarism.’ Selfishness, indifference, a cold heart — this was the opposite of a religious person, for whom awareness of God begins with wonder.

What is a religious person? A person who is maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others; aware of God’s presence and of God’s needs; a religious person is never satisfied, but always questioning, striving for something deeper, and always refusing to accept inequalities, the status quo, the cruelty and suffering of others.

What is a religious person? A person who is maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others … never satisfied, but always questioning.

My father was grateful for allies. He always listened, and he sought bridges with those who disagreed. Yet he was also often lonely and hurt — by colleagues and academic politics, by students who complained when he rescheduled a class in order to attend a demonstration, and most of all, by the callousness he encountered.

Yet he never despaired — despair is forbidden, he used to tell me with a smile. You must have faith and hope, he would say. In his presence, I always did.

Where did my father find his faith and hope? In prayer, most of all. I loved to sit in his study while he prayed, just to be near him and feel enveloped by his prayers. I think of him, praying with tallit and tefillin, and I feel his warmth and love. More than anything, he was a person of enormous depth; you could talk to him about anything, he was so open and able to feel so deeply. His empathy was extraordinary.

God was rarely present in the Shabbat services we attended at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Instead, he would daven at the Gerer shtiebl on the Upper West Side, led by Rabbi Cywiak. During the week, his spirits would be renewed when he spoke by telephone with his brother in law, my uncle, the Kopycznitzer rebbe, one of the kindest, most gentle and loving people I have ever met. My father discussed everything with him, including the war in Vietnam, his involvement in Vatican II, his protests on behalf of Soviet Jews, his collaboration with Martin Luther King, Jr.

My father’s voice is always needed, but these days I feel most strongly that I need him for strength and hope. There are so many wise people delineating the horrors we are now facing, and we know that we have to muster our strength for a long and difficult struggle to preserve our democracy, to save our planet, and most of all to protect the many human beings whose lives are being destroyed by American militarism, racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, and cruel, inhumane economic “policies.”  The mendacity that my father saw in the United States government has increased, but so has our ability to recognize it and fight back.

My father’s yahrzeit follows the Torah portion Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26), about the death of Jacob and the blessings he gave to his sons and grandsons. Where are the daughters, I ask? My father had only one child, a daughter, but he gave me blessings the Torah gives to sons. The haftarah of Parashat Vayechi comes from I Kings 2: 1-12, about the death of King David and the blessing he gave to his son, Solomon, while on his deathbed. My father dedicated his book “Who Is Man?” to me by quoting the parallel passage in I Chronicles 28:20: “Be strong and of good courage and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; God is with you.”

I share that blessing with all those who strive to follow in my father’s footsteps, imbued with his teachings and fortified by his faith and hope.


Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies and chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. This piece was written for The Shalom Center. (theshalomcenter.org)

Crowd supports Santa Monica group targeted by hateful instigators

A large and diverse crowd turned out Sept. 10 to show support at a meeting of the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice. Photo by Oren Peleg

A diverse and animated crowd with hundreds of people turned out at a meeting of the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice on Sept. 10 to show support for the group, which has been targeted in recent months by individuals spewing hateful rhetoric.

The group’s previous two monthly meetings were interrupted by individuals who made racist and anti-Semitic remarks. At the meeting this past Sunday, however, the scene remained mostly calm, as dozens of Santa Monica police officers on foot and horseback helped maintain order. The meeting at the Virginia Avenue Park’s community center, which covered the topic “Raising Socially Conscious Children,” was filled to capacity, with additional supporters gathered outside behind barricades.

Police estimated the crowd at the park grew to about 300 people, and said no arrests were made.

Trudy Goodwin, one of the co-founders of the Committee for Racial Justice, said she and other committee members viewed the broad show of support as a triumph.

“It was inspiring,” Goodwin said. “It pretty much lets us know that we’re on the right road here, in our attempts to bring people together and foster more understanding between ethnic groups and cultures. I couldn’t believe the number of people from the Santa Monica community that showed up to show their support for racial justice.”

The committee was created six years ago by members of the Church in Ocean Park, an interfaith congregation, and has since expanded to include community members from outside the church. Today, the committee holds monthly workshops that focus on educating the community about racism and devising ways to address it.

Previous meetings this summer were disrupted by people associated with groups called the Red Elephants and the Beach Goys. In July, five agitators attended the committee’s meeting, and in August their number increased to about 50, some of whom hurled racist and anti-Jewish slurs. Those incidents were captured on video and viewed widely on the internet.

At last Sunday’s meeting, the lively, diverse crowd apparently staved off any hate-fueled attack. Among the supporters, people sported “Black Lives Matter” shirts, waved Mexican flags and wore hijabs. A traditional Aztec dance troupe from South Central Los Angeles also performed at a nearby playground in colorful garb and feathery headdresses.

About a dozen people clad in all black with baseball caps and berets and wearing bandanas covering their faces, identified themselves as members of the so-called anti-fascist group antifa. Several of them who talked with the Journal said they came to “keep the peace” but they declined to give their names.

Yosi Sergant, 41, of Culver City, a community organizer who attends the IKAR community, said he came to stand in solidarity with the committee. He said that although he was deeply troubled by the anti-Semitic outbursts at the committee’s last two meetings, he had other reasons that compelled him to come to the park. 

“It certainly makes me uncomfortable and directly targets me and my heritage, but it’s simply the tip of the spear of the same forces that are incarcerating millions and millions of people of color here in the United States and forcing Dreamers out of the country,” he said. “While I show up because I am directly challenged and directly targeted, I also show up because we are all targeted.”

Goodwin said the meeting was “one of the best meetings we’ve had,” with speakers able to disseminate information without interruption.

The lone moment of tension arose when R.C. Maxwell, an outspoken, African-American supporter of President Donald Trump, showed up with a small camera crew to film interactions with members of the crowd. An internet personality who regularly contributes to conservative media, Maxwell frequents protests by progressive groups. In August, he was attacked by a counterprotester during an “America First!” rally in Laguna Beach.

At the Santa Monica park, many of the people dismissed Maxwell as an “internet troll,” including Sergant, who briefly engaged Maxwell before stepping away and then reappearing with a tray of food.

“A little pasta salad for de-escalation,” Sergant cried out before setting the tray down on a table near Maxwell, for anyone to enjoy.

After engaging in a brief shouting match with the crowd across a police barrier, Maxwell and his group were escorted out of the park by helmeted police officers.

Sarah Spitz, 65, who has lived in Santa Monica for 35 years, praised the Committee for Racial Justice and police for taking steps to ensure there wasn’t a repeat of last month’s chaos. 

“I think everyone prepared very well for calming things down and keeping things from blowing things out of proportion,” she said. “The event was basically a non-event.”

When Spitz left, she thanked police officers for being there.

The next meeting of the Committee for Racial Justice is scheduled for Oct. 1.

The Man and the Monster

Once there was a little boy who suspected that there was a monster in his closet.  Even after his parents assured him that there was not, he would hear strange sounds from behind his closet door.  His closet was dark and deep, and he could never see all the way to the farthest corner in the back.

One night, he awoke to the sounds and ran downstairs to grab a flashlight.  He reentered his room and slowly opened the door of his closet.  He pushed all of the clothes to the side and pointed the bright flashlight toward the deep darkness.  The strong beam of light revealed a scary monster huddled in the back corner.

“Why do you do this to me?”  The young boy asked.

Fangs clenched, the monster offered no comprehendible response.  The monster just loudly roared and tried to lash out.  Quickly, the boy slammed the door and rushed to wake up his parents.  Not believing his story at all, his parents placated him by pushing his dresser in front of the closet door.  The boy grew up without a closet, but never had to face the monster again.

Years later, the boy grew into a man and married and had children of his own.  He lived in his own big house.  Then, one night he woke up to familiar sounds coming from inside his closet.  He slowly approached the closet and carefully peeked inside.

There, crouched inside the darkness, sat the monster.  It was foaming from its clenched jaw.  The man hesitated to confront the monster as he had done as a boy.  He worried about the monster getting past him, and about the safety of his wife and children.  He had more reasons to be cautious than when he was a young boy.  He immediately slammed the door and insisted on moving.

He and his wife found a new home.  In the new house, he removed all of the closets from their master bedroom.

One night, his daughter came rushing into their room, complaining about scary sounds in her closet.  Immediately, he got out of bed, and he followed her into her room.  With his daughter trembling behind him, he opened the door and gazed into her closet at the familiar sight.  Sure enough, there sat the same monster, totally unchanged.  In that moment, he realized that the monster might never go away.

Now, it was his responsibility to confront the monster when needed and protect his family.  From that night on, he slept next to his daughter’s closet door, and his family slept peacefully knowing that he was always there to protect them.

 

There is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism

President Donald Trump on Feb. 28. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters

The actual percentage is yet to be exactly known, but it is already clear that a serious number of the major anti-Semitic incidents taking place — such as defacing Jewish graves, painting swastikas on Jewish students’ dorm room doors, and calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions — are being perpetrated by leftists who wish to perpetuate the belief that Donald Trump’s election victory has unleashed a national wave of anti-Semitism.

The same seems to hold true for post-Trump anti-Muslim and anti-Black incidents.

I could cite dozens of examples. Here are a few:

Last week, it was reported that a Black, left-wing journalist was arrested for phoning in bomb threats to the ADL and half a dozen other Jewish institutions.

On Feb. 27, the Minneapolis Star Tribune headlined: “Racist graffiti found at Lakeville South High School.”

The article began: “Swastikas, racial epithets and other racist graffiti were found etched on bathroom stalls at Lakeville South High School on Monday.”

It turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by a non-white student: “A ‘non-Caucasian’ Minnesota high school student has been disciplined after it was determined he was responsible for racist and antisemitic graffiti found in a school bathroom. The scribblings included a picture of a lynching, the phrase ‘Hail the Ku Klux Klan,’ the ‘N’ word, and a swastika” (The College Fix, March 2).

On March 1, the Toronto Sun headlined: “Bomb threats targeting Muslims close Concordia buildings.”

The article continued: “ … a group threatened to detonate ‘small artisanal explosive devices’ once a day until Friday in order to injure Muslim students. The group, which described itself as a chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, or C4, complained about Muslim prayer services on campus.”

The next day, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported: “The man charged in connection with Wednesday’s bomb threats at Concordia University, Hisham Saadi, was a PhD student in economics there. … Saadi is of Lebanese origin.”

The College Fix, which accumulates data on these hoaxes, reported that “At Massachusetts’ Williams College, two students admitted to trashing the school’s Griffin Hall with a ‘red wood-stain substance resembling blood’ and spelled out ‘AMKKK KILL.’ ” The college newspaper, The Williams Record, later reported that the two students did it “to bring attention to the potential impact of the presidential election on campus.”

At Bowling Green State University on the day after the election, a Black student alleged three white males clad in ‘Trump’ shirts called her a racial slur and threw rocks at her. ABC News reported shortly thereafter that the police concluded she made up the story.

MSNBC posted a tweet that contained what appeared to be a video of a female Muslim student beating up a ‘racist’ male pupil at Washburn High School. “Don’t mess with Somali girls in Minnesota,” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell announced. “The dude tried to knock her hijab (headgar) [sic] off, she gave him a hard lesson.”

