November 16, 2018

Letters to the editor: The UCLA controversy and more

How to Train Your Bruin

I must respectfully disagree with the approach proposed by my good friend David Suissa in his column on UCLA: “Stop Fighting and Start Winning” (March 11, jewishjournal.com). 

Actually his column is all about “fighting to win.” This form of fighting is for the schoolyard in the “blackboard jungle.” Bullying the bullies accomplishes little except to make the aggressive fighter feel better about him- or herself. Unfortunately, the end result is that the “fighters” alienate the very people whose support they seek. It is a clear case of winning for oneself but losing for the cause, of snatching defeat from victory. In the end, both sides of the confrontation are degraded and diminished.

Our UCLA student leaders, on the other hand, understand that when you are operating in a civilized environment such as the university, the goal is not to defeat the other side but to transform and educate. Because they are self-confident and comfortable in their surroundings, they have no need to act aggressively in order to prove to others that they should be taken seriously. Instead, they devote themselves to devising a strategy that offers a long-term solution to the conflict and is attractive to the responsible authorities because it is reparative and benefits all — themselves, those in charge, third-party bystanders who are generally turned off by quarrels and even those who “started the fight.” 

That is the behavior the rabbis taught us should be the emblem of the Jewish people. For it bespeaks a great secret: how to transform defeat into victory. It is one of the strategies that explains our survival as a people. 

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Hillel at UCLA, executive director

David Suissa responds:

My friend Chaim missed my point. It’s not “bullying the bullies” to refuse to dance to their tune. My suggestion was to stop getting so defensive and reactive against BDS bullies who have zero interest in peace or debate. Instead, let’s project a more positive and empowering message for Israel that more students — Jewish and non-Jewish — will get behind. For example: Israel’s democratic model is a beacon of hope for all the oppressed people and societies of the Middle East. That’s not just a good idea, it’s also true.


The UCLA Controversy, Part 2

Rob Eshman’s excellent article is well taken, thank you (“Jews, Muslims, UCLA,” March 13). I would like to add an additional point, which needs stating in the form of a query: How do the “liberal students” align themselves with an Arab majority that repudiates liberalism and stood in support of the Nazis and fascists just 60 years ago?

Bernie Rosenson via email

My problem is not so much the students, but the leaders, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Let’s first acknowledge that if the words “Muslim,” “Latino” or “African-American” had been substituted for “Jewish,” the student board members would have been suspended immediately. Nothing wrong with that, either. Their community leaders would have spent more time being outraged instead of “nuanced” like our community leaders. Our own leadership should have immediately organized rallies on campus instead of giving lectures on the complexity of the issue. Our Jewish youth have been let down by so many machers in the alphabet soup of Jewish organized life.

Rafael Guber via jewishjournal.com

The Jewish Journal’s last issue focusing on campus anti-Semitism was long overdue. Clearly it stems from Jew-hating Muslim groups pushing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), anti-Zionist professors indoctrinating students and liberal administrators refusing to stop these practices. Virtually all of these individuals are Democrats. The party obviously takes Jews for granted.

Imagine, though, if the 500 biggest Jewish Democratic donors threatened to support Republicans unless BDS and Apartheid Week are rightfully labeled anti-Semitic and banned from campuses, anti-Zionist professors and administrators are strictly monitored for evenhandedness, and any student shouting down pro-Israel speakers or bullying Jewish and other Zionist students is immediately expelled. The Democrats would have to take action.

As unthinkable as switching parties may be for some Jewish progressives, it would ensure a solidly pro-Israel Republican majority into the next generation. And if Jews brought their social liberalism into the GOP, it would inspire frank debates and may even bridge the paralyzing cultural divide. It would also set an example for Europe where anti-Semitism masquerading as Israel-bashing has reached World War II levels. As Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?”

Reuben Gordon, Calabasas


It’s Settled

Regarding the question posed in the title of the article, “Are There Limits to Humor?” (Feb. 27).

No. Please let me know if you need to know anything else.

Rick Lupert, Van Nuys