September 18, 2019

National SJP Says Conference Will Be Held at University of Minnesota

Photo from Wikipedia.

National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) announced on Sept. 16 that they will be holding their annual conference at the University of Minnesota (UMN) Twin Cities on Nov. 1-3.

NSJP’s website states that the conference, titled “Beyond Struggle: From Roots to Branches Towards Liberation,” will recognize that “support for the Palestinian cause is increasing within mainstream politics,” citing the elections of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both of whom support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The conference will also provide information on Palestinian history.

“The history of Palestine, and the Palestinian struggle against Zionism, extends beyond the confines of 1967, and well before the Nakba (the Catastrophe) of 1947-1948,” the website states. “It is important that this be recognized by those who claim to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people, many of whom engage solely in anti-occupation advocacy– that is, advocacy which relies on a version of Palestinian history limited to the Green Line. In doing so, they forego the rights of those Palestinians in refugee camps, in diaspora, and in 1948 lands.”

The website proceeds to call for “the fullness of Palestinian liberation.”

SJP UMN chapter sponsored a pro-BDS resolution that passed as a student-wide referendum in March 2018; UMN President Benjie Kaplan denounced the resolution at the time as potentially having a “harmful impact to our campus climate” and condemned BDS for not delineating “between opposition to the policies of the government of Israel and opposition to the existence of Israel.” 

Additionally, in April 2018 SJP University of Minnesota hosted an event titled “Palestine 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Palestine.” Two students who attended the event, Maya Strohm and Shay Gilbert Burke, wrote in a letter to the Minnesota Daily campus newspaper at the time that the event featured a speaker who argued “that Jews have no connection to the land of Israel and that Zionism is antithetical to Judaism” and “Jews introduced terror to Palestine, not Christians and Muslims.” 

“This blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric does not open discussion,” Strohm and Burke wrote. “Instead, it drives our communities further apart.”

The NSJP 2018 conference was held at UCLA in November 2018; the Los Angeles City Council and myriad Jewish groups called on UCLA to cancel the conference. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed at the time that the university wouldn’t cancel the conference due to the First Amendment. City Councilman Paul Koretz was among those who protested the conference on Nov. 18.

StandWithUs Executive Director of Research and Strategy Max Samarov said in a statement to the Journal, “Last year, [the] National SJP openly called for silencing speakers who support Israel’s existence.  They also called for the destruction of Zionism, and violence against Israelis. While free speech laws may require UMN to allow the conference, this should not stop university leaders from unequivocally condemning SJP’s long record of hate. We also encourage UMN to use this as a teachable moment to educate the campus community about anti-Semitism and foster civil dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” 

AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “At the heart of the national SJP organization and its campus chapters is an anti-Zionist ideology that incites its members to engage in activities designed to harm not only Israel, but Israel’s on-campus supporters, primarily Jewish students.  In the name of BDS, SJP students routinely disrupt and shut down events organized by Jewish and pro-Israel students; vandalize pro-Israel flyers, displays and student property; denigrate Jewish and pro-Israel student groups with spurious charges of racism, Islamophobia and white supremacy and engage in sustained campaigns of defamation, marginalization and harassment against presumed pro-Israel students. These behaviors time and again deprive Jewish and pro-Israel students of their freedom of speech, assembly and association, and deny them access to a campus safe from harassment.”

She continued: “SJP’s intolerant behaviors are often viewed by university administrators as politically-motivated and are often overlooked and unaddressed, leaving Jewish and pro-Israel students vulnerable and afraid. However, harassment is harassment, regardless of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim.  We urge the University of Minnesota, and frankly all university leaders, to make clear to SJP and all its students that while anti-Zionist speech is protected under the First Amendment, the intolerant behavior such rhetoric often incites will not be tolerated. Jewish and pro-Israel students must be afforded the same protections as all other students.”

UPDATE: Students Supporting Israel (SSI) President Ilan Sinelnikov said in a statement to the Journal, “As members of Students Supporting Israel attended the NSJP last year at UCLA to find out how radical NSJP is with its Intifada chants and chants that call upon the destruction of Israel. We suggest that the University of Minnesota won’t let such an event take place as there is no reason for radical groups to be on our campuses. If the event will take place, SSI will make sure to act upon it again.”

Lawyer and Activist Nancy Lee Aspaturian, 60

For Nancy Lee Aspaturian, being a social justice warrior was not just a job, it was a calling. Aspaturian, who died Sept. 5 after a battle with cancer, was fiercely committed to helping those around her. She was 60.

Aspaturian’s work included advocating for the foster children she championed as training director and supervising attorney for the Children’s Law Center of California (CLCC); mentoring lawyers there; serving as justice deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl; and representing the clients she advocated for as a public defender. 

Aspaturian was born Nov. 30, 1958, in Geneva, Switzerland (where she was delivered, she liked to remind everyone, by the same doctor who delivered actress Sophia Loren’s son), but grew up in State College, Pa. She moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, before going on to earn her law degree at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. After graduation, she moved back to Southern California, where she spent six years as a public defender for Los Angeles County and the state of California. She kept in touch with many of those she defended, including a man who has spent the past two decades on San Quentin’s death row.

Aspaturian met her wife, Laurie Aronoff, while at UCLA. They had two daughters, Emma and Lilia. The family joined IKAR when Emma became a bat mitzvah, and they quickly became part of the community. In a written statement, IKAR described Aspaturian as “a person you wanted to be around, able to pick you up with a quick joke or engage in a deep conversation about the state of the world.” 

“She was a person you wanted to be around, able to pick you up with a quick joke or engage in a deep conversation about the state of the world.”— IKAR

Beth Edelstein, a friend, told the Journal that Aspaturian was someone who was “full of joy and constantly surprised by life. She was open to a childlike wonder” while remaining pragmatic. 

Supervisor Kuehl’s office issued a statement saying it was a privilege to work with Aspaturian. One of her signature acts was overseeing the county’s reconsideration of opening a new women’s jail in Mira Loma. 

“Most women in L.A. County custody are the primary custodial parents of children,” the statement read, “and Nancy could not understand why anyone thought it made sense to locate a women’s jail in a distant part of the County where their children’s visits would be difficult, if not impossible.”   

Aspaturian is remembered as an incredible cook, for her love of music, particularly the Beatles, and her love of animals, including her 25-year-old cat. 

In addition to her wife and daughters, Aspaturian is survived by her mother, Suzanne; her sister Heidi; a niece, Rachael; and sister-in-law, Sharon. 

Aspaturian’s funeral was held Sept. 8 at Mount Sinai Memorial in Hollywood.