The video, titled “Welcome to Washburn,” went viral after it was posted to Facebook, with more than 6.5 million views, more than 161,000 shares and more than 29,000 comments.

But the Minneapolis Star Tribune declared the footage a “hoax” and a “play fight” intended as a joke. And school staff confirmed the alleged incident never happened.

Another anti-Muslim incident that was widely reported was proven to be a hoax. A female Muslim student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette alleged that right after the election, two white men, one of whom was wearing a Trump cap, attacked her and stole her wallet and the hijab she was wearing. Her story prompted the ACLU of Louisiana to issue a statement denouncing both the incident and Donald Trump; the FBI launched an investigation; and the story was covered by The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN.

The Muslim student later admitted to police that she made up the whole story.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a San Francisco man who raised a Nazi flag on the roof of his home right after the election was a left-wing Trump-hater.

There are so many examples of hoaxes perpetrated by Black, Muslim and white leftists that they could fill this issue of the Jewish Journal.

The entire notion of a Trump-inspired crime wave is fake news spread by the mainstream media. For more examples, see “There Is No Violent Hate-Crimewave In ‘Trump’s America.’ ”

Donald Trump is no more anti-Semitic than the columnists of this newspaper. Nor is Breitbart.com anti-Semitic. And there is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism in America.

This is only one more example of left-wing hysteria — like heterosexual AIDS in America; the “rape culture” on campuses; the alleged crisis of racist cops wantonly killing innocent Blacks; and global warming threatening life on earth.

Jews who think there is such a wave do so because they hate Donald Trump so much, they want to believe it. In other words, a lot of Jews want to believe that Jews are hated in America more than ever. Yet another way in which leftism has poisoned Jewish life.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Trump team condemns ‘racism’ without addressing pro-Trump event with Nazi salutes

Donald Trump’s transition team declined to directly condemn a conference where his victory was hailed as a triumph for white supremacists, instead reiterating a general denunciation of racism.

Asked by NBC and other media to comment on the weekend conference in Washington D.C. , the president-elect’s transition team said Monday that Trump opposed “racism of any kind.”

“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American,” the transition team said. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

The weekend conference convened by Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement, was a festival of racist and anti-Semitic preening. When Spencer said “Hail Trump,” some at the conference responded with Nazi salutes and cried out “Heil victory!”

At least one Jewish group and one Israeli political leader suggested in statements that the Trump team’s statement did not go far enough, and that they still expected to hear direct condemnation of the conference.

“Watching Spencer using Nazi slogans to spew forth his hate was sickening,” said a statement by Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, after the Trump transition team’s comment. “We call on our future president and commander-in-chief to take on Spencer and his ilk directly.”

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid party, made a similar appeal to Trump and to outgoing President Barack Obama.

“One of the greatest mistakes humanity ever made was a failure to recognize the danger of fascism early enough and tackle it head on,” he said Tuesday morning. “I have every confidence that President Obama and President-elect Trump oppose this abhorrent phenomenon, now is the time to translate that opposition into unequivocal condemnation and swift action.”

The alt-right is a loose far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Trump and his campaign have borrowed images and themes originating in the alt-right, including a number that have brought condemnation from Jewish and anti-bias groups. Trump himself throughout the campaign delivered broadsides against Muslims and Hispanics, antagonized black groups and the disabled and used vulgar terms to describe women.

White supremacists and anti-Semites endorsed Trump before the election and have celebrated his victory. Trump has denounced racism and rejected the endorsements, but he has typically done so only when prompted by the media. At times, he has added to these repudiations angry denunciations of the media for making an issue of his support among racists.

In a statement issued before the Trump transition team’s comment was posted, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum expressed its alarm at the Spencer event, held in the Ronald Reagan building just a short walk from the museum.

“The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” it said. “The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech. “

Following the alt-right event, conference-goers decamped to a restaurant, Maggiano’s, where some posed for photos raising their arms in a Nazi salute. Maggiano’s, on Facebook, apologized to the Friendship Heights neighborhood where it is situated and said it was donating the profits from the evening, $10,000, to the Anti-Defamation League.

Can a hobbled EU live up to its promise to combat anti-Semitism and racism?

When the late Austro-Hungarian aristocrat Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi attended church on Good Friday, his father would famously cause a scene, storming out when the liturgy came to the anti-Semitic exhortation “Let us also pray for the faithless Jews.”

Such protest was unusual in 19th-century Austria-Hungary, where anti-Semitism and other forms of racism were de rigueur. But the old count — a personal friend of Zionist legend Theodor Herzl — abhorred such biases in part because his wife, Richard’s mother, was Japanese.

Brought up in a multiculturalist home, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi made the fight against anti-Semitism a cornerstone of the Pan-Europa movement he founded in 1926. It was a major precursor of the European Union, which has evolved into a quasi-federal entity of 28 states with its own executive arm – the European Commission — parliament and judiciary.

Little wonder, then, that prominent Jews such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud endorsed the nobleman’s pan-European vision from its inception. They saw it as an antidote to the nationalism and racist hate that culminated  in World War II and the Holocaust.

Determined to prevent the recurrence of such traumatic events, postwar European societies became open to adopting the revolutionary pan-European model of government.

Traditionally, Jews have been very supportive of the incarnation of von Coudenhove-Kalergi’s vision: the European Union, with its strong anti-racist rhetoric and agendas. But the growing influence of homegrown xenophobes, integration failures and Brussels’ perceived singling out of Israel for criticism have disillusioned many Jewish opinion shapers.

These conflicting Jewish attitudes were on display during the polarizing debate that took place in the United Kingdom over last month’s referendum on a British exit, or Brexit, from the European Union, according to Geoffrey Alderman, a historian and former member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“There’s a belief that Jews are a very cosmopolitan, pan-European people whom one would’ve expected to show a large measure of support to the idea of the EU,” he said. But in Britain, “prominent Jews were in favor of exiting,” said Alderman, who himself was among the 52 percent of British voters in the June 23 referendum who supported leaving the bloc.

The British Jewish community’s institutions stayed neutral on the Brexit issue, whereas many Jewish intellectuals argued that the desire to leave was born of xenophobia and ignorance and risked unleashing a wave of nationalism and economic instability in the UK and beyond. The British-Jewish sociologist David Hirsh, in an op-ed for the Jewish News of London, highlighted the “freedom of movement, freedom to work where you choose and freedom of trade” afforded by the EU.

Strong statements about the need to fight anti-Semitism from some of the EU’s top officials have also shored up Jewish support.

“If there’s no future for Jews in Europe, there’s no future for Europe,” Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, said last year.

Robert-Jan Smits, a director within the European Commission, said in 2011 that “present-day Europe arose from the ash of Auschwitz crematoria.”

And European Parliament President Martin Schulz said this year: “Jewish friends, we stand with you against those who spread hatred. Europe is your home today, every day and forever.’’

But the European Union’s Jewish critics say it is unable to back up the rhetoric with action — one reason, according to Alderman, why many Jewish Brexiters were open to leaving.

In the first few traumatized decades after World War II, anti-Semitism was “present but not spoken of” in the EU’s founding states in the continent’s west, Alderman said. “But anti-Semitism is a light sleeper and the EU has failed to create the political-social conditions” to keep it dormant, he said.

The awakening unleashed a resurgence of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence in Western Europe. It was spearheaded by Muslims, who were invited to immigrate there as cheap laborers on the promise that the countries would integrate and embrace them, and under the assumption that the immigrants would integrate and embrace postwar European values.

Millions of Muslims have done just that, but jihadists who grew within these communities have killed more than 300 people in terrorist attacks since 2012 alone — including 12 in three attacks on Jewish targets in France and Belgium.

Meanwhile, Eastern European EU member states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary are celebrating the legacies of Nazi collaborators who participated in the Holocaust. Xenophobic parties from both east and west are riding a crest of popularity into the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the body set up to prevent such tendencies from reaching power.

Jewish Euroskeptics argue it would be easier to be deal with such challenges on a national level. EU supporters, including Hirsh, say these challenges require European societies to double down on federal ideals.

Far from ignoring the problem of anti-Semitism, say the EU’s defenders, EU senior officials have vowed to fight them head on.

“It is unacceptable that Jews are reluctant to wear their traditional clothes and display religious symbols in public because of fear,” Schulz said in January. “Jews are again killed because they are Jews. We will fight the demons of anti-Semitism, of ultranationalism, of intolerance.”

The European Union has taken some concrete steps to achieve this, including the unveiling in May of a code of conduct on online hate speech together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft.

But in 2013, the EU eroded its own credibility with many on this issue by abandoning the only definition it had for anti-Semitism after pro-Palestinian critics objected to the inclusion of a clause about the demonization of Israel. Currently, the EU agency for fighting racism is on record as saying it is unable to define anti-Semitism and that the concept is not in need of a definition.

Critics, including Alderman, disagree.

The decision to drop the working definition on anti-Semitism “damages the European Union’s credibility on its desire to fight anti-Semitic racism,” said Shimon Samuels, a British national based in Paris who heads the European office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Back in Britain, a staunch advocate of the European Union — Rabbi David Rose of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation — drew parallels between Europeans’ ambivalence toward the EU to the Hebrews’ reluctance to trust God after he led them out of Egypt and through the Sinai Desert.

Eventually, Rose said, God gave up on the people he rescued and decided to build his Chosen People from their children born during 40 years in the wilderness.

“Perhaps in this analogy we are in the wilderness and our job is to raise a generation worthy of the Promised Land,” he said.

How 10-year-olds, not cops, spearhead gang prevention in South L.A.

If you want to limit gangs, law enforcement cannot be the driving force of your strategy.

It seems counterintuitive, but it was one of the most important lessons I learned while leading Los Angeles’ Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD) program in South L.A. and other neighborhoods. The police and other law enforcement officials are precisely the wrong people to be working on gang reduction. Los Angeles is fortunate to have a smart and diverse police force, and officers are needed to stop violent and law-breaking gang members from putting the public in danger. But the gang prevention focus needs to be on keeping gang-age young people out of gangs. Too often, the police can provide a common enemy that solidifies the bonds of young people in gangs, and keeps them there.

This insight was not my own—it’s one of the central ideas of legendary gang researcher Malcolm Klein, an emeritus sociologist at USC. In one of my conversations with Mac, he compared the social relations that bring together gangs to the lifelong affection and solidarity that soldiers have for those with whom they served in combat. In countering gangs, it is vital not to put potential gang members under siege or to give them a common enemy; that just fuels their cohesion.

Applying this insight was an enormous departure in L.A. For 30 years, the city handled gangs as primarily a law enforcement matter. In the 1980s, LAPD Chief Daryl Gates declared war on gangs—which Mac’s research showed was counterproductive. Our overcrowded prison system, too, reinforced gangs by segregating prisoners by race and gang affiliation.

But a decade ago, Police Chief William Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided to shift strategies. They figured out that to disrupt the gang phenomenon, you needed to focus on weakening the social ties between gang members and strengthening other kinds of relationships and social ties among gang-age young people.

