Campus Anti-Semitism at UC and Stanford


So far as we are concerned, Berkeley’s Golden Bears have already won the Stanford Axe, the trophy in their annual “Big Game” with the Cardinals, despite the fact that college football season is still months away.

Our reason: the contrast between recent actions of the presidents of UC and Stanford to the challenge of campus anti-Semitism.

First, the good news: UC President Janet Napolitano for personally agreeing with the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes denial of Israel’s right to exist—not criticism of Israeli government policies—as a manifestation of anti-Semitism. The State Department’s “working definition” reads: “anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Examples include: accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust, and accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

Both Rabbi Meyer H. May, Executive Director of the Wiesenthal Center, and Aron Hier, director of the Center’s Campus Outreach program, have attended meetings over the course of months throughout the state urging UC Regents, chancellors, and policy makers to adopt the State Department definition which will also be voted on by the UC Board of Regents this July.

In contrast, Stanford’s SAE fraternity house has recently been defaced with a swastika, in addition to painted personal slurs and epithets.

Liana Kadisha, president of the Stanford Israel Association told the Stanford Daily that there has been a “rise in hostility toward Jewish communities,” on campus since the university student senate approved a divestment resolution. Kadisha also said: “My parents are from Iran and left that country because it wasn't open really to Jews anymore and so I don't think they would ever expect that at Stanford, so many years later we would be dealing with these types of incidents.”

Nationally, the SAE fraternity, site of the Stanford swastika, has a history of racial and religious discrimination. It banned Jews until some time after World War II, and only in recent years has it really opened its doors to Jewish members. Unfortunately, as is clear from the national headlines about what happened at the University of Oklahoma, it is far from outliving its history of bigotry against African Americans.

In a related incident, Stanford undergraduate Molly Horwitz, a candidate for the Student Senate, was vetted by the Students of Color Coalition about her fitness for office. This followed February’s ugly campus debate that ended in a vote for a resolution for divesting in companies doing business on the West Bank as a way of punishing Israel.

During the divestment debate, Horwitz wrote several posts on Facebook against it. But then she and her campaign manager scrubbed Horwitz’s Facebook page to hide all posts indicating support for Israel, including a photograph of a pair of shoes decorated to look like the Israeli flag. Why? Because: “We did it not because she isn’t proud—she is—but the campus climate has been pretty hostile, and it would not be politically expedient to take a public stance.” Reportedly, Horowitz’s inquisitors are also being investigated for allegedly asking its endorsed candidates to sign a contract promising not to affiliate with Jewish groups on campus.

What’s the response by the Stanford authorities to the latest swastika incident? Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) spokesman Bill Larson said that the incident will be recorded as a hate crime. Well and good.

But what about the response by University President John Hennessy? He said: “I am deeply troubled by the act of vandalism, including symbols of hate, that has marred our campus. The University will not tolerate hate crimes and this incident will be fully investigated, both by campus police and by the University under our Acts of Intolerance Protocol. This level of incivility has no place at Stanford. . . . I ask everyone in the University community to stand together against intolerance and hate, and to affirm our commitment to a campus community where discourse is civil, where we value differences and where every individual is respected.”

This sound good, but lacks one critical component: any mention of anti-Semitism. President Hennessy, who commendably has opposed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, suggests that we examine the University’s “Acts of Intolerance Protocol.” We have. This 4-page document’s definition of “acts of intolerance” includes: Gender or gender identity, Race or ethnicity, Disability, Religion, Sexual orientation, Nationality, Age, Social or economic class. Very inclusive. But anti-Semitism—is it a crime against “religion” or “ethnicity” or “nationality” or some hybrid?—falls between the cracks. Significantly, when the reader gets to page 4, there is a listing of two dozen “University resources available to students, faculty and staff.” No inclusion of Hillel, the Stanford Israel Association, the Jewish Students Association, or any other group with a Jewish or pro-Israel identity. 

What’s going on here is a form of “euphemism” practices on campus from the U.S. to the UK. George Orwell, who satirized “Double Speak” in 1984, treated euphemism as a wide variety of techniques to distort and obfuscate reality, often for political reasons or what we would call today political correctness. We can still smile at the Victorians’ description of a pregnant woman as “being in an interesting condition.” Describing torture as “an enhanced interrogation technique” is something else again. As to anti-Semitism, the euphemistic strategy is to deny it any specific mention in a list of “hate crimes.”

Adopting the State Department’s definition is an important step in the right direction.

Aron Hier is Director of Campus Outreach for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Historian Harold Brackman is a Center consultant.

Jewish economist Alvin Roth ‘surprised,’ ‘delighted’ by Nobel Prize


U.S. economist Alvin Roth, winner of the 2012 Nobel prize for economics on Monday with colleague Lloyd Shapley, was “surprised” and “delighted” when he got the midnight call at his California home telling him he had won.

“I am having my first sip of coffee right now,” said Roth, who is Jewish, speaking to Reuters from his home before dawn. “I have mostly been celebrating by speaking on the telephone for the last hour. I am hoping that life will get back to normal pretty soon.”

Roth, a professor at Stanford University, and Shapley, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, won the award for research on how to match different economic agents, such as students for schools or organ donors with patients.

“We were called in the middle of the night. We're in California, it's still pitch-dark here and we got a telephone call,” said Roth. “I'm delighted to have been selected.”

“It was very unexpected, not unimaginable,” he added. “So yes, I am very surprised.”

Shapley, a retired professor emiritus, could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for the university said he had not taught a course there for some time.

Roth said he expects to travel to Sweden with his wife to pick up the prize. He says it is still too early to say what he will do with the prize money.

He will be taking his morning classes as usual at Stanford after holding a press conference.