A Microcosm of Bipartisanship

Throughout the United States, people are engaging in intense and passionate conversations and debates regarding the political world’s current state. These exchanges have resulted in many heated family dinners and awkward watercooler interactions with co-workers. However, no one doubts these discussions come from places of concern for this country.

Nevertheless, this divide increasingly has made it difficult for dialogue and collaboration across party lines.

According to a 2017 Pew study, the percentage-point gap between Republicans and Democrats nearly has doubled in the past 20 years. In laymen’s terms, this means Republicans and Democrats have shifted farther away from each other on fundamental political values — which is known as hyper-partisanship.

The notion that a progressive Democrat and fierce Republican can work together and even become friends seems an unlikely one. Yet, at USC, this paradox is a reality. In 2018, Trojans for Israel, a historically bipartisan organization on campus, decided it was time to readjust its leadership structure to better embody its diverse base.

We two students, coming from very different walks of life and opposite ends of the political spectrum, were chosen as co-presidents of the student group.

Trojans for Israel serves as USC’s premier bipartisan pro-Israel organization, which promotes and enhances the U.S.-Israel relationship. As the marquee group on campus, Trojans for Israel has created strong relationships with locally and nationally elected members of office as well as with student government and campus leaders.

As leaders on campus serving as student-elected senators in the undergraduate student government as well as in the Chabad and Hillel, the two of us are used to working with people with whom we do not see eye to eye. However, we were daunted and slightly uncomfortable with the thought of working alongside a counterpart on the opposite side of the political aisle. We believed this decision would only lead to tension and highlight the divide among the bipartisan group.

“The two of us are used to working with people with whom we do not see eye to eye. However, we were daunted and slightly uncomfortable with the thought of working alongside a counterpart on the opposite side of the political aisle.” 

However, if anything, this move proved to unite Trojans for Israel and illustrate that bipartisanship can be achieved even in today’s hyper-partisan world.

Our organization has dealt with circumstances that bring out partisan conflict, such as when notable conservative commentator Ben Shapiro visited our campus to speak last October. Shapiro adamantly supports Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship but has other opinions that made some groups on campus uncomfortable with his scheduled speech. Trojans for Israel prioritized the U.S.-Israel relationship over partisan opinions to focus on speaking out against the hateful anti-Israel sentiments and speeches being disseminated at the time, and showcase the importance of our bipartisan cause.

While the two of us essentially disagree on every U.S. domestic policy, our dedication to strengthening and protecting the unwavering U.S.-Israel relationship became the catalyst for a year of tangible success.

It was in keeping with the theme of bipartisanship that Trojans for Israel united with its crosstown rivals at UCLA to create the incredibly successful California Days of Action. Both groups campaigned for two House candidates — Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) — accumulating more than 200 hours of phone banking and close to 50 hours of canvassing. Showcasing the power and fortitude of bipartisanship, there were Democrats campaigning for Republicans, and Republicans campaigning for Democrats — all in the name of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The two of us orchestrated Trojans for Israel’s meetings with a myriad of government officials including Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb).

These accomplishments highlight students’ faith in the pro-Israel movement and emphasize the phrase “What unites us is greater than what divides us.”

Our successful year climaxed at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference, with Trojans for Israel being awarded Activists of the Year in front the nearly 4,000 students in attendance. 

The strength of Trojans for Israel is its emphasis on building a diverse bipartisan membership and exploring the differences and commonalities in each individual’s respective political viewpoints.

Trojans for Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship are stronger because the group puts policy over partisanship. For the relationship between these two countries to continue to grow, there must be a reaffirmation of bipartisanship and a commitment to standing together on behalf of our shared cause.

Trojans for Israel and the pro-Israel movement as a whole highlight the substantial gains we can make by engaging in bipartisanship discourse. To solve the world’s most complicated problems as well as the simplest ones, bipartisanship is not a suggestion, but a mandate to which we must adhere.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Shayan Kohanteb is a rising junior studying business administration with minors in real estate development and comedy (performance) at USC. Sarah Rose Ritch is a rising junior studying sociology and law, history and politics with minors in dance and criminology/forensics at USC. 

The Late Bloomer

Eileen Greene; Photo courtesy of Richard Greene

Eileen Greene, 90

It’s never too late to take on something new. Just ask Brentwood resident Eileen Greene, who became a TEDx speaker at the age of 87.

A woman who got her start in many ways a little later in life than most, the mother of three, grandmother of six and soon-to-be great-grandmother graduated from college at 49 and received her master’s degree and had a bat mitzvah at 75. 

Not one to rest on her laurels, Greene said she still has plenty to say and a lot left to do, which is why she’s currently planning her next TED Talk. 

“We’re all going to go, some of us sooner than later,” Greene said. “And it’s OK to mourn them, it’s OK to cry. But it’s not OK to make that your life. Because while you are still here, you have an opportunity to contribute.”

When Greene did her first TED Talk in 2016 about her choices later in life, she received a standing ovation. 

In 1948, when she was 19, Greene quit college to become a wife and mother. And although she took courses and did design jobs, it was never quite enough. One night after playing mah-jong with some friends, Greene came to the conclusion that there had to be more stimulating things she could do. So she decided to spend one evening a week taking classes toward her degree. After studying at Santa Monica College, UCLA and Cal State Northridge, she gathered her credits and finally received her Bachelor of Arts degree at age 49.

 “It is never too late, except when it is. What are your coulda shoulda wouldas?”

Determined to keep learning, Greene took a two-year certification program in Human Services at the University of Judaism and studied to become a clinical hypnotherapist at the age of 70. 

Her 15-year-old granddaughter, who had said she did not want to become bat mitzvah, agreed to do so if Greene did, too. “Much to her surprise and chagrin,” Greene said, “I smiled, looked at her and said, ‘Yes. Let’s do it.’ ” 

Born three months before the 1929 Wall Street crash, Greene was quarantined when she contracted polio in 1935 and was subject to religious discrimination growing up. Yet she remains grateful for everything. 

“How I approach life is [that I’m] very proud of my Jewish heritage,” she said. 

Greene speaks fondly of her parents and grandparents, and the values she places on family togetherness. She still hosts holiday dinners in her home. These days, though, her family brings the food.

Her desire to serve and her ability to inspire others is a combination of where Greene came from and who she is.

“It is never too late, except when it is,” she notes at the end of her TED Talk. “What are your coulda shoulda wouldas? No matter your age, make your list, pick one and do it now.”