In 2006, South L.A. was the source of half the gang-related violence in the city. By that year, every category of crime was in decline L.A.-wide—except gang violence, which had increased 16 percent in one year. There had been a series of shootings in Watts at the end of 2006, with nine people killed. On the heels of the violence came a report from attorney Connie Rice and The Advancement Project  and an audit from Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick that deemed the city’s anti-gang approach a failure, creating enormous public attention—and an opportunity to change.

At the time, I had recently completed two years as chief of staff at Sojourners, the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community dedicated to social justice. I’m also an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. But my expertise and work had been with young people, and figuring out how to engage them during my 17 years at the Bresee Foundation.

Which is why the mayor hired me to develop the new approach to combating gangs that became GRYD. Until then, the city’s anti-gang and youth resources had been spread thinly across 15 Council Districts in Los Angeles like peanut butter. In mid-2008, we won a bruising political battle to consolidate them, taking the money and targeting it in eight zones where rates of violence were four times more than in the rest of the city. Four of these zones were in South L.A.

In summer 2008, we had our first big initiative, Summer Night Lights. We kept certain public parks open late into the night, turned on the lights, and brought in programming that had been designed in consultation with young people, including gang members. Summer Night Lights was, and still is, an immediate hit with young people. It became the linchpin of our efforts to turn public spaces into places where everyone could participate.

We put two-thirds of the money into prevention programs and activities like Summer Night Lights. We spent a lot of time talking to LAPD officers, and suggesting that they focus their attention only on the hardcore gang members who do the shooting, and stop arresting kids who look or walk like gang members.

We also had researchers at USC create an assessment tool to produce data on who might be most likely to become a gang member. The researchers told us we were actually looking for a very small number of people. Even in neighborhoods considered gang-infested, 85 percent of kids will never join a gang; only 15 percent will join, and most will be active for two or fewer years. So how could we identify those few kids who were most at risk to become hardcore gang members, and focus our resources on them?

The research showed that kids are most likely to join gangs between ages 10 to 14, and we came up with 15 primary risk factors to assess that age group for gang membership. If the assessment tool scored them as likely to join a gang, they were eligible to be in the GRYD program.

This was controversial, especially when the assessment tool contradicted what people thought. People might look at a kid whose father and brother were gang members and say, ‘this is a high-risk kid.’ But it turned out that for some kids, having family members who were gang members provided daily reminders of why they didn’t want to be in gangs.

GRYD brought together city agencies to develop plans for high-risk kids that would include improving their school performances and encouraging activities that built strong social relationships. Some of our biggest allies in much of this work turned out to be grandmothers, who worked with their grandchildren, and some of whom also drove the work of the Watts Gang Task Force, a joint effort of law enforcement, communities, and agencies that has made a huge impact on reducing gang violence.

GRYD was just one factor in the decrease in gang violence in South L.A. Gang-related crime was dropping at the time across the country. We don’t understand all of the reasons why, and it’s not clear if previous strategies will work in today’s landscape, where gang violence has shifted to being done online and through human trafficking instead of drug trafficking. But we do know that aggressive assessment of risks and youth development make a difference in keeping kids away from law enforcement—and out of gangs. 

Rev. Jeff Carr led GRYD and served as Chief of Staff under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Most recently he was the interim CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Los Angeles, a new umbrella organization of seven clubs, three in South L.A.  He recently relocated to Portland, Oregon.

Jewish groups condemn racism, anti-Semitism in 2016 campaign

The Anti-Defamation League and 27 other Jewish social justice organizations penned a forceful open letter imploring political candidates to put an end to the racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia they say has emerged in this year’s campaign.

Although the letter released Thursday does not mention a candidate by name, it comes during a week in which Donald Trump has fended off charges of sharing a tweet, perceived by some as anti-Semitic, that originated on a far-right internet bulletin board. The letter also alludes to affronts to Muslims, Syrian refugees and Mexicans, all of whom have been singled out by the presumptive Republican candidate during his presidential campaign.

“We are deeply concerned by suggestions that Muslim Americans should be targeted by law enforcement, simply because of their faith,” according to the letter. “We object to hurtful characterizations of entire ethnic groups as criminals. We are pained by anti-Semitic epithets hurled at Jewish Americans on social media.”

Organized by the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, a coalition of  Jewish organizations, the open letter’s signers include HIAS, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, and groups representing the Conservative and Reconstuctionist denominations.

“We share a belief that public figures, including those who aspire to hold elected office in service to people of all races and religions, have a responsibility to forcefully and unequivocally condemn these dangerous phenomena,” the letter said.

The letter invokes the experiences of Jews to emphasize the danger of allowing prejudice to spread through the words of public figures.

“The Jewish community knows all too well what can happen when particular religious or ethnic groups become the focus of invective. We have witnessed the dangerous acts that can follow verbal expressions of hate,” it said.

The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations among the signatories are not permitted to be directly involved with political activism nor show partisanship, although they may engage in advocacy on behalf of their principles.

“This letter is not about left or right, it’s about Jewish and American values,” Abby Levine, director of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, told JTA. “If any Jewish person in this country doesn’t understand, doesn’t at least acknowledge this concern and shock at what’s happening in our country, they are just not being honest about our community and our society.”

Workplace discrimination against women, racial minorities may be similar, but it’s not the same

While the U.S. currently has a black president and a woman just made history by clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, both racial minorities and women still face significant barriers in professional settings.

Considering the parallels and differences in the biases that women and racial minorities face is an important way to increase our understanding of workplace discrimination and equality. By reviewing some recent work by cross-disciplinary researchers from across the world, we attempted to shed light and theorize on some ways in which racial minorities might suffer from similar biases as those identified for women. For the sake of comprehension, we narrowed our scope to research on Asian Americans.

As our starting point, we took four patterns of workplace bias that women face as identified by a 2014 study by a research team based out of UC Hastings College of the Law’s Center for WorkLife Law. Joan C. Williams, Kathrine W. Phillips, and Erika V. Hall interviewed 60 women who work in the sciences and found that 100 percent reported experiencing one or more of four gender bias patterns.

Although these biases were identified as specific to women, by comparing them to findings from research on biases that Asian Americans face in the workplace, it becomes clear that they can also apply to racial minorities.

The first bias, “prove-it-again,” refers to when women have to provide more evidence of competence than men in order to be seen as equally competent. As the name suggests, women can find themselves in situations where they have to prove again and again that they are professional, competent, and/or intelligent. For example, a woman might have to exhibit competency at her job for a longer period before being considered for promotion than a man doing an equivalent job. 

Similarly, Asians oftentimes have to provide more evidence of competence than non-Asians. A 2013 study by Lei Lai and Linda C. Babcock found evidence that Asian Americans are evaluated as less socially skilled than whites, and are therefore less likely to be hired for a job requiring social skills (like public relations) than technical skills (like information technology). A 2013 study on the leadership theories of Asian Americans and whites found that even when Asian managers are seen as equally competent as white managers in specific metrics, on the whole whites see Asian managers as less sociable, less transformational, and less authentic compared to white managers. Like women, Asian Americans must prove their competence to a greater extent than whites, particularly in areas where stereotypes and prejudices remain.

The second bias, “tightrope,” refers to when women find themselves walking a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be competent—or too masculine to be likable. This is a difficult—not to mention unfair—balance for women to have to consider, and is often very hard to attain. Hillary Clinton is only the most recent and prominent example of a woman who has been criticized for being “too masculine” or, in more coded language, “too ambitious and eager.”

Similarly, Asians are commonly stereotyped as being more feminine and less masculine compared to whites or blacks. In 2012, Jennifer L. Berdahl and Ji-A Min examined stereotypes of East Asians (Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese) and found that they are expected to be as competent and warm as whites—but also less dominant (i.e., masculine). And a 2015 study of “gender profiling” by Erika Hall, Adam Galinsky, and Katherine Phillips found that because Asians are seen as more feminine than whites and blacks, they are seen as better fits for feminine rather than masculine positions. This could pose barriers when Asians seek positions—like police officer or banker—that are historically seen as masculine.

The third bias, “maternal wall,” refers to women finding themselves confronted with the stereotype that they lose their work commitment and competence after having kids. Men who have children don’t typically face this same stereotype in the workplace. 

There is evidence suggesting that Asian women are faced with particular biases and challenges around motherhood in professional contexts. In the same 2014 study of women scientists by Williams and colleagues, Asian women described more pressure from their families to have children than whites and blacks, and also felt more responsible to cover for colleagues who are mothers compared to Latina and white women. At the same time, Asian women were more frequently told by colleagues that they should work fewer hours after having children compared to black and Latina mothers. So Asian-American women face more pressure from their families to have children, while also experiencing more pressure from colleagues to work less after having children.

The fourth bias, “tug of war,” refers to when gender bias fuels conflict among women. In some instances, having a sexist work environment can lead women to want to distance themselves from their gender group in different ways, including by criticizing other women.

Based on the interviews reported by Williams and colleagues, Asian women had to compete with other women for a “woman’s spot” –i.e, a position intended to be filled by a woman—at higher levels than white and Latina women. This seems to suggest that for Asian women, there is more (or at least greater perceptions) of a “zero sum” situation when it comes to the workforce and women colleagues, where one woman’s gain is another woman’s loss.

Ultimately, what strikes us is that there are clear intergroup differences in how women experience and are exposed to these four different patterns of bias, depending on their racial background. Asian women’s experiences can be significantly different from black women’s experiences, and in order to create an equal and inclusive workplace for all, it is important to be aware of such differences.

Future research should look at the ways in which biases and prejudice against women compare to those against racial minorities, and study which type of interventions are most effective in reducing the effects of such biases. More study is also needed on the intersections of race and gender when it comes to workplace bias. A greater understanding and awareness of the parallels and differences between the biases that women and racial minorities face can result in more effective and efficient interventions in the workplace designed to promote inclusion for all.

Serena Does is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA Anderson School of Management and Margaret Shih is full professor at UCLA Anderson school of Management.

This article originally appeared on Zocalo Public Square.

 

 

 

 

Forget Brexit. Remember rain.

I was startled to see Laura Haim’s face on TV. It made sense that she’d be on cable news last week; as White House correspondent for the French network Canal Plus, she was well placed to tell Americans the French reaction to Brexit. What brought me up short was that I’d forgotten about her.

Without consciously deciding to, I’d filed away my recollection of watching her night after night on MSNBC, reporting what her sources were telling her about the ISIS attacks in Paris.  I’d been obsessed with that story, and fearful for my safety and my kids’, just as I’d been even more acutely after the killings in nearby San Bernardino. But at some point in the six months since then my memory of Paris and of Haim had submerged, like the alligator at Disney World, until the terrorist murders in Orlando. 

Sometimes I forget to be afraid of things. Right now I’m plenty worried about the financial and political aftermath of Brexit. I’m panicky about its impact on my nest egg, and I’m scared that the xenophobia that fueled it could also fuel a Trump win. But if the past is any guide, those fears will be displaced by future reasons for insomnia. You can’t worry about everything all the time. For weeks or months on end, I can forget to worry about earthquakes in Los Angeles, but then a serious shaker somewhere in the world will remind me that living here is licking the razor.  I often forget to worry about climate change, until a heat wave in India or a forest fire in California reminds me that most people now alive will live to see its far worse consequences.