“Scientific work is a team effort,” he said. “Lots and lots of people are represented by this prize and I imagine I'll be talking to some of them and it's a good thing for many young people who work in the area of market design, which is the area my colleagues and I are trying to develop.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which made the award, said the 8 million crown ($1.2 million) prize recognized “the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.”

The award citation said Shapley had used game theory to study and compare various matching methods and how to make sure the matches were acceptable to all counterparts, including the creation of a special algorithm.

Roth followed up on Shapley's results in a series of empirical studies and helped redesign existing institutions so that new doctors could be matched with hospitals, students with schools or patients with organ donors.

“This year's prize is awarded for an outstanding example of economic engineering,” the committee added.

The economics prize, officially called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968. It was not part of the original group of awards set out in dynamite tycoon Nobel's 1895 will.

Reporting By Edward Krudy; Editing by Vicki Allen; Jewish Journal contributed to this story.

Jewish doctor from New York co-recipient of Nobel Prize in Chemistry


Robert J. Lefkowitz, a Jewish physician and path-breaking biochemist from New York, has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Brian K. Kobilka, a researcher at California’s Stanford University.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 went to the scientists for “groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family … of receptors: G-protein–coupled receptors,” an Oct. 10 posting on the website of the Nobel Prize stated. Understanding how these receptors function helped further explain how cells could sense their environment, according to the text.

Lefkowitz –- who works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina — and Kobilka worked together to isolate and analyze a gene which led them to discover that “the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner,” the Nobel Prize website said.

Lefkowitz, 61, and Kobilka, 57, will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize Committee.

On Oct. 9. The Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm announced that Serge Haroche, a French-Jewish physicist, had won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with David Wineland from the United States. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 went to Dan Shechtman of Israel’s Technion.

In 2008, Lefkowitz received the US National Medal of Science. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported at the time that he was one of three American-Jewish recipients that year of the nation's highest honor in science and technology.

In an interview with Emily Harris which appeared this summer on the website of Duke University, Lefkowitz is quoted as saying: “I was clearly destined to be a physician, I dreamed about it from the third grade on. Wouldn’t trade that part of my experience in for anything. I LOVED medical school.” He also said: “I do regret that my dad died thinking I would be a practicing cardiologist, never dreaming what the future held for me.”

Lefkowitz's father, who died at the age of 63, “never got to see any of this play out,” Lefkowitz said.

The Mayor’s Eyes and Ears


Jennifer Stein wears two hats at City Hall. You could say one of them is a kippah.

The recent Stanford University grad, 23, is the South Valley Area director in Mayor James Hahn’s Office of the Neighborhood Advocate. She is also Hahn’s liaison to the Jewish community.

The Neighborhood Advocate position features a well-defined set of responsibilities. Stein meets with homeowners’ organizations, chambers of commerce and community members from South San Fernando Valley neighborhoods like Sherman Oaks, where she lives, and Encino, where she grew up. She explains and offers advice on the city’s various constituent services, and represents neighborhood concerns to the mayor.

The Jewish liaison job comes with responsibilities of a similar vein, but not nearly so well-defined. Who, after all, represents Los Angeles Jews? What are Jewish concerns?

Stein says she has been in touch with Jewish Federation President John Fishel, and also works closely with The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance. “I’d like to bring more of L.A.’s Jewish community into contact with the mayor’s office,” she says.

Karen Wagener, 55, who served as Jewish liaison under Mayor Richard Riordan from 1999 to 2001, describes the responsibilities of the position as “the eyes and ears” of the mayor in the community, by talking to the mayor about issues relevant to the community and conveying the mayor’s concerns to the community. For example, Wagener helped a Valley community obtain an eruv; she also helped The Federation deal with some zoning problems.

Hope Warschaw, a Jewish community activist and former Hahn campaign worker, described the liaison job in simpler terms. It’s someone “with a name and a face that you can call with a wide range of concerns — traffic problems in front of a synagogue, getting the mayor to a solidarity rally,” she said. “Mainly, it’s a face.” Warschaw described Stein as “very enthusiastic — she will always get you the answers you need.”

Stein’s qualifications for her City Hall jobs stem more from her lifelong political experience than from her Jewish background. Though she recalls attending synagogue services as a child at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and later at Stephen S. Weiss Temple, “I didn’t really get involved with my Jewish heritage until college,” she says.

When she arrived at Stanford, one of the first things she did was to stop by Hillel. “Some of the first people I really bonded with were the Jewish students, and that really began my Jewish connection,” she says.

Politically, however, Stein has been connected all her life. Her father, real estate developer Ted Stein, has been heavily involved in local politics for decades; he once even ran for city attorney — against Jennifer’s current boss, Hahn. After losing that election to the future mayor, Ted Stein has served the city on various commissions, including a stint as president of the Harbor Commission and his current post on the Airport Commission.

Jennifer’s mother, Ellen Stein, is serving her second term as president of the Board of Public Works. Jennifer Stein notes, “I was raised around politics all my life. I remember as a child going to victory parties for city council members. I guess I caught the bug there. There’s nothing better than trying to make your community better.”

Stein’s most important concern as Jewish liaison, she says, is ensuring the free flow of communication and comfort of the community. “Sometimes people feel frustrated that they have no one to turn to in their government,” she says. “I want to make sure that members of the Jewish community always feel comfortable in Los Angeles.”

After only two months in her new position, Stein says she is still working on establishing contacts, especially now, following her recent move from downtown City Hall to Van Nuys offices.

“I’m working right now on doing my own outreach, but the Jewish community — not just leaders, but any people with concerns about the city — should feel free to contact this administration.”

Questions or concerns of the Jewish community may be
addressed to Jennifer Stein at (818) 756-7924, or jstein@mayor.lacity.org .

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