Hillel Hires Reform Rabbis for UCLA, Brandeis

Hillel International logo.
Hillel International announced the hiring of two Reform rabbis to work as Senior Jewish Educators at UCLA and Brandeis University to strengthen Jewish life on college campuses by helping students to understand what it means to be Jewish and working with students to incorporate Judaism into their lives. The new positions were made possible due to a grant from Central Synagogue to Hillel International in partnership with Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). 
“We are excited to partner with Hillel International and Central Synagogue to encourage inspiring Jewish educators to work on campus and support the next generation of Jewish life and foster the future of Reform Jewish leadership on the college campus and in North America as a whole,” HUC-JIR’s President Andrew Rehfeld said in a statement to the Journal.
The multi-year grant of $1.4 million from Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein Fund for the Renaissance of Reform Judaism provides training, placement and support to HUC-JIR graduates who hope to become Hillel Senior Jewish Educators on college campuses in America.
“I’m honored that Central Synagogue members chose to create this grant to support the growth of vibrant Jewish programming on college campuses and the training of future Reform Jewish leadership,” Rabbi Emeritus Peter J. Rubinstein of Central Synagogue said. “This innovative collaboration between Hillel and HUC-JIR enables Reform rabbi educators to strengthen Jewish engagement, celebrations and learning for college students in service of their Jewish future and our people’s unparalleled mission.”
HUC-JIR graduates Rabbi Alex Kress and Rabbi Evan Sheinhait will join the UCLA Hillel and Brandies University Hillel staffs this upcoming fall. Rabbi Eric L. Abbott was hired as a Senior Jewish Educator last year through this grant and will be returning to Johns Hopkins University Hillel. The grant will also allow three rabbinic interns to serve on The Ohio State University, Princeton University and University of Southern California campuses.
“This partnership between Hillel International and HUC-JIR, with the support of the Central Synagogue grant, allows us to provide rabbinical role models who will be accessible to a diverse range of Jewish students on campus,” Hillel International’s interim CEO Adam Lehman said. “Our mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may in turn enrich the Jewish people and the world. These Senior Jewish Educators will do just that, by engaging Jewish students and strengthening their connection to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”
On average, each Senior Jewish Educator connects 200 students to Jewish life per year, according to Hillel International’s research. “The effect of an educator is much greater on a student with little or no prior involvement with Hillel or those with less developed Jewish backgrounds,” Hillel International said in the statement.

Letters to the Editor: A Call for Jewish Unity,  Outrage Over Lecture, Zaglembie Memorial

A Call for Jewish Unity
As a people, we Jews are not unified. Politically, we’re divided into two camps, with roughly 70% liberal and 30% conservative. In general, liberals detest President Donald Trump and conservatives admire him. These differences broadly follow along the lines of religious observance, with Reform or secular Jews more liberal and Orthodox Jews more conservative. Both sides have lost respect for each other and rarely engage in meaningful dialogue. This has led to a fractured Jewish community in which we are more like rivals than brothers and sisters. 

According to Torah, we are all one family, descendants of our forefather Jacob. We are to love and care for one another regardless of our differences. We know from history that HaShem (God) will leave our midst if we dismiss his commandments and show animosity toward our fellow Jews. This occurred before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. 

As HaShem’s Chosen People, we must set aside our differences, engage in civil discourse and demonstrate goodwill toward one another. The adage “united we stand, divided we fall” is as true today as ever before. Our love and respect for one another will usher in a time of blessing for all Jews and make us far less vulnerable to outside threats and intimidation. 

To quote Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “… remember God chose us as a people and it is as a people that we come before God and before the world. The Sages said …, ‘Great is peace, because even if Israel is worshipping idols and there is peace among them, God will never allow harm to happen to them.’ Go think about that.” The time for Jewish unity is now.
Michael S. Ginsburg, via email

Outrage Over Lecture
What is wrong with the administration of UCLA that allows an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel professor from San Francisco State University, who is Arab and Muslim, rant in front of an anthropology class? (UCLA Guest Lecturer Calls Zionists White Supremacists,” May 24). Rabab Abdulhadi called Zionists and pro-Israel students and Jewish students “white supremacists.”

There is nothing wrong with offering a different viewpoint regarding the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio. However, in a classroom in front of an anthropology class to viciously attack groups of people with virulent hatred is not educational.

UCLA should let this miscreant pay for her own bus ticket back to San Francisco.
Richard N. Friedman, via email

Zaglembie Memorial
Thank you for your article about the Zaglembie memorial (“Honoring the Zaglembie Memorial in Mevo Modi’im,” May 31). When my cousin Avraham Green founded the World Zaglembie Organization to memorialize the Zaglembie Jewish communities, he wisely determined to minimize the use of metal, wood and paper products at their sites. This will facilitate the rehabilitation of the memorial in Israel, even after the terrible fires.

The organization also erected stone memorials at the sites of all the ghettos and Jewish cemeteries in Zaglembie as well as other Jewish sites. They are in good condition, and their information is easily read. In other areas in Poland, such as at the Gliwice concentration camp, brass engravings used to mark such sites have been stolen and not replaced.
Norman H. Green, Los Angeles

Story Clarifications
I read in your story on Hershey Felder’s Claude Debussy show that the Nazi regime banned Debussy’s compositions from being performed (“Felder Channels Debussy in New One-Man Show,” May 24).

I was skeptical of this as Debussy is considered to be one of France’s greatest composers (along with Hector Berlioz). I checked the performance history of Debussy’s only opera, “Pelléas et Mélisande.” I saw that in 1942, under German occupation, there was a revival with a new production of “Pelléas et Mélisande” at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. Undoubtedly German soldiers and officials would have had the opportunity to attend performances of “Pelléas.” This revival was successful and “Pelléas et Mélisande” remains in the repertory. LA Opera will do it again next season in a new production.

On to another matter. I am an admirer of the late Herman Wouk, who was blessed to have a long and productive life. May the author of “This Is My God,” “The Caine Mutiny,” and “War and Remembrance” and others, rest in peace.

However, it was incorrect in the Journal’s obituary to state that Wouk was survived by two sons. One son is a transgender woman by the name of Iolanthe Woulff, who is a writer. She ought not to be cast in any kind of shadows, especially upon the death of her father.
Murray Aronson, West Hollywood

‘Self-Hating Jews’ and Anti-Semitism
A couple of months ago, I read an article in a Jewish publication by someone who complained that they really resented being labeled “a self-hating Jew” just because they had written articles critical of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. I was drawn to the article because I, too, am critical of Jews who publicly criticize Israel and its issues with Palestinians.

To my surprise, I found the article and its author’s rationale to be quite compelling. Specifically, the writer disputed the “self-hating Jew” label by explaining, despite their public criticism of Israel, they observed the Sabbath, kept kosher, attended shul on a relatively regular basis, and sent their kids to Jewish day schools. I also agreed with the author that perhaps the “self-hating Jew” label was an inaccurate description of the writer and other Jews that publicly criticize Israel and its interactions with the Palestinians.