Something similar to forgetting fears happens to me, and maybe to you, with outrage. It’s as though my bandwidth for fury has a limit. There’s only so much I can be actively, currently pissed off about; in order to get my anger pumping, new injustices need to push previous affronts off my radar. 

So I’m irate with John McCain for saying that Barack Obama is directly responsible for the slaying of 49 people in Orlando, then I’m enraged at Paul Ryan for refusing to bring gun safety to a vote, until I’m once again livid at Mitch McConnell’s refusal to bring Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination for a vote that resulted in the 4-4 tie that doomed Obama’s immigration plan. I’m boiling at CNN for hiring Trump stooge Corey Lewandowski, until I’m more maddened at the way they cover Trump’s Scottish golf resort infomercial: with a wry, What-an-inveterate-salesman tone, instead of a pitiless, What-a-corrupt-embarrassment.

All the while that fear and outrage are running zero-sum games for dominance of my headspace, even as I forget to be afraid or outraged by anything but the most immediate ugly news, there’s something else I forget unless it forces itself on my attention. But when the breaking news is the sound that rain makes, or the shape of a leaf, or the fact that there is something rather than nothing: that’s when I recall that noticing what is is not a finite human faculty.

We have a limitless capacity for amazement.  Mindfulness is not a zero-sum game. If you pay attention to the crackle of a strawberry seed in your mouth, that wonderment does not displace a prior alertness to existence; it adds to it. Ordinary mysticism — the experience of being right here, right now, whether you’re by the ocean or by the washing machine — is cumulative. The more you have, the more you have. It’s a mercy that we can’t keep in mind all the reasons the world forces on us to be frightened or furious; if we did, our heads would explode, and our spirits would be suicidal. It’s something of a miracle that when it comes to awe, we can contain multitudes.

Right now, any sign that Donald Trump could be our next president has a good shot at owning my mind. I see that the Brexit vote is disproportionately powered by elderly Britons, and I see in that a mirror of Trump’s base. I see “Leave” campaign leader Nigel Farrage promise that if the U.K. exits the E.U., the National Health Service will get the 350 million pounds per week that Britain gives Europe; I see the British press try in vain to debunk that claim; the morning after the vote, I see Farrage admit it was a “mistake” (i.e., lie) — and I think of another liar’s immune-to-fact-checking promise: “Who will pay for the wall?” “Mexico!” I see that within hours of the Brexit outcome, more than a million establishment-kicking, remorseful British voters have signed a petition for a re-vote, and I imagine the American hangover the morning after the send-them-a-message victory of President-elect Trump.

Minds are funny. A North Korean nuke would take mine off Trump. So would a news fast. I’m just glad that no one needs a nightmare or a digital detox to surrender to a starry night.   

Jewish Journal columnist and USC Annenberg professor Marty Kaplan won 1st Place for Commentary at the Los Angeles Press Club's 58th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards on June 26. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Will Donald Trump make America hate again?

For decades, it seemed that the visuals of Nazi propaganda — replete with hunch-backed, leering, long-nosed Chasidic Jews — had vanished. Then came the internet.

Virulently anti-Semitic imagery has made its way into the presidential campaign, materializing, for instance, in Julia Ioffe’s inbox and social media feeds after the Jewish reporter wrote a profile in GQ of Melania Trump, who found the article unflattering.

Now, members of the Jewish world who pay close attention to hate speech — anti-Semitic and otherwise — are posing an unsettling question: Will Donald Trump make America hate again? For some, the answer is that he already has.

“Trump’s rhetoric resonates with white supremacists,” said Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with the Center on Extremism, a branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“They’ve been essentially energized about Trump’s candidacy, and they’ve been very vocal about their support of Trump and his policies on immigration and globalism,” Mendelson said.

In February, the ADL published a list of 10 prominent white supremacists who actively support Trump. Then, in April, it urged the candidate to drop the phrase “America First” as a campaign slogan, pointing out it had been used by Charles Lindbergh, a prominent Nazi sympathizer, in the 1940s.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another prominent Jewish organization monitoring hate speech, has stopped short of calling out Trump by name. 

But in an emailed statement to the Jewish Journal, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, wrote, “No political candidate for high office of any sort should allow hate groups and bigots to pollute their campaign by peddling their hatred.”  

Trump’s tough stance on immigrants, paired with his anti-establishment ethos, seems to have made him the most palatable candidate in decades for white supremacists, who otherwise have been slowly fading into the country’s political fringe.

William Johnson, who was named on the ADL list, explained that Trump’s promise to put American interests first speaks to the concerns of white nationalists (he rejects the term “white supremacist,” calling it “the worst swear word out there”).

As the chairman of the anti-immigrant American Freedom Party, Johnson favors the creation of a white ethno-state.

A corporate lawyer in downtown Los Angeles, Johnson became entangled in the Trump campaign last month when he applied to become a California delegate to the Republican convention, and his name was accidentally included in the list of Trump convention delegates sent to the California secretary of state.

“Virtually all of the white nationalist movement is behind Donald Trump,” Johnson said in an interview with the Journal at the time.

In a second interview with the Journal, Johnson said the support stems from the fact that every other major presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has promoted a globalist agenda of open borders and multiculturalism.

“They’re all promoting the globalist platform that Donald Trump is now tearing apart,” he said.

He added that many members of his community are also tacitly rooting for Bernie Sanders because of his anti-establishment stance.

In the interview, Johnson drew a line between white nationalists who see Jews as benign, saying Ashkenazis “would probably be considered white,” and those who see them as problematic non-whites. Johnson said he belongs to the first camp.

On the other side of that split is David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Last month, Duke praised Trump on his radio show for exposing “Jewish supremacists who control our country.”

“Many people are upset with the Zionist elite,” Duke wrote in an email to the Journal, describing himself as “a Gentile who loves his own people as much as Jews love their own people.” 

Duke declined to comment further.

Mendelson, the ADL researcher, questioned the existence of a clean divide between white supremacists who hate Jews and those who don’t.

“I look at many of those folks as ecumenical haters,” she said. “You can’t parse out their hatred for Jews, because really their hatred extends across the spectrum.”

While some haters are willing to speak out in public, she said, many “might not do so boldly in their workplace or on the street corner or at that rally.” Instead, they take to the internet.

“I’ve talked with many who agree with my opinions on Jewish influence, but it’s a very tricky subject to talk about in public,” a 22-year-old engineer from Houston, who declined to be named for this story, wrote in a private message on Twitter.

Posting under the handle @NationalismRise, the engineer has described a target of his ire as a “filthy kike,” tweeted pictures of swastikas and referred to The New York Times as the “Jew York Times.” He describes himself as a Trump supporter and a member of the alt-right movement, a fringe group of ultra-nationalist ideologies that challenges mainstream conservatism.

Asked why he believes Trump will stand up to Jewish political interests, he said, “The proof is in the pudding.”

“The amount of hate & vitriol aimed at Trump from Jewish members of the media & high finance has been constant for the last year,” he wrote.

He echoed Johnson’s sentiment that Trump would do away with the pervasive globalism of America’s foreign policy: “I believe his America First foreign policy and criticism of the neoconservative movement implies he will be much less likely to carry water for Israel.”

While Ioffe may have been the first high-profile case of a journalist finding herself on the business end of a stream of Trump-inspired, anti-Semitic Twitter invective, she is not the last.

After retweeting a Washington Post essay that called Trump “perilous to the republic,” New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman saw his feed flooded with Jew-bashing messages and images, including a cartoon of Weisman in a gas chamber with a yellow star on his lapel and a Nazified Donald Trump standing guard.

In a Times op-ed, Weisman castigated Trump for failing to rein in his supporters. He also took aim at the Republican Jewish Coalition for failing to single out Trump in a May 24 statement condemning anti-Semitic attacks on journalists, “whether it be from Sanders, Clinton or Trump supporters.”

“In Mr. Trump, many in the alt-right have found an imperfect vessel for their cause, but they have poured their rage into his campaign without impediment,” Weisman wrote. “Mr. Trump apparently takes all comers.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, never forget necessitates never Trump

Today, on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we pledge to never forget the genocide of 12 million people, based on their religion, ethnicity, sexuality, and other factors. We do this so that we always remember that it is the duty of each and every one of us to fight genocide, anti-Semitism, and bigotry in every form that we see it.

This week, Donald Trump cemented his place as Republican presidential nominee. More than any other year, I’m cognizant today of my responsibility to speak up against the hatred that Donald Trump espouses day after day.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, ‘Never Forget’ necessitates ‘Never Trump.’

The unhinged bigotry of Trump requires Jewish Americans – and all Americans – to speak up. Trump has been perfectly clear with his pledge that as president – in fact, within the first 100 days of his presidency – he’ll ban Muslims from entering the country. He kicked off his campaign describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” When a Trump supporter punched an African American protester at one of Trump’s rallies, saying, “next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” Trump said that the protester “obviously loves the country” and that Trump would pay the protester’s legal fees.

Trump legitimizes and raises up the profile of the white nationalist movement in the United States. He at first refused to disavow support from former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.  Yesterday, Duke celebrated Donald Trump’s place as leader of the Republican Party, stating, “Even though Trump is not explicitly talking about European-Americans, he is implicitly talking about the interests of European-Americans,” and “Jewish supremacists who control our country are the real problem and the reason why America is not great.” And Trump says he “doesn’t have a message to [his] fans” who have been sending death threats to Jewish reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a profile for GQ on Melania Trump.

When we see this, how can we do anything but speak out? It’s this type of rhetoric that has escalated to genocide in the past. I hope we can put partisan politics aside, and agree that no person hoping to be the next president of the United States should promote racist policies or use xenophobic rhetoric.

It should deeply trouble all Americans that Donald Trump is empowering white nationalists across the country and basing his campaign on demonizing people based on their race and religion. We’re at a pivotal moment in our country. Republican or Democrat, we have an obligation to speak up against the bigotry of Trump. As we pledge on Holocaust Remembrance Day to never forget, we must commit to Never Trump as well.

Britain’s Labour reportedly has suspended 50 members over racism, anti-Semitism

Britain’s Labour Party reportedly has secretly suspended 50 members in the past two months over anti-Semitic and racist comments.

The suspensions by the party’s compliance unit were reported in the British daily The Telegraph on Monday evening, citing a senior source within the party. Up to 20 members have been suspended in the past two weeks, the source said. Some 13 members have been publicly named since October.

On Monday, the party suspended three local lawmakers over a span of several hours for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic social media postings.

The Daily Mirror accused party head Jeremy Corbyn of playing down the issue of anti-Semitism and racism in the party after he said in an interview with the London-based newspaper: ‘What there is is a very small number of people that have said things that they should not have done. We have therefore said they will be suspended and investigated.”

On April 28, the party suspended former London Mayor Ken Livingstone for saying that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was a Zionist for advocating in 1932 a policy of moving Europe’s Jews to Israel.

The following day, Labour said it would launch an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party. Corbyn also said in a statement that he would propose a new party code of conduct that would “make explicitly clear for the first time that Labour will not tolerate any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, in the party.”

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who has called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends,” has been criticized for not doing enough to curb the rising anti-Semitic rhetoric in his party and has been accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.

