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UCLA Response to Antisemitism Hits a Sour Note

When will universities realize that their gutless policy and the inability to recognize a logical falsehood — supporting everyone except Jews — make them complicit with Hamas and the countries that align with it?
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November 22, 2023

“That’s a beautiful Jewish star.” I was warming up on stage before a concert, and asked the piano technician to fix an especially bright top note. After needling the hammer felt, she glanced at my small golden pendant. “I feel terrible for your people. What you are going through — I am sorry. It must be hard to focus. I heard on the news that it’s not safe to wear this, but bless you for wearing yours.” 

In the weeks since October 7th,  I have heard “Itbah El Yahud” (Slaughter the Jews) chanted by hundreds of people at UCLA, where I am a professor of piano. I heard those UCLA students deny the slaughter of 1,400 Jews that took place a month ago. I met UCLA graduate students who had never heard of the Holocaust. My husband was stalked, photographed and threatened by a UCLA graduate student at the headquarters of his own Israeli company. We found a swastika and a piece of paper with the words “Loudmouthed Jew” on top of a pile of garbage at the gate of our home.  And yet, this was the first unprompted outpouring of empathy after the events of October 7th.

My family came from Soviet Ukraine to escape antisemitism. Being Jewish was an ethnicity stamped in your passport, and that stamp cost you jobs and life privileges. Nobody was religious because God wasn’t allowed into the USSR, but Jews were hated nonetheless. The neighborhood kids’ parents  forbade them to play with me. My father was denied employment multiple times, thanks to the “Jew” stamp in his passport. After my great-grandfather was beaten in a dark alley for his Jewish nose, my parents decided to immigrate to the U.S., where antisemitism didn’t thrive. Little did they know.

I believe that America’s inability to express empathy to Jews today stems from the very same perception that had led us to this country years ago — that “it” will never happen again. 

I believe that America’s inability to express empathy to Jews today stems from the very same perception that had led us to this country years ago — that “it” will never happen again. We are all safe here, part of the same melting pot, whether Black, Latino, Jewish, Arabic, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ. We are an American family, all immigrants at one point or another, all sharing a land of dreams, possibilities, opportunities and equality. We have always taken this for granted. When a great injustice fills our lives, we speak up, believing that eventually, in the land of the free, wrongs are righted.  And yet somehow, a new kind of antisemitism is rearing its head, and Americans are failing to see it as it hides behind the First Amendment, pseudointellectual self-serving justifications, and university bureaucracy.

When we tried to report the UCLA graduate student who threatened us to campus police, they refused to help, given that no actual violence took place. When I wrote to the university,  detailing what we had experienced, I received a canned response exactly like the many tepid responses from administrations around the country. “We don’t tolerate injustice of any kind, or persecution of any groups,” it said. The phrase “All Lives Matter” was always considered offensive because it diminished the validity of grievance of a given group. Yet, it drives every message the UCLA administration has sent out to me. My safe space is simply not a consideration.

When our safety is threatened because of our ethnicity, reporting this to the Office of Equity and Diversity, and then being redirected in an endless Kafkaesque bureaucratic loop does not protect us. The FBI urged us to step up our vigilance and protect ourselves; we had no choice but to hire personal security at our own expense.

When will universities realize that their gutless policy and the inability to recognize a logical falsehood — supporting everyone except Jews — make them complicit with Hamas and the countries that align with it?

Simple steps university administrations could take include: Disciplining students who engage in antisemitic activity; banning violent antisemitic language on campus with the same swiftness as would be expected in any other racist threat; discouraging face coverings to emphasize accountability for one’s words and actions; including antisemitism education as a regular component of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) training. 

The piano technician’s words emboldened me as I walked out on stage. I spoke to the audience, “I ask you, not as a Jew but as a human being, to sing the ‘Hatikvah’ with me, to commemorate those who were slaughtered on October 7.” 

I started in D Minor. I wasn’t expecting this — but hundreds of people stood up and sang.


Inna Faliks is an internationally renowned concert pianist, Professor/Head of piano at UCLA, and author. Her memoir “Weight in the Fingertips, A Musical Odyssey from Soviet Ukraine to the World Stage” was published in October 2023 by Backbeat books.  www.innafaliks.com 

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