Yet, I was troubled because I still strongly felt that Jews who publicly deride Israel’s dealings with Palestinians do great damage to other Jews in their community and worldwide.  Intellectually, I needed another label for Jews who are not literally self-hating but contribute to others’ open disdain for Israel, Zionism and Jews in general.  And then it hit me. Those Jews who join with non-Jews in their public criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians are perhaps, not “self-hating Jews” but, despite their good intentions, may actually be enablers of anti-Semitism.
Stu Bernstein, Santa Monica

A Poem for Our Times
This poem was written during a long discussion at a Temple Adat Elohim board of directors meeting in the Conejo Valley. I know that many congregations are dealing with the same issues.
Creating Safety
by Suzanne Gallant

A very long meeting
Lots of voices raised
Lots of worries expressed
Lots of concern on faces
Just because,
Because hate is reigning
Because our culture today
Encourages, aids and abets
Haters, anti-Semites, racists.
Have created a culture
That encourages acts of violence.
A culture that permits crazy
Haters to buy automatic weapons
And lots of ammunition
Which they turn into mass murder.
In our synagogue fear reigns.
This meeting to discuss security.
So much money is needed.
So much fear engendered
We must fortify ourselves
To make our congregants safe.
What has our world come to,
That makes us afraid?
What can we do,
To turn this around
And make everyone safe?
What can we do?
Each and every one of us,
To change this culture
To make our communities,
Our States and our Country
Live together in unity?

Now it’s your turn. Submit your letter to the editor. Letters should be no more than
200 words and must include a valid name and city. The Journal reserves the right to edit all letters.

Contributing to the Greater Good

Kyle Newman, 17
High School: Milken Community Schools
College: UC Berkeley

Kyle Newman’s interest in the sciences emerged early on. “I always loved science, engineering and math,” the Milken Community Schools high school valedictorian told the Journal. “I was obsessed with Legos. I loved drawing building plans and experimenting, and my interest built over time.”

In 10th grade, Newman competed in an international physics competition in Israel. During his junior year, for the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge, he co-invented an app-controlled patch device that uses electric impulses to stimulate nerves and increase circulation in the leg. He conducted his own bioengineering research at the Schmidt biosensor lab at UCLA last summer, and as the recipient of a Regents Scholarship, he will enter UC Berkeley as a bioengineering major this fall.

But Newman is not a stereotypical science nerd. He’s also passionate about world history and music. A tenor who also plays guitar and the saxophone, he would like to minor in music and join a jazz band at college. His essay on composer George Gershwin was a finalist in the Norman E. Alexander Jewish writing competition, and he has helped his AP literature teacher with her doctoral research. 

He has volunteered with Milken’s social action and justice group Yozma and is a member of the Zaman arts collective of Mizrahi Jews. Last summer, he taught himself to read Farsi.

“My parents always wanted me to explore what I’m passionate about,” Newman said. “I’m definitely a perfectionist, but I never set a bar for myself. There’s no limit to it.”

“I’m definitely a perfectionist, but I never set a bar for myself. There’s no limit to it.”

The son of Iranian immigrants and a Westwood resident, Newman’s father died last year after suffering a stroke. His mother, Jasmine, has been his rock. “Seeing her strength in this terrible time was very inspirational for me and helped me get through it,” he said.  

Judaism also has been a source of strength. “Ever since I was little, Judaism was always grounding,” he said. “I think it’s a privilege to be part of a legacy that has continued for thousands of years. Jewish values have a subconscious influence on how I live, how I respect my parents and elders. Judaism definitely influences what I do.”

Newman volunteers at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, working on a project called Messages of the Future. “We interview Holocaust survivors about their story but also about issues and current events,” he said. “At a time when people are losing sight of history, we’re getting testimonials that are living proof of what happened. We’re the last generation that will be able to hear from these survivors before they pass away We’re making the truth permanent.”

This summer, Newman plans to hang out with friends, visit his sister Mandy, who is studying for her doctorate in psychology in New York, attend a family wedding in Paris and do some SAT tutoring. He’s looking forward to college and the future.

“Whatever I wind up doing, I want to make a contribution to the greater good, whether it’s inventing a device in the medical field or something to help the environment, or using my engineering expertise in the field of medicine,” he said. “Whatever I do, I want it to have a direct impact.”

Keep on reading about our 2019 Outstanding Seniors here.

StandWithUs Calls on UCLA to Address Anti-Semitism on Campus

Photo from Flickr.

StandWithUs called on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang to take action against the “disturbing trend of anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA” in a May 24 letter.

The letter, which was written by StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein, Saidoff Legal Department Director Yael Lerman and Center for Combating Anti-Semitism Director and Counsel for Legal Strategy Carly Gammill, recounted San Francisco State University Professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s May 14 guest lecture in a UCLA anthropology class where she called Zionists white supremacists.

These statements were not merely anti-Israel, but antisemitic in that they allegedly characterized all Zionists as white supremacists desiring a wholly Jewish world and willing to engage in ethnic cleansing in order to attain that goal,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill wrote in a joint statement.

When student Shayna Lavi tearfully told Abdulhadi that she was offended by her characterization of Zionists, “Abdulhadi silenced her, then repeatedly singled her out for scolding and belittling in front of the entire class for the remainder of the lecture.”

Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill noted that anthropology professor Kyeyoung Park “apparently turned away and refused to make eye contact with” Lavi, and Park reportedly asks “called out only this student by name for the next two classes – with over 100 students present – and then complained that Park is now part of an investigation because of this student’s interaction with Abdulhadi.”

They called this incident “part of a disturbing trend of anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA,” citing several incidents that have occurred at UCLA since 2012, including when “UCLA student Rachel Beyda faced anti-Semitic questioning about her Jewish background during a routine student government judicial confirmation hearing” in February 2015 and when pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted a Students Supporting Israel in May 2018.

This pattern of anti-Semitic activity at UCLA, combined with your administration’s indifference to taking substantive action to deter further misconduct, violates UCLA’s nondiscrimination policy and satisfies UCLA’s definition of harassment,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill wrote, which is defined as “[C]onduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.”

They also argued that Park violated UC Faculty Code of Conduct requiring that professors “avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.”

“By inviting Abdulhadi to speak and permitting an anti-Semitic diatribe, blatantly ignoring Abdulhadi’s harassment of one of her Jewish students, and continuing to harass the student about the incident—in front of the entire class, no less—Park has violated the faculty code of conduct with respect to harassment and discrimination,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill argued.

They urged Block and Kang to condemn the Abdulhadi incident in a statement and “to investigate this matter fully” and “take all necessary steps to protect [the university] against legal liability that could result from ignoring this pattern of discrimination on your campus and the detrimental impact it is having on the Jewish members of the campus community. Further, we are resolved to take all appropriate legal action if any student or faculty member suffers from related discriminatory and/or harassing behavior.”

Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill gave Block and Gammill a June 7 deadline. The university has not responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.

UPDATE: UCLA’s Executive Communications Office replied to StandWithUs May 28 by stating that “allegations of discrimination or harassment have been conveyed to the Discrimination Prevention Office, which investigates reports of discrimination or harassment based on race, ancestry, national origin, religion, and other legally protected categories by any member of our community.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement, “StandWithUs awaits the findings of UCLA’s investigation into this latest instance of blatant antisemitism, as reportedly being conducted by the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office. We trust that the administration understands the urgent need for swift and decisive action here and will act accordingly. We will continue to monitor the situation at UCLA and are prepared to take further action as necessary to help ensure a safe educational environment, including for Jewish members of the campus community.”

UCLA Student Council Passes Resolution Saying SJP Isn’t Anti-Semitic

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

The UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) passed a resolution May 21 condemning those calling Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) anti-Semitic.

The resolution denounced faux newspapers from the David Horowitz Freedom Center that compared “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activism with Nazism and terrorism were discovered on the UCLA campus on April 30.” The resolution went on to “administrative figures including Chancellor Gene Block and local politicians have promoted the same accusations found within both Canary Mission and the David Horowitz Freedom Center propaganda, equating support for the National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference held at UCLA in 2018 with anti-Semitism either directly or by implication, thereby compounding the atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and political repression that the aforementioned vigilante initiatives and organizations seek to stoke.”

Block’s November Los Angeles Times Op-ed called SJP’s support for BDS as “actions that stigmatize that nation [Israel] and label it a pariah state” and that the SJP conference that month would “be infused with anti-Semitic rhetoric.” The resolution called these comments “marginalizing” and “stigmatizing.”

“We call on administration at the highest levels to issue statements condemning the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Canary Mission website for the unjust intimidation tactics they truly are and affirming that such defamatory initiatives must have no bearing on the occupational prospects of all affected members of the campus community,” the resolution states, adding the statement should “also include language affirming the right of students to discuss and advocate for Palestinian human rights without outside misinformation and intimidation from organizations such as Canary Mission and the David Horowitz Freedom Center.”

According to the UCLA Jewish news outlet Ha’Am, the USAC voted by a margin of 8-1 in favor of the resolution; the lone dissenting vote was from Tara Steinmetz, the only Jewish representative on the council.

“Just last week, we had a Jewish student berated by a professor who declared Zionism is white supremacy, and the student was left in tears,” Steinmetz said before the vote. “To ignore how anti-Zionism can cross into antisemitism is problematic.”

UCLA’s Students Supporting Israel President Justin Feldman told the Journal in a text message, “The repeated effort to immunize anti-Zionist perpetrators of anti-Semitism on our campus from accountability serves to show that the Undergraduate Students Association Council has a continuously ingrained issue with validating Jewish safety concerns and Jewish denunciations of hatred. The nature of how this resolution passed is an uncomfortable reminder that keeping quiet about the double standards that Jews collectively face on campus is not an option.”

Feldman added, “Marking just over a year since the violent disruption of one of our cultural events, by SJP, in which we were absurdly castigated as ‘white supremacists and terrorists,’ as ongoing victims of white supremacy and terrorism, we must continue to empower more Jewish students to speak up for themselves and demand that our campus eliminate conditional inclusion of our pro-Israel and Jewish identities.”

David Horowitz Freedom Center Founder and President David Horowitz said in a statement to the Journal, “UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine is a political arm of the terrorist organization Hamas, whose goal is the genocide of the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state. Not a single sentence or phrase in the UCLA resolution addresses the evidence we have published and sourced that SJP is funded by Hamas through it front organization American Muslims for Palestine. AMP is headed by the notorious anti-Semite and jihad supporter, Hatem Bazian, the co-founder of SJP. AMP’s board, as Jonathan Schanzer has shown in congressional testimony, is run by former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation which was successfully prosecuted by the US government for funding Hamas. SJP is the chief campus sponsor of BDS – a Hamas orchestrated campaign to strangle the Jewish state. Everything SJP does is designed to spread the Hamas lies that Israel is an apartheid state which illegally occupies so-called Palestinian land. The UCLA resolution is a disgraceful collection of smears designed to provide a smokescreen which will deflect attention away from these undeniable facts, which obviously SJP and its political supporters can’t begin to refute.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper called the resolution an “insult to the Jewish community” in a statement to the Journal,  posing the hypothetical on what the public reaction would be “if eight white students at UCLA passed a resolution defining ‘racism’ without input from African American or Latino students.”

“[The] UCLA Administration will likely continue to hide behind phalanx of rules that guarantee intimidation-free environment for  bigots and zero protection for Jews who dare embrace 3,000+ years of love of Israel,” Cooper said.

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Non-Jewish student government members have no right to declare what is or is not anti-Semitic. Given that Jewish students provided ample evidence of SJP’s hateful rhetoric, the student government should apologize and rescind any language shielding them from criticism. While it’s understandable that it is unpleasant to be labeled anti-Semitic, groups can be accountable and work to change their image. SJP can do so by stating their case without attacking others or using destructive tactics, and by engaging civilly with the many Jewish students and others who support Israel’s existence, rather than trying to demonize and isolate them.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, also said in a statement to the Journal, “The USAC resolution strengthens our belief in alternative universes and the most inverted of all Orwell’s dreams. SJP, a student organization that prides itself on crushing meetings of other student organizations has now been given the victimhood stage and is crying out to us: ‘Gewalt! Misinformation!, Islamophobia! We are only racist against Israelis and most American Jews, not against Jews that behave themselves! What a terrible misinformation!’ It re-raises a decade-old question: When will UCLA administrators understand who they are dealing with?”

Executive director of UCLA Hillel Rabbi Aaron Lerner said in a May 22 letter to Hillel community members that the resolution’s passage was another instance “of targeting Jews and Israel in ways that our university community would never allow against other minority communities.” He argued that “there is plenty of evidence linking SJP to hate, including their inflammatory use of a kite in the conference logo. Dressing a wolf in sheep’s clothing doesn’t change its predatory nature.”

The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

UPDATE: Canary Mission sent a statement to the Journal via email that read, “Canary Mission aggregates the tweets, posts and actions of individuals and compiles them into profiles for the public to view. Any accusations of anti-Semitism based on Canary Mission’s reporting are derived from factual evidence gathered from public sources. contains thousands of examples of anti-Semitism from SJP members, so we find this resolution laughable.”