Local elections in Britain, including for mayor of London, are scheduled for Thursday in a race that Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, is favored to win, which would make him the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city. Labour, however, is expected to lose tens of seats nationwide. Khan is among those who have called for Livingstone’s expulsion from the party.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Member of Parliament Naz Shah, who was suspended from the party last week for a a 2014 Facebook post called for relocating the entire State of Israel to the United States, resigned from a Home Affairs Select Committee investigating anti-Semitism in the party. The committee agreed at her request to excuse Shah “until her current issues have been resolved,” The Telegraph reported.

Top Reform bodies renew call for Redskins to change name, logo

Two top Reform movement groups reiterated their call on the Washington Redskins NFL franchise to change its name and logo.

“’Redskin’ is a racial slur that references the deplorable treatment of American Indians that has been a significant part of this country’s history,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who heads Reform’s Religious Action Center, said in a letter delivered Monday to the franchise’s headquarters by “Change the Mascot,” a group advocating for the change.

“The logo, seemingly attempting to draw upon the archetype of an Indian warrior, blatantly mocks a culture that struggles to survive,” said the letter, addressed to Dan Snyder, who is Jewish, and who in the past has called on Jewish groups to defend him against what he perceived to be anti-Jewish slurs.

Also writing to the team was the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis.

“The intransigence of Redskins ownership is appalling, particularly in light of the tremendous offense that Native American Indians continue to experience as a result of the team’s inappropriate, insulting name,” said the letter signed by Rabbi Denise Eger, the CCAR president, and Rabbi Steven Fox, its CEO.

Reform bodies have advocated for a change of name for the team for decades. The Anti-Defamation League has also repeatedly called for a name-change.

Why campus anti-racism protests are bad for the Jews

A day before University of Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler made headlines with a hunger strike protesting racism on campus, a coalition of 36 Jewish and civil rights organizations contacted University Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to protest a vile act of anti-Semitism that had recently occurred at Mizzou: Someone had used feces to smear a swastika on a bathroom wall.

In our letter, we criticized Loftin for not promptly and publicly addressing this act, which targeted Jewish students and made them feel threatened and unsafe. Little did we know that Butler, in an open letter to the university’s leadership in early November, would cite the swastika as his last straw, the latest in a “a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic” incidents that drove him to swear off all food unless the university president was removed.

The threats worked. Less than a week after beginning his hunger strike, Mizzou President Tim Wolfe stepped down. Hours later, Loftin followed suit.

For those of us who had urged Loftin to publicly condemn the swastika, the question looming large in our minds was: Would Butler’s actions help our right against anti-Semitism at Mizzou?

There was every reason to be optimistic. After all, Butler’s successful protest was directed toward administrators who had not responded promptly to campus discrimination. Surely anti-Semitism requires the same vigorous treatment as racism, sexism and homophobia. Why shouldn’t the spotlight Butler was shining on the unacceptable discrimination and harassment of African-American, female and LGBTQ students also illuminate the rising threat Jewish students face regularly?

In no time, that question took on national significance. Butler’s hunger strike has sparked a national student movement demanding an end to “systemic and structural racism.” Again we asked, could this be a positive development for Jewish students, who themselves suffer systemic and structural anti-Semitism? On far too many campuses Jewish students report being harassed, assaulted, threatened, vilified and discriminated against, their property defaced and destroyed, and their events disrupted and shut down. Could this new anti-racism movement finally help provide Jewish students the attention they deserve?

Unfortunately, the current rash of campus protests has shown itself to be far more likely to hurt Jewish students than to help them. There are three main reasons why.

First, university administrators are less likely to address anti-Semitism in the wake of the Mizzou-inspired protests. In part, this is because administrators are so overwhelmed with meeting or deflecting the demands of protesters — and making sure they themselves do not meet the same fate as Mizzou’s president and chancellor — they simply do not have the time or energy to focus on Jewish students.

Administrators are also afraid of appearing to favor Jewish students. Recently, I called a top administrator at the University of Central Florida to discuss some neo-Nazi fliers that had been posted in and around UCF dormitories. I expressed my dismay that although the fliers had been discovered several days before, the university had yet to make a public statement about them. The administrator responded that he was afraid to do so lest it be seen by campus protesters as pandering to Jewish interests and lead to further campus unrest. University administrators too busy or too scared to address anti-Semitism leave Jewish students vulnerable and unprotected.

Second, anti-Israel student groups who often target Jewish students for harassment and discrimination have opportunistically aligned themselves with anti-racism protesters to more forcefully promote their anti-Zionist agenda. At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, for example, anti-Israel groups have insinuated into the protesters’ demands a call for UNC to immediately divest from “Israeli apartheid.” The manipulative injection of such demands into the anti-racism movement and the alliances being forged will likely make the campus climate even more hostile, threatening and unsafe for Jewish students.

Finally, Jewish students themselves have been accused of racism for speaking out about the anti-Semitism they experience. For example, on an official University of California, Santa Cruz website dedicated to educating the campus community about subtle forms of bigotry known as “microaggressions,” one of the examples given is a Jewish student’s statement to an African-American student: “I don’t get why you’re excluding me like this. I’m Jewish; I know oppression.”

Even though the Jewish student is simply expressing feelings of marginalization and oppression, the statement is considered a microaggression because of the student’s socioeconomic status. Indeed, in a campus climate hypersensitive to the intersectionality of race and class, Jewish students may not even be able to talk about anti-Semitism without being labeled racist.

While no one knows for sure how long the current campus unrest will last or how much impact it will ultimately have, there are clear signs that Jewish students will not be among its beneficiaries and are quite likely to be among its greatest casualties.

(Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the co-founder and director of the Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that combats campus anti-Semitism.)

‘Black lives matter’: it requires more than rhetoric

Everyone agrees that “Black lives matter.” The question that persists and transcends the rhetoric is how to minimize those deaths. A new study is critically important to understanding the events that have animated so many across the country.

Although the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement argues that the problem is inherent police bias and racism, a new paper suggests the real problem is far more complex and that race bias plays little, if any, role in the disproportionate number of African-American deaths at the hands of law enforcement.

Black Lives Matter has purveyed a narrative that “Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” That belief leads not only to activism but to a rejection of “respectability politics” (their words).

So entrenched has its worldview become that BLM adherents have no compunction about shouting down presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, both liberals, to evidence their displeasure. One of their spokesmen accused the L.A. mayor of having “neglected, disrespected and abused the Black community for far too long” as it disrupted his presentation at an African-American church.

Ever since the death of Trayvon Martin (which gave birth to the movement) and the later deaths of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Michael Brown, there has been virtually universal acceptance of the notion that cops are out to target and kill Blacks — daring to suggest that all lives matter is considered heresy.

If you doubt the pervasiveness of their viewpoint, try convincing a millennial that the situation is more complex than BLM presents it. Try suggesting that anecdotal evidence of six or 10 cases across a country of 350 million people with about 34,000 arrests per day does not tell a complete story — it’s a tough slog.

The reality is that data that would support the claim that law enforcement is targeting Blacks for “demise” are woefully inadequate. Neither the FBI nor the National Center for Health Statistics keeps consistent reliable data; their “totals can vary wildly,” according to The New York Times. As the Times reported in 2014, “Whether or not racial bias is a significant factor in police homicides is very much an open question.”

Despite that uncertainty, the protests continue and the given wisdom remains given.

But recently, Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan published a thoughtful, data-driven article that seeks to divine what the official data don’t by themselves reveal. He extrapolates from what is known and draws conclusions.

Mullainathan concludes that, indeed, Blacks are being killed by cops at a disproportionately higher rate (about two and a half times their percentage of the population) but it is likely not the result of bigotry on the part of the police.

Although bias may enter the equation, the fact that Blacks have such a disproportionately higher number of encounters with police results in multiple problems. Every police encounter contains a risk: The officer might be poorly trained, might act with malice or simply make a mistake, and civilians might do something that is perceived as a threat. The omnipresence of guns exaggerates all these risks.

Such risks exist for people of any race — after all, many people killed by police officers are not Black. But having more encounters with police officers, even with officers entirely free of racial bias, can create a greater risk of a fatal shooting.

The article reveals that the percentage of Black arrestees (28.9 percent) and the percentage of descriptions (by victims and witnesses) of suspects who are Black (30 percent) is sufficiently close to the 31.8 percent of the police shooting victims who are African-American to suggest that “if police discrimination were a big factor in the actual killings, we would have expected a larger gap between the arrest rate and the police-killing rate.”

He deals with the possibility that Blacks may be arrested disproportionately to other groups because of racism but suggests that the more likely reasons are the higher percentage of descriptions of suspects (noted above) who are Black and the deployment of police to high-crime areas that tend to be poor and disproportionately Black — two reasons not ascribable to racism by individual cops.

Mullainathan does not argue that police bias might not play a role in the death of African Americans at the hands of police but rather that even if one eliminated “the biases of all police officers [it] would do little to materially reduce the total number of African American killings.”

He does not despair that there is nothing that can be done, but rather he asserts that the focus should be on drug laws and their enforcement. Those laws are among the main reasons that Blacks are more frequently arrested.

If the laws did not so heavily target drug sellers and the disparity between the punishment for crack cocaine (more widely used by African-Americans) and powder cocaine (by whites) were reduced, Black arrest and incarceration rates might decline. If society can reduce the number of encounters that occur between cops and Blacks, the likelihood of bad things happening will also be reduced.

Congress, in one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement, is likely to reduce drug crimes and incarceration rates this year in an attempt to make them fairer, more effective and less costly.

Clearly, this is a complex phenomenon with multiple moving parts — there are no simple answers and there is much work to be done. But what seems equally clear from the data is that cops are responding to the laws that are on the books, and the actions they see and that are reported to them — they are not a collection of bigots out to abuse, disrespect and murder the Black community.


David A. Lehrer is the president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los Angeles-based human relations organization chaired by former L.A. Mayor Richard J. Riordan. For 27 years, he served locally with the Anti-Defamation League, as its counsel and regional director. Joe R. Hicks is a political commentator and vice president of Community Advocates Inc.

Most religious Zionists want Arabs out of Israel, study finds

During the previous wave of terror in Israel, 11 months ago, Jewish Home party chairman Naftali Bennett said in a speech, “99.9 percent of Arab-Israelis are loyal to the State of Israel, and there’s a very small minority that acts against it.”

Apparently, his religious Zionist constituency disagrees.

A new poll by the Miskar agency, which surveys Israel’s religious Zionist population, found high levels of antagonism and mistrust toward Arab-Israelis. Contrary to polls of Arab-Israelis themselves, most religious Zionists believe that Arab-Israelis are hostile to Israel. A large majority see Arab-Israelis as a threat and would like to see the government push them to leave the country.

“The religious Zionist sector takes very extreme and unequivocal positions in terms of Israeli Arabs’ loyalty to the state, their posing an immediate and long-term security danger, and the need, therefore, for declarations of loyalty and a prepared plan for [population] transfer,” the poll’s analysis section read.

The pollsters surveyed 480 religious Zionists — defined by Jewish observance level and self-identification. The margin of error was 4.5 percent. Here’s a closer look at some of the major findings.

Religious Zionists view Arab-Israelis as an existential threat to the country. Four-fifths of religious Zionists believe Muslim Arab-Israelis are hostile to Israel and its Jewish citizens. Nearly 70 percent believe they pose a short-term existential threat to Israel, and 84 percent believe they pose a long-term existential threat. Less than one-fifth believe Arab-Israelis oppose violence and want to integrate into Israeli society.

These findings contradict the stated feelings of Arab-Israelis. According to a 2014 Israel Democracy Institutepoll, nearly 60 percent of Arab-Israelis “feel part of the State of Israel and its problems.” Nearly two-thirds feel proud to be an Israeli. Forty percent say integrating Jews and Arabs should be Israel’s top priority.

Most religious Zionists want Arab-Israelis to leave. A majority of religious Zionists support reopening a public discussion about the forced transfer of Arab-Israelis from the state. Three-quarters want the government to prepare a practical plan to encourage Muslim Arab-Israelis to emigrate. And should Arab Muslims stay in Israel, two-thirds of religious Zionists believe they should have to swear a loyalty oath to the state.

Most religious Zionists boycott Arab businesses. Seventy percent of religious Zionists support a boycott of Arab businesses. Less than 38 percent believe economic cooperation between Arab and Jewish Israelis is important.

Religious Zionists don’t believe Israel is racist toward Arabs. Only one-third of religious Zionists believe Arab-Israelis face significant racism. Only 17 percent believe Arab Muslims have difficulty integrating because of discrimination. And only 30 percent believe Arab-Israeli communities suffer from a lack of government investment, despite research showing that Israeli Jews receive greater government investment per capita than Arabs.

According to theIsrael Democracy Institute poll, a majority of Arabs-Israelis do feel discriminated against.

Two seconds: An exploration of racial (in)justice and privilege in the United States

On Friday July 10, at 7:22 a.m., Steve Julian, the host of KPCC’s Morning Edition reported the following, “About 20 minutes ago a Color Guard in South Carolina lowered the Confederate flag at the state capitol, stretched it out, rolled it up, tied a string around it. That flag no longer flies.”

☻☻☻

In the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my family moved from Orange County, California, to Nixa, a small town in Southwest Missouri.  I started at Nixa High School two months later.  A few new realities hit me too slowly.  In reviewing these facts twenty years later, it seems as if they would have been immediately obvious.  But, as a 15 year-old, I remember them striking me in the chest as sharp realizations.  I confronted them first in US History class:

· This is not California.  I am living in a new state with a different capitol and a different history. 

· Missouri was divided during the Civil War.

· Nixa was in the South.

· There is a Civil War battleground a few miles from my house.

· I have classmates wearing Confederate flag t-shirts.  I have classmates who display Confederate flags on the back windows of their pickups.

It had never dawned on me before that moment to think that much about the Civil War, our nation’s history of slavery, or Civil Rights.  My family had moved to the South and I hadn’t even realized it. 

The battle of Wilson’s Creek took place on August 10, 1861.  The battlefield lies 9 miles northwest of my family home.  According to the Civil War Trust, “This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north….  Wilson’s Creek, the most significant 1861 battle in Missouri, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.”[1]

I was living 9 miles from a battleground that decided the fate of the new state in which I was living, making my new hometown a part of the south.  And I had no idea.

This is the definition of white privilege.  I moved to an essentially all white school in the middle of nowhere and I never once thought about my safety.

☻☻☻

I was living in Israel on September 11, 2001 and was out of the country for the first months of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Living in Israel at this time meant living smack in the middle of the Second Intifada. We listened to bombs exploding as we fell asleep at night.  When I finally returned home to the US in May and I approached the passport counter, I remember feeling very American.  And, I surprised myself when, looking into the eyes a uniformed Border Control agent, what I felt was incredibly safe. Throughout my life, when I have looked at law enforcement officers, I have felt safe.

☻☻☻

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was pulled over on July 10, 2015, for failing to signal a lane change.  And then the situation “escalated.”  The truth is: “escalated” is a euphemism for what happened next.  Let’s be clear here, at this point, the encounter between Sandra Bland and State Trooper Brian Encinia should have been over. Bland had been issued her traffic citation and she should have been free to go.  Instead, Encinia asked Sandra if she was ok.  She told him she was irritated.  She said she was changing lanes to get out of his way and now she was getting a ticket and she was irritated.  Actually, what she said was, “I am a little irritated.”[2]

Encinia then asked Bland to put out her cigarette.  She said, “I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?”  He said, “Well, you can step on out now.” 

You can step on out now. 

And then the officer who pulled Sandra over proceeded to threaten her with a stun gun, “I will light you up,” he said.  “I am going to drag you out of there.”

And then he pulled her from her vehicle.  He handcuffed her.  She said he pushed her to the ground.  She was charged with assaulting a public servant. Bland was arrested and taken to jail.  In released video footage from the jail, we see her emerging from the bathroom after changing out of the long dress she was wearing into an orange jumpsuit.  As she sits down on a bench, next to the folded mattress and blanket she had just been issued, we see her wiping her eyes. 

I wonder: At what point did her outrage mix with blood chilling fear?

Three days later, she was found dead, strangled in her cell with a trashcan liner around her neck.  Her death is being investigated as a murder.

Why?  How?  How in the world is this possible?  In the United States.  In 2015.  How?  How is a woman threatened with a stun gun, pulled out of her car, handcuffed, and arrested?  For failing to signal a lane change. 

☻☻☻

On November 22, 2014, a man in Cleveland, Ohio, made a call to 911.  The caller reported seeing a person, he thought it was a juvenile, holding a gun, he thought it was fake.

Video images released after the fact show a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, playing with an airsoft gun.[3]  When I saw the video, that is just what I saw.  A boy playing with a toy gun.  He reminded me of my nephew.  What happened next is horrifically unimaginable.  Except it was very real.  Cleveland Police officer Tim Loehmann and his partner arrived on the scene. 

One one thousand.  Two one thousand.  Bang. 

Two seconds.

That is how long from when Loehmann arrived on the scene to when he shot Tamir Rice dead.

Two seconds.

He was a 12-year-old boy.

When I first saw the video, I was sure it was a time-lapse reel.  I was sure the footage had been accelerated.  In fact, I tried googling the unaltered original.  But, no.  What I was seeing was unedited, real.  A police officer pulling up to a scene, jumping out of his car, and shooting a child dead. 

Minutes later, Tamir’s 14 year-old sister came running up.  She saw her brother lying dead.  She rushed to him.  Police tackled her to the ground and put her in handcuffs.[4]  I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma she experienced at the hands of law enforcement that day.  14 years old.  12 years old.  These children were b’nai mitzvah age.

☻☻☻

When I first saw the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest I started to cry.  What if that were me?  I was breathless, shaking, imagining the fear she must have felt, face slammed into the ground.  I’m sure I would have been angry and defiant and outraged.  And so incredibly scared. 

But, of course, this would never happen to me.  Not in a million years.

This is my white privilege.  I am free to drive my car.  And, if I do something wrong, I may or may not be pulled over for a traffic stop.  And, if I were to get frustrated at a stop, I can easily imagine it being excused.  And, I would drive away.

☻☻☻

In a conversation about white privilege, a colleague once challenged me with the following:  Privilege means believing that you can work the system.  Any system. That you can talk your way out of things, that you can negotiate, that you can change an outcome. And you can do all this with a feeling of confidence.  And safety.

☻☻☻

A recent poll shows that 55% of Californians and 85% of African-Americans in California believe that “blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system.”[5]  A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.[6]

☻☻☻

This summer I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me.  The book is composed as a letter, from Coates to his sixteen-year-old son.  He writes the book in response to his son’s feelings of despair when he learns that the police officers responsible for Michael Brown’s death and for subsequently leaving his body to roast for four hours in the summer heat on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, would go free.[7]

Coates describes the moment like this:

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free.  The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished.  It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished.  But you were young and still believed.  You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying.  I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.  I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay.[8]

Coates reveals a heartbreaking truth.  He goes on to explain:

What I know is that when they loosed the killer of Michael Brown, you said, “I’ve got to go.”  And that cut me because, for all our differing worlds, at your age my feeling was exactly the same.  And I recall that even then I had not yet begun to imagine the perils that tangle us.  You still believe the injustice was Michael Brown.  You have not yet grappled with your own myths and narratives and discovered the plunder everywhere around us.[9]

Each time a police officer engages us, death, injury, maiming is possible.  It is not enough to say that this is true of anyone or more true of criminals.[10]

☻☻☻

In reading Coates’ letter to his son, so full of a father’s raw feelings of fear and love and loss and anger, I couldn’t help but think of my own ten-month-old daughter.

Dear Sela,

You were born eight days before Tamir Rice was shot dead.  You came into this world filled with promise and future.  In your first seconds of life, I held you to my chest and you looked into my eyes, and I thought, “I know you.”  And know you, I did.  My heart burst with a love I could not have imagined possible and such feelings of hope.

In the weeks after you were born, a family friend, who is African American, told the following story to your mom:  Her 10 year-old son was playing in the backyard and he jumped the fence to get his ball back when it flew over into the neighbor’s yard.  When she saw her son, walking along the back of the house, head framed by his hoodie, she went ice cold with fear.  She sat him down.  “You cannot jump fences,” she said.  You never know who could see you and what they could think.  Maybe your white friends can jump a fence to get a ball.  But you cannot.  Ever.  He looked at her.  Afraid, confused, amused.  What could possibly happen to him for jumping a fence?

My dear sweet, little girl this is what I want for you:  To grow up in a country where every child is allowed to be a child.  To make foolish mistakes and live to learn from them.  To play with a toy.  To jump a neighbor’s fence.  To fetch a lost ball.  To walk down the street holding candy and soda.  To wear a sweatshirt.  To feel safe.

☻☻☻

What Coates is trying to get through to his son is that the shooting of Michael Brown was not an isolated event.  Nor was Sandra Bland being pulled over, nor her arrest.  Tamir Rice’s murder was not a fluke of the system.[11]

TIOH’s Social Action Vice President, Heidi Segal, who has had an extensive law career working within the criminal justice system, worked hard to impress Coates’ point upon me. She explained:

Discretion is a necessary feature of our criminal justice system, and when exercised properly it can even promote a fairer and more just result, as opposed to a system that has mandatory sentencing.  I think that the problem with our system is that there are so many points where discretion is exercised, and it generally goes unchecked and with no transparency. This is where racial and other biases come into play.  “And that is where the impact can be both immediate and tragic – like Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, and also more subtle, long-ranging. 

What Heidi is describing is systemic and institutionalized racism. 

☻☻☻

One month ago, on August 19, I arrived at Ebenezer Baptist West Church in Athens, Georgia, along with 25 others marchers.  That day, I took 32,000 steps for justice, walking 15 of the 860 miles that separate Selma, Alabama, from Washington, D.C.  I joined a contingency of almost 200 Reform Rabbis who helped make the journey, carrying a sefer torah, a Torah scroll the entire length of the march.  The Journey for Justice was focused on issues of education, economic inequality, youth, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.[12]

Throughout the day, I marched with the President and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.  After the walk, I had the chance to share dinner with Mr. Brooks, and he shared the following story with our table:  One night, I was driving home from work and a police car pulled me over.  I stopped and immediately rolled down my windows, turned on the light in my car, put my wallet – driver’s license and insurance card up – on the dashboard, and put my hands on the wheel, as I always do when I am pulled over.  The officer came up to my window and asked, “Why did you pull over?”  I answered him:  “I pulled over because you pulled me over.”  Then he asked me, “What are you doing out here?”  I answered:  “I’m driving home.  I’ve worked a long day and I’m exhausted.  I’m just trying to drive home.”  The officer looked back at me, “I’ve worked a long day too.  And, I’m just trying to drive home too.” 