UCLA Panel Examines Fake News in U.S.,Israel

A panel at UCLA examined “‘Fake News:' New Media and the Changing Political Culture in the U.S. and Israel.” Photo by Ryan Torok

During a May 19 lecture at UCLA, four journalism experts examined the importance of media in a world where the term “fake news” is now part of the daily lexicon.

“Without media, some of democracy cannot function properly, and if you have mistrust in the media then the media cannot fulfill its societal roles,” said professor Eytan Gilboa, founder and director of the Center for International Communications at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. 

Gilboa made his statement as part of a panel titled, “ ‘Fake News’: New Media and the Changing Political Culture in the U.S. and Israel.” He spoke alongside Jane Elizabeth, managing editor of The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., and the Durham Herald-Sun; Anat Balint, a media scholar and lecturer at Tel Aviv University; and UCLA Department of Communication professor Tim Groeling. Around 40 people attended the event organized by the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies.

During his presentation, Gilboa displayed a graph showing that the media is one of the least trusted institutions in the United States, especially among Republicans. “Democrats are much more trusting of the media than Republicans by huge gaps,” Gilboa said.

He added that both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump have “observed these mistrusts of the media and capitalized on them, used them, exploited them for election and other purposes and gained from those accusations.”

Elizabeth spoke about the role social media has played in disseminating false stories, noting that fact-checking on Facebook is the “biggest game of whack-a-mole you’ve ever seen.” 

She also spoke about “deep fakes,” which she described as the manipulation of video to make a person say something they never said. “This will be a problem in the 2020 election,” she added. 

“When you attach the word ‘fake’ to news, you also aim at the work of journalists.”— Anat Balint

Balint spoke about slanted coverage in Israel, laying much of the blame on Netanyahu. She called the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is supported by pro-Israel philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, as a “propaganda platform personally oriented toward Netanyahu. It is a façade of a newspaper that doesn’t hold any journalistic value,” she said.

The news, Balint said, should be a conduit for honest public discourse. “When you attach the word ‘fake’ to news,” she said, “you also aim at the work of journalists.”

During her presentation, Balint showed an image of a huge Netanyahu campaign billboard for the April 9 Israeli elections showing Netanyahu and Trump shaking hands. She described both leaders as “disruptors of public discourse because of their attacks on the media,” adding that with the rise of social media and its increasing role in the news landscape, individual leaders have greater platforms than media outlets. 

Groeling said some fake news sites exploit credible news sources, citing a website that intentionally resembled ABC News, which published a false story that there would be a do-over of the 2016 presidential election.

While there are fact checks to make up for erroneous reporting, they are not distributed as widely as the underlying stories, he said, adding that part of the problem for real journalists is that most people are not media experts and don’t enjoy spending time rigorously exploring the news.


UCLA Guest Lecturer Calls Zionists White Supremacists

Photo from Flickr.

During a guest lecture to a UCLA anthropology class on May 14, San Francisco State University Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Professor Rabab Abdulhadi called Zionists white supremacists.

Abdulhadi spoke to around 100 students in the Fowler lecture hall during a mandatory lecture for the Anthropology M144P: Constructing Race class, taught by Associate Professor Kyeyoung Park.

A Jewish student in the class, Shayna Lavi, told the Journal that Abdulhadi discussed Islamophobia at the beginning of the lecture then veered into a “rant” against Israel, which Lavi said included “a claim that those who support Israel want to ethnically cleanse the Middle East and those affiliated with Israel and pro-Israel organizations are white supremacists.”

Lavi added that Abdulhadi also said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “was attacked by AIPAC and all these pro-Israel organization because [Omar’s] Muslim,” and that the United States and Israel have “shared values” of “killing people, colonialism and white supremacy.”

Noting that there had never been any prior readings about the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the class, Lavi said, “It really threw me a loop because… most of these kids don’t know anything about the [Israel-Palestinian] conflict.”

Lavi said she raised her hand during the question-and-answer session and challenged Abdulhadi, saying she was “personally offended” that Abdulhadi “categorized pro-Israel students, Zionists and Jewish students as white supremacists.”

Abdulhadi then responded: “Thank you. That’s your opinion but you’re wrong. I stand with Jews who do not support Israel and I hope that Jews will disalign themselves with white supremacy.”

Lavi said she was crying, but Park dismissed her and told Lavi to come to her office hours after the lecture without offering a formal apology.

Another student, Viktorya Saroyan, told the Journal she was angry that Abdulhadi brought Lavi to tears, so Saroyan sent an email to Vice Chancellor for Equity, Inclusion and Law Jerry Kang about the matter, which was then forwarded to the Discrimination Prevention Office.

“This was hate speech, there is no other way of classifying it. Watching an educator belittle a student to tears with such blatant ignorance leaves me to question the values UCLA wishes to uphold.” — Viktorya Saroyan

“I am someone who is not a part of the Jewish community; regardless I wish to speak up,” Saroyan wrote in the May 14 email. “This was hate speech, there is no other way of classifying it. Watching an educator belittle a student to tears with such blatant ignorance leaves me to question the values UCLA wishes to uphold.”

Lavi also filed a complaint with the Discrimination Prevention Office on May 16. Both Lavi and Saroyan said Park apologized on May 16 for Abdulhadi’s lecture.

“[Abdulhadi] can say whatever she wants, but she shouldn’t be in the classroom,” Lavi said. “The keynote speaker for SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) shouldn’t be a mandatory speaker for all students.”

Abdulhadi was the keynote speaker at National SJP’s conference at UCLA in November as well as at the 2017 National SJP conference.

Ricardo Vazquez, associate director of Media Relations at UCLA, told the Journal in an email that “several students” were concerned that Abdulhadi’s lecture “went beyond legitimate criticism of the State of Israel [and] into anti-Semitism. The University is committed to academic freedom as well as building an inclusive learning environment without discrimination and harassment. Senior leadership are aware of the concerns and are working together to learn more and to find a satisfying resolution. In accordance with university procedure, allegations of discrimination or harassment have been conveyed to the Discrimination Prevention Office.”

Anti-Defamation League Los Angeles Regional Director Amanda Susskind said in a statement to the Journal: “Students should be exposed to a wide range of ideas but if the guest lecturer equated Zionism with white supremacist ideology, as is alleged, that is not just an offensive point of view.  It is indefensible, ignorant and revisionist.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper similarly said in a statement to the Journal that Abdulhadi’s lecture was “another example of propaganda thinly disguised as academic/intellectual discourse,” as Abdulhadi “had no interest in engaging a student who dared to respectfully challenge her rabid anti-Semitism.”