And that is when Mr. Brooks realized:  The officer had not pulled him over.  He was so conditioned to a police car following him to detain him, that he had pulled himself over.

☻☻☻

There is a problem with racial profiling in this country.  In this state.  And, what I have learned is that people of color have millions and millions of stories that sound a lot like Mr. Brooks’.  Heidi Segal continued her explanation:

It all starts with an officer’s discretion in pulling over or stopping an individual, the decision whether to search that person, the decision whether or not to arrest them, the decision to charge, the decision of what the charges should be – infraction, misdemeanor, felony, the decision to ask for bail, the decision to set bail, the decision to take the case to trial or offer a plea bargain, and what the sentence should be. And even later, what happens to them when they get incarcerated, when they will be released, and the conditions set on them.  It goes on and on. The point is that once you are in that system, you are at the mercy of these unchecked discretionary decisions.

It all starts with an officer’s discretion.  Listen to that statistic that I shared with you a few minutes ago, once again:  A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.[13]

And so, even if we, as individuals, hold firmly to a belief that we, individually, have transcended racism as we understand it, we are still responsible.  We have to make real and deep changes to transcend the privilege that is automatically extended to many of us, and join together in dismantling the systemic and institutionalized racism that permeates too many areas of the social and legal fibers of our country.

How do we begin to change a shockingly broken criminal justice system?  We stop the encounter before it starts. 

In the state of California, Reform Jews from over a hundred congregations, in connection with Reform CA, are working to pass AB 953, a piece of legislation that will respond to the problem of racial and identity profiling, as well as call on law enforcement to have more transparency. 

This legislation will make it illegal for law enforcement officers to profile someone not only based on race, but also based on gender identity, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation. 

This legislation will require peace officers to be transparent about the date, time, and location of a stop.  The reason for the stop.  The result of the stop (even if it resulted in no action).  Finally, officers will be asked to report what they perceived the race or ethnicity, gender, and approximate age of the person to be.

I discussed this notion of transparency with a sheriff’s deputy.  He explained to me that public perception of law enforcement in our state is skewed.  He explained that this sort of profiling is not occurring.  AB 953 will build trust between the community and law enforcement.  We will be able to see real data regarding those points of discretion Heidi taught us about.  From the very first moment.  And, if there is a problem of profiling, this bill gives our state the ability to respond to it.  It calls for the formation of a non-partisan Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, which will review and respond to these issues.

This bill has already passed the Senate and is heading back to the State Assembly.  Now all we need is for Governor Brown to sign it into law.  But, our governor is wavering.  He needs to know that this law matters to us.  One of the action steps I want to invite you to take today is to fill out a pledge card, pledging your support to learn more about this bill, and, hopefully, to take the concrete action of making a phone call or sending an email to our Governor, asking him to sign this bill into law. 

The other invitation I have for you is to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book and join me and an activist I met on the Journey for Justice, Keshia Thomas, in a conversation about Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, criminal justice, and the goals for the Journey for Justice in October.  Keshia and I are still settling on the exact date because, after 45 days and 860 miles of marching, Keisha Thomas is taking her last steps into Washington DC as we speak.  And so, even though we began planning as she marched down rural roads of Virginia, we still are working on setting an exact date.  If you don’t know Keshia Thomas’ story, remember her name and google her later or ask me about her during the luncheon.  She is not a speaker you will want to miss.

☻☻☻

Here is what I have left to say, a message I have, in fact, been delivering all along:

In his sermon on Rosh HaShanah, the thirteenth century rabbi Ramban questions why Torah calls Nissan (the Hebrew month in the spring during which we celebrate Passover) the first month and it calls Tishrei (the month we began yesterday) the seventh month.  Ramban explains that Nissan is indeed, the first month of the year, when you look at the world through the prism of the Jews.  The exodus from Egypt, which happened in Nissan, marks our people’s real beginning.  It is the beginning of our story. 

Rosh HaShanah, on the other hand, is the beginning of the world’s story.  It celebrates the birth of humanity, the totality of existence, the world.  Throughout time, Jews have marked this new year, the universal day one, as the first day of our New Year.  Our own story of redemption has a part in the mix, but it is not at the forefront.

Our tradition has always been clear:  On Rosh HaShanah, our responsibility is to see our own existence in a global context.  This is the time we are meant to look outward in order to look inward.  This is the time to see:  The world’s story is our story.  Our neighbor’s narrative is our narrative.  Our brother’s plight is our plight.  Our sister’s struggle is our struggle.

And so, today I mourn the loss of twenty-eight-year-old Sandra Brown, who was excited to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University, and Tamir Rice, a sixth grader at Marion-Seltzer Elementary School.  I highlight the story of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the tears of his son Samori.  I tell my own story and I hope, make space for you to imagine yours.

On this, the day in which Jewish tradition invites us to look at ourselves and the world around us and recommit ourselves to the tikkun, the repair, of them both 

On this, the day on which we celebrate another 364 opportunities to wake committed to healing…

On this day, I declare:  Let 5776 be a year of tzedek, a year of justice.  Let 5776 be the year we take collective action.  Let 5776 be the year that everything begins to change.

Shanah Tovah, may this be a good year for all of us.


[1]http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/wilsonscreek.html?referrer=https://www.google.com

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/22/what-cops-are-saying-about-the-sandra-bland-video/

[3] http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-tamir-rice-investigation-documents-20150613-story.html

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/us/in-tamir-rice-shooting-in-cleveland-many-errors-by-police-then-a-fatal-one.html

[5] http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0951-1000/ab_953_cfa_20150511_173248_asm_comm.html

[6] http://dignityandpowernow.org/ab-953-imagining-an-existence-without-racial-profiling/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/us/michael-brown-a-bodys-timeline-4-hours-on-a-ferguson-street.html?_r=0

[8] Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 11.

[9] Coates 21.

[10] Coates, 131.

[11] http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/officer-who-killed-tamir-rice-found-unfit-previous-police-job

[12] http://www.naacp.org/ajfj

[13] http://dignityandpowernow.org/ab-953-imagining-an-existence-without-racial-profiling/

Letters to the editor: The evil you know, racial disparities and more

The Evil You Know …

I support the views of Rep. Adam Schiff and Rob Eshman that the present deal may be better than no deal (“What If There’s No Deal?” Aug. 7). America, in 1945, taught the world a bitter lesson in atomic warfare, explained in two words: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, at least five other countries developed the atomic bomb. Some of them were hostile and antagonistic to each other. Yet, none dared to use it to settle international disputes. Iran is slowly learning that dollars may be better for its people than bombs.

Ken Lautman, Los Angeles  

Rob Eshman said it magnificently and fairly with clarity and courage. He left me in tears. Thank you, Rob.

Gail Heim via email

Racial Disparities: Deliberate or Ignorant?

The Jewish Journal deserves plaudits for its culturally sensitive reporting, but there were two pieces in the Aug. 7 issue that made my “race-dar” spike:

1) Steve Greenberg’s cartoon about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: I am no supporter of BDS, but Greenberg’s decision to portray the “face” of the movement as brown is a racist distortion. BDS was created by Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, representing a people generally considered Caucasian and not measurably “browner” than the average Israeli. Since the movement’s founding, people of widely diverse backgrounds — including many Jews in and outside of Israel — have joined its ranks. Many readers will doubtless recall a recent tense family gathering in which the pros and cons of BDS were argued. I certainly do.

2) Joe Hicks’ account of the Watts Riots (“Fifty Years After ‘Burn, Baby! Burn!’ ”) excoriates the more than 30,000 rioters as “nihilists” and willful dupes of pro-violence black activists, while downplaying the role of virulently racist police practices (which he wonders were perhaps just “insensitive”). Incredibly, he wonders how a riot could possibly happen immediately after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. If he had read the other excellent Journal article on the subject by Raphael Sonenshein (“Watts: The Day the Mirror Cracked,”), he might have recalled how Californians had, the previous November, voted in Proposition 14, permitting racial discrimination in housing.

He would have us believe that legislation and affirmative action have ended racism. In fact, racially discriminatory practices are still employed on a nationwide scale in many forms. You have to get through nearly the whole article before finding Hicks’ weak disclaimer that he doesn’t think “black Americans don’t have social or cultural problems in 2015.” But he lays the blame squarely at the door of black “radicals” and their credulous liberal dupes. Note also his dismissal of voter ID laws as “not disenfranchisement,” when numerous proponents of such laws have explicitly stated their discriminatory intent. 

It is plausible to deny the disparity between these two (or more) Americas are discriminatory in intent. However, if you accidentally run over someone, they’re still dead. To look the other way because it was an accident, to fail to recognize the deep emotional pain this disparity causes, is to divide the world into “us” and “them.” It is today’s socially acceptable form of soft racism. 

Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, Sherman Oaks

Thank you, Theo

Thank you so much for the heartfelt article about this Jewish and American icon (“Crossing Borders: A Tribute to Theo Bikel,” July 31). I was introduced to Theo by the great and talented Cantor Mike Stein and took part in a bunch of song circles with Theo. A man that gave so much to our society will leave a lasting mark on the American and Jewish people. I was honored to have been in the same room with such a giant and hear his music in such an intimate space. The Jewish people have lost one of its greatest.

Jeff Gold via email

California’s Conservation Conversation

Great piece by Glenn Yago on what California can learn from Israel in dealing with our drought (“High-Tech New Water: Next Steps for Sustainable Water Solutions in California,” Aug. 7). Now all we need are leaders who have the guts to implement 21st-century solutions. Example: Our Southland lawns look like 1950s “Father Knows Best” America. Let’s move on already.

Aviyah Farkas, Los Angeles

correction

An article about the work of Elana Sztokman (“Let’s Talk About Sex,” Aug. 7) incorrectly stated that Sztokman moved to Modi’in in 1993; she moved to Jerusalem in 1993 and later settled in Modi’in with her family. It also stated that both she and her husband are nondenominational Jews; Sztokman has identified as “non-Orthodox” for two years, while her husband identifies as Orthodox. Sztokman’s next telecourse, “Hunger,” is one of many she will offer in the fall, not the only one. The article also suggested Sztokman only “designed curricula” for Orthodox women; she has worked with Orthodox women in many capacities.

Editorial Cartoon: That could have been us

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Death in Charleston: Trapped by the tragic, unheeded lessons of the nation’s racial past

America's latest incident of racial violence, the massacre of nine people at historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., echoes some of the horrific scenes out of the civil-rights era. A young white shooter allegedly committed mass murder at a sacred space of black activism, spiritual renewal and educational commitment. The slaughter provides a stark reminder of the way in which racial violence has been used to limit the hopes and aspirations of the black freedom struggle.

Following a white North Charleston police officer's killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed African-American, which was captured on a cellphone camera, the Charleston killings look to be the second act this year of lethal anti-black violence to emerge out of South Carolina, a state that proudly flies the Confederate flag over the State Capitol building.

The nation's contemporary racial climate evokes images that, shorn of social media's ubiquitous presence, would not seem out of place 50 years ago, during Selma's roiling voting-rights protests or, indeed, a century before that in the aftermath of the Civil War and the end of antebellum slavery.

In 1964, music legend Sam Cooke released “A Change Is Gonna Come,” one of the most important songs recorded during the civil-rights era. The song's genius lay in its ability to capture in miniature racial oppression's personal intimacy, political impact and policy reverberations.

Cooke's passionate narrative of Jim Crow's unforgiving assault on black bodies contained the dual recognition that racial segregation also harmed the American body politic. “It's been a long time, a long time coming,” he lamented, “But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

For many, President Barack Obama's watershed election in 2008, and re-election in 2012, ushered in audacious change on a scale that Cooke and the generation of civil- rights activists who battled Jim Crow could have scarcely dreamed of. The euphoria accompanying Obama's inauguration included open, often self-congratulatory discussion that the United States had finally achieved a new “post-racial” age in which race mattered less than it ever had.

The age of Obama made the sight of a black first lady and attorney general and the presence of powerful African-American civic, business, and cultural leaders seem ordinary. In 2012, for the first time in history, the percentage of the black-voter turnout exceeded that of whites. Racial progress, as manifested through Obama's political and personal biography, became the dominant narrative of American race relations.

But hidden beneath the pageantry of the first family's extraordinary achievements was another country, one in which millions of African-Americans resided far away from the spotlight of mainstream narratives of success or myths of post-racialism.

The rise of mass incarceration, proliferating rates of poverty, public school segregation and high unemployment remained defiantly persistent in too many black communities. Residential segregation, scant job opportunities and failing public schools were, in our post-civil-rights era, passed down ways of life that were exacerbated, not relieved, by public-policy choices that reinforced urban and suburban ghettoes.

The roiling #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations, urban uprisings in Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri, anti-black police violence in McKinney, Texas, and now a mass shooting in South Carolina echo the racial turmoil, political protests and community organizing of the civil-rights era. Then, as now, African-Americans lived under a regime of racial oppression that constrained their life chances.

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy characterized civil rights as a “moral issue” and told the nation, “Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.”

Perhaps none acted as boldly as Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer. Malcolm, the Harlem-based black nationalist and Muslim preacher spoke truth to power in bone-rattling sermons that exposed American democracy's contradictions even as he empowered African-Americans by re-imagining the expansiveness of black identity. Baker, a feminist and radical labor activist, organized the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a group that breathed new life into American society by bleeding for democracy alongside poor black folk in the South.

King found his clearest voice in championing the poor, speaking out against the Vietnam War and calling out the United States as an imperialist power, the world's foremost purveyor of violence and an unapologetically racist nation.

Hamer, who remains less well known than she should, represented the organic intellectual. She was a sharecropper from Ruleville, Mississippi, who defied the politics of white supremacy at the 1964 Democratic National Convention by exposing racial violence, threats and harassment directed at people, like herself, who wanted dignity and equal citizenship. “Is this America?” she asked the nation.

More than half a century later, the answer to Hamer's question is a resounding yes. This is America, a nation where 28 percent of black people live below the poverty line, 40 percent of black children live in poverty and 46 percent of black children attend high-poverty schools. African-Americans, while only 12 percent of the U.S. population, make up 28 percent of all arrests and now make up 38 percent of prisoners in local jails and 39 percent in federal prisons.

As sociologist Monique W. Morris's important book “Black Stats” (from which I have drawn these figures) illuminates in panoramic scope, African-Americans reside on the margins of society regarding health, justice, employment, education, wealth and income. And yes, a nation in which the African-American church, the resounding symbol of freedom and progress during and after slavery, remains a primary target of racial terror in a supposedly post-racial age.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, America continues to embrace denial as a cure to the persistence – and at times growth – of national racial inequality. America's tortured legacy of slavery, racial segregation and violence against people of color continues to shape society's institutions, political philosophies and public policies.

The nation is, it seems, caught in a perpetual feedback loop – destined to repeat the tragic, unheeded lessons of a racial past that we refuse to acknowledge exists in our present.


Peniel E. Joseph is professor of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University. His most recent book is “Stokely: A Life.” He can be followed on Twitter at @penieljoseph. The opinions expressed here are his own.

From the Freedom Rides to the L.A. City Council

When traveling by air, rail, or bus across country on business or pleasure, I always recall the summer of 1961, when the Freedom Rides made interstate travel the democratic activity we take for granted.

Racial segregation on trains or in bus stations is unthinkable today. But I remember the days when it was the law or custom in many places, especially in the South. I was raised in New Orleans, and learned early from family what segregated life was like as a Negro and would probably be like for the rest of my life. I also remember the Freedom Rides. In August 1961, I was one of a group of 11 men and women who boarded a train from Los Angeles to Mississippi.

We Freedom Riders—some 400 or so people across the U.S.—bore witness to our conviction that segregation was illegal. We were a disciplined, organized, and racially mixed group. We rode trains, buses, and planes; we sought service at dining facilities, restrooms, and waiting rooms. And more often than not, we were arrested and jailed for violation of local laws. We expected to be incarcerated and were aware that there could be violence directed against us. But we were committed.   

Fifty-four years have passed since that summer—but just last weekend, I joined Ellen Broms from the L.A. Freedom Rider group in Sacramento. We met to travel together to memorial services for poet and fellow Freedom Rider Steve Sanfield. We joined Steve’s family, friends, and admirers at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center in Nevada City, California, site of the Sierra Storytelling Festival that Steve founded 30 years ago.

When I met him, Steve was working at the historic Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood. He was a recent graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was gentle, an articulate man of conscience.

I had recently graduated from UCLA, where I was active in the L.A. chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). As a student, I served as a CORE liaison with student activists in the South. We spoke often by phone about what was going on there and how we could support their causes from Los Angeles. After graduation, I continued this work with CORE—talking and working with like-minded people like Steve and Ellen who sought an end to segregation and racial injustice in Los Angeles and across the nation.

We closely followed the Freedom Rides after they started in May. Riders were beaten and jailed, and a bus was firebombed outside of Anniston, Alabama. Students from Tennessee vowed that this violence would not stop the rides, and the movement picked up steam over the summer as activists joined them from across the U.S. by traveling to Jackson, Mississippi.

By August, the Freedom Rides were slowing down as focus shifted to action in the courts. Steve, Ellen and I—and other CORE activists and students in L.A.— were eager to participate in what turned out to be one of the last organized Freedom Rides. In preparation for our journey, we went through an orientation and training in CORE’s non-violent philosophy and tactics. No matter what happened—if someone spit on you, called you names, knocked you down—you pledged not to fight back.

We knew we were putting ourselves at great risk. But we were not deterred. Riders who were under 21 had to get permission from their parents. And all of us wrote our last wills and testaments.

We left L.A.’s Union Station on August 9, 1961. When our train arrived in Houston, the 11 of us from L.A. joined seven members of the Progressive Youth Association, mostly students from Texas Southern University. Our plan was to desegregate the coffee shop at Houston’s Union Station and then continue on to Jackson, Mississippi.

Our task as Freedom Riders was to sit down in places like that coffee shop—and then go to jail. The idea was to generate publicity to put pressure on lawmakers to make change. Segregationists called us “outside agitators,” which is exactly right. We did what local activists couldn’t have done without great personal risk to themselves and their families. Young people from other parts of the country (like Steve, Ellen, and me) didn’t need to worry about getting jobs—we weren’t planning to stick around. The only way to get to us was to take us into temporary custody.

It only took 45 minutes before we were arrested at the Union Station coffee shop. Local law enforcement knew a Freedom Ride was coming through and were waiting for us when we entered. Their vehicles were parked at the nearby curb. We took seats at the whites-only counter and requested service. We were refused. A police commander asked us to leave the premises. Not a single one of us moved, and he announced that we were all under arrest. We were ordered into the nearby vehicles and taken to jail. The process was smooth and efficient, much like going through an airline security check these days.

We were booked into the Harris County Jail, where we were segregated by gender and race in the jail’s general population. We black males were welcomed as heroes by the men in our tank once they found out that we were Freedom Riders. Of everyone—black and white, male and female—the white men received the worst treatment. Steve Sanfield, along with Steve McNichols and Robert Kaufman (all of whom are deceased now) and Joe Stevenson were beaten bloody by other prisoners, and carried physical and mental scars for the rest of their lives. Like many Freedom Riders, they paid a personal price to secure the right for all of us to travel without racial restrictions.

We spent a few weeks in jail. As soon as our lawyers visited and saw how the white riders were being abused, we were bailed out. We had our days in court and were found guilty of misdemeanor “unlawful assembly” charges. These charges were later overturned on appeal. Upon our release, I returned to Los Angeles with my fellow CORE members.

The rest is history. The violence against Freedom Riders and their incarceration got a huge amount of publicity across the U.S. and abroad. That attention, and the demands of the public, prodded President John F. Kennedy into action. In November 1961, his administration pressured the Interstate Commerce Commission to act.

And change came. The “whites only” and “colored” signs were removed from train station coffee shops and bus station restrooms. The Freedom Riders had secured an end to racial discrimination in interstate travel facilities, and freedom of movement for everyone. It was a crack in the massive scheme of segregation. I am proud to have been a part of it.

We L.A. Freedom Riders moved on with our lives. For me, that meant entering the new world of civic and electoral politics of Los Angeles, motivated by my experiences in the civil rights movement and my desire to help meet the need for a more representative government. For Ellen, it meant finishing her education and gaining employment as a social worker in California state government. For Steve, it was back to literature and a creative life as a storyteller, poet, author of children’s books, and builder of a cultural institution.

I recalled those days of August 1961 when I attended Steve Sanfield’s memorial last weekend. I thought of his courage—and the courage of every Freedom Rider—when I traveled by Greyhound, and walked through bus terminals free of the racial animus that we helped to eradicate.

Robert Farrell served as a member of Los Angeles City Council for the 8th District from 1974 to 1991. He is a graduate of UCLA. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

U.S. Justice Department finds racial bias in Ferguson police practices

The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday concluded that the Ferguson, Missouri police department routinely engages in racially biased practices, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the department's findings.

The investigation into the police department began in August after the shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson sparked national protests.

The findings are expected to be formally released as early as Wednesday, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The findings will be used by the Justice Department to either negotiate with Ferguson officials and enter a consent decree or, if negotiations fail, sue the city.

Analysis of over 35,000 pages of police records found that African Americans make up 93 percent of arrests in Ferguson while accounting for only 67 percent of the city's population, the official said.

African-Americans also made up the majority of the incidents in which officers used force and all of the incidents where dogs bit citizens, the official said.

In the city's court system, African Americans were less likely to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge and made up 95 percent of people held longer than two days in the Ferguson jail.

The Ferguson Municipal Court, which Attorney General Eric Holder has previously criticized for unfairly penalizing the city's poor, issued the majority of its warrants for minor violations such as parking, traffic and housing code violations.