StandWithUs Executive Director of Research and Strategy Max Samarov said in a statement to the Journal: “This professor is notorious for spreading hate about Israel and the Jewish people, and for whitewashing anti-Semitic rhetoric as merely ‘criticism of Israel’ or ‘anti-Zionism.’ We are proud of the students who had the courage to speak out and support their efforts to educate the class about anti-Semitism.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, called on the UCLA’s Department of Anthropology to issue an apology “for slander made by one of its invited speakers who vilified the collective identity of many faculty and students at UCLA, associating Zionism and the State of Israel with ‘colonialism’ and ‘white supremacy.’ I find it hard to believe that an accredited UCLA department could overlook the long racist history of this invited speaker. Rabab Abdulhadi was the person who stood behind the exclusion of Zionist students from campus activities at California State University San Francisco, which has resulted in a lawsuit and an embarrassing legal settlement for her University.”

On Feb. 23, 2018, Abdulhadi wrote in a Facebook post that she was “ashamed” that SFSU President Leslie Wong said that Zionists were welcome on campus.

Park and Abdulhadi did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

AMIT Event, Friends of Sheba Honors, SSI Visitors

From left: AIGYA Founder and Executive Director Phyllis Folb, Calev Knopf of Valley Torah High School and Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, dean of Valley Torah High School. Photo courtesy of AIGYA

The recipients of the American Israel Gap Year Association’s (AIGYA) inaugural Rosina Korda Gap Year Scholarship were revealed in surprise ceremonies for each of the three winners this month.

The winners are Leora Lalezari, a student at YULA Girls High School, Calev Knopf of Valley Torah High School and Rory Meyerson of Yeshiva High School of Arizona.

“The joy, fellowship and surprise among the teachers and classmates was apparent during the announcements when AIGYA and Korda family representatives announced the winners,” an AIGYA press release said.

“This scholarship reflects Mrs. Korda’s deep love of Judaism and connection to Israel,” AIGYA founder and Executive Director Phyllis Folb said in the release.

AIGYA, a Los Angeles-based organization that produces the largest Israel gap year fair on the West Coast and the only cross-denominational fair in the country, made the scholarship available to all 2018 fair attendees.

Two winners will take part in in-depth Torah learning and the third will pursue a career and a language-focused Israel gap year program, AIGYA said.

A $5,000 tuition voucher, donated collectively by the extended Korda family, will go toward each of the respective programs the winning students chose to attend.

“As we say at the Passover seder, if AIGYA had only helped us to select a program for my son, it would have been enough for us,” said Charles Meyerson, who traveled with his son, Rory, to the Los Angeles fair from Arizona. “As it turns out, God repaid our efforts in traveling from Arizona many times over with Rory’s win.”

The 2019 AIGYA Israel Gap Year Fair will be held on Nov. 21.

From left: Michael Roklen, Jessica Abo, Dafna Landau, Briana Benaron and Leslie Schapira attended a young professionals event organized by AMIT L.A. NewGen. Photo courtesy of AMIT L.A.NewGen

Young professionals came together on March 5 to support the Israel education network AMIT L.A. NewGen and to spend an evening with journalist and social entrepreneur Jessica Abo.

Nearly 50 people turned out at the Beverly Hills home of Phyllis and Jay Schapira and discussed ways to navigate social media while staying true to one’s self and finding happiness.

 Abo’s new book, “Unfiltered: How To Be as Happy as You Look on Social Media,” highlights the importance of reaching one’s fullest potential through self-empowerment, a key goal of AMIT Children’s work in ensuring the success
of its students across Israel, the organization said.

From left: Thando Mlauzi, Isaac Dayan, Mmamalema Molepo, Jessica Khalili, Justin Feldman and Klaas Mokgomole participated in a pro-Israel speaking tour at UCLA and Santa Monica College.
Photo courtesy StandWithUs

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at UCLA and Santa Monica College hosted two South African student leaders on April 16 and 18.

Klaas Mokgomole from the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg and Mmamalema Molepo from the University of Cape Town believed that Israel was an apartheid state until they traveled to Israel and the West Bank and saw the reality, according to pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs. Both activists now contend that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is lying about Israel.

They appeared in Los Angeles as part of the “Reclaim Your Story” tour, a partnership between Africans for Peace, a collective of independent students, scholars and activists who bring an African lens to the global debate on peace and stability in Africa and beyond, and StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization that believes education is the road to peace. Mokgomole and Molepo interacted with students interested in learning more about their change in attitude to Israel and later spoke to the campus communities.

According to StandWithUs, Justin Feldman, president of SSI at UCLA, and Yitz Shafa, president of SSI at Santa Monica College, agree that Mokgomole and Molepo enlightened the students on what apartheid truly was in South Africa and how Israel is the antithesis of it. They also said the activists’ views, formed through their own personal experiences, are much needed to dispel the misinformation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being circulated on campuses, especially during April’s “Israeli Apartheid Week.”

From left: Friends of Sheba Medical Center’s 2019 Women of Achievement Luncheon Committee members Melody Pakravan, Carrie Sherman, Sorelle Cohen,
Jennifer Cohen, Marianne Berman, Parvin Djavaheri, Aviva Harari, Ruth Steinberger, Lynn Ziman and DeeDee Sussman. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center

Friends of Sheba Medical Center held its annual Women of Achievement Luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on April 4. 

The luncheon brought together members of the community in support of Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer and benefited the medical center’s new pediatric laser treatment center.

More than 360 guests attended the sold-out event, which opened with a reception and silent auction. CBS 2 and KCAL 9 reporter Brittney Hopper emceed.

The luncheon featured a keynote presentation by professor Josef Haik, director of the National Burn Center at Sheba Medical Center. He spoke about Sheba’s vision for the pediatric laser treatment center — a state-of-the-art facility that will use advanced laser technology to treat severe burn scars that cause physical and emotional pain in children. Advanced research and pediatric laser application also will be taught to all dermatologists and plastic surgeons throughout Sheba Medical Center. The unique combination of

research, treatment and teaching makes the pediatric laser treatment center at Israel’s National Burn Center the first of its kind in the world. 

The luncheon honored two community leaders, Rosalie Zalis and Yafa Hakim. Zalis was presented with the 2019 Women of Achievement Award for leadership in her remarkable career and philanthropic endeavors. Hakim was honored with the 2019 Marjorie Pressman Legacy Award for her longstanding service and dedication to Israel’s hospitals, including Sheba Medical Center.

“It was an honor to hear from professor Haik, who flew in from Israel to speak about Sheba’s incredibly innovative pediatric laser burn treatment center, which has the power to save the lives of children suffering from severe, painful and disfiguring burn scars,” luncheon co-chair Lynn Ziman said. “Thanks to our hardworking luncheon committee and the support of our community, Friends of Sheba is making a significant impact in the lives of thousands of children, not only from Israel but around the world.”

Additional organizers were luncheon co-chair Judy Shapiro, décor chair Beverly Cohen and honorary chair Carrie Sherman. 

“The 2019 Women of Achievement Luncheon highlighted the need for our community’s next generation of leaders to support Israel and Israel’s flagship institutions, such as Sheba Medical Center,” Friends of Sheba Medical Center Executive Director Molly Soboroff said. “As Rosalie Zalis declared, now is the time for future leaders to show up, support Israel and invest in the future of global medicine with Sheba Medical Center.”

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In Every Generation…

Good stories begin with the words, “Once upon a time.” They take place in a single point in history, a moment that is remembered and retold. Great stories happen in an eternal present, a drama that we enact with our lives. The Exodus is one of the latter, as the haggadah tells us, “In each and every generation a person is obligated to see themselves as a personal participant.”

I learned the difference between these two kinds of stories from professor Michael Walzer, whose book “Exodus and Revolution” (1985) I return to each year before Pesach. In it, Walzer recalls attending a service at an African-American church in Montgomery, Ala., in 1961 while researching the sit-ins and Freedom Rides of that era. The pastor sermonized on the Exodus, and Walzer came to understand that the story isn’t owned by Jews; it belongs to people of many faiths who have used it to describe their own yearnings for liberation.

Walzer explains that all of the cultures and movements that have drawn inspiration from the Exodus have come to understand its three core principles:

First, “wherever you are, it’s probably Egypt.” In every society, there are elements which are oppressive, tyrannical, “Egyptian.” Often they are well hidden behind a false façade of normalcy. 

When I was an undergraduate at UCLA, my younger brother visited me. At that time, he was a teenager obsessed with designer sneakers. When I asked what he wanted do in Los Angeles, he said he wanted to visit Rodeo Drive and check out boutiques featuring shoes that retailed for thousands of dollars. I obliged, and we spent an hour walking the streets of Beverly Hills, peering in windows. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I drove him from 90210 to downtown’s Skid Row. I made him get out of the car and walk around, roaring at him: “You think Rodeo Drive is Los Angeles — this is Los Angeles!” 

While the memory of my college freshman political “wokeness,” now makes me want to cringe, I recognize in it a hint of Walzer’s teaching. Los Angeles has presented itself as Eden — the paradise of palm trees where the sun always shines. Of course, we know that underneath this thin veneer lies incredible brokenness — homelessness, hunger, violence and profound inequality. I suspect ancient Egypt probably wasn’t so dissimilar. The Exodus story teaches us how to look deeper and recognize the oppression that often exists right before our eyes.

“We are one another’s marching partners on the journey from Egypt to Promised Land.”

Walzer’s second principle is “There is a world more attractive, a better place, a Promised Land.” If the only thing that we draw from our narrative is that the whole world is Egypt and always will be, then we have no incentive to try to make it better. Yet, the Exodus story is one of an escape from a brutal reality. The world as it is isn’t the world as it must always be, and so it’s worthwhile to struggle and even suffer to bring about the change we envision. 

How do we do that? Walzer answers with his final rule: “The only way to the Promised Land is through the wilderness, there is no way to get there but by joining together, and marching.”

As director of the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program, each year I meet more than 300 students who are exploring the role that Judaism might play in their lives. I tell them all that, for me, Walzer’s final rule is the job description of every Jew. We are one another’s marching partners on the journey from Egypt to Promised Land. We are all responsible for helping one another to make it across. Months later, when I sit in on their beit dins, I often hear them talk about that moment as one of the decisive ones in their journey to becoming Jewish.

This year, like every year, we’ll gather to tell our sacred story, which didn’t take place “once upon a time,” but rather “in each and every generation.” We are still very far from the Promised Land, but with marching partners like the ones who will fill our seder tables, we have a pretty good chance.

Rabbi Adam Greenwald is the director of the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program at American Jewish University.

Westwood’s Model Matzah Factory Brings the Passover Experience to Life

Photos by Debra Eckerling

Something amazing has happened on the third floor of Chabad House at UCLA in Westwood. It’s been magically transformed into the five different sets that make up the Martin Ackermann Model Matzah Factory. It’s the site of a clever, fun and hip retelling of the story of Passover, followed by an interactive lesson in how matzo is made.

Craig Ackermann, whose family dedicated the program in memory of his father, Martin, told the Journal, “As a lover of Passover, freedom and children, and as a practical hands-on person, my dad would undoubtedly support this wonderful effort to educate the next generation about God’s liberation of our ancestors from Egypt in such a tangible and beautiful way.” 

Chabad Youth Director Aron Teleshevsky leads the experience, designed for children and adults alike. Local college students assist him by playing many of the characters (Moses, Pharaoh) along with Teleshevsky’s brother-in-law Rabbi Zalman Goodman from Chabad of Beverly Hills.

The Matzah Factory experience starts in the main room, where, after a brief introduction, Moses comes out from the pyramid to retell the story of the Children of Israel’s struggles in Egypt. Armed with God’s message to “let my people go,” the audience joins Moses to meet with Pharaoh at the palace in the next room. 

“There are two parts to the experience. One is reliving the story of the Exodus, making it something that’s a little bit less foreign. The second is the process of making matzo, because matzo is a big part of Pesach.”

— Aron Teleshevsky

The humorous and modern script is designed for optimal engagement. For instance, when Pharaoh and his assistant are pelted with the plague of toy frogs, the song “Who Let the Frogs Out?” (with apologies to Baha Men and their hit 2000 single, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” ) plays over the loudspeaker. 

Once Pharaoh relents after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Moses leads participants to a farm where they are shown how to separate the seeds from the wheat and grind them into grain. The next room, the rainforest, has a lesson on how the flour and water are carefully combined to make the matzo dough. “No water can touch [the flour] until right before it’s ready to go,” Teleshevsky said. And finally, attendees are led into the bakery where they roll out and make holes in the matzo dough. The matzo is then baked and participants take their edible, though not kosher for Passover, treats home.

Rabbi Zalman Goodman of Chabad of Beverly Hills leads kids through the Model Matzah Factory.

“It’s all about bringing [the story of Passover] to children and adults in a hands-on way,” Teleshevsky told the Journal after one of the performances. “Adults need this sense of connection just as much as kids do. Of course, we want the kids to grow up with a feeling of connection and to be able to implement Judaism into their lives, keep the traditions going and pass it on to their children, God willing. But the adults need to feel it, too.”

Every year, in the weeks leading up to Passover, the Matzah Factory plays in Westwood. Teleshevsky also takes the show on the road to schools and synagogues throughout Los Angeles. 

“There are two parts to the experience,” he said. “One is reliving the story of the Exodus, making it something that’s a little bit less foreign, a little bit less abstract. The second part is the process of making matzo, because matzo is a big part of Pesach, and it’s a big part of the story of when the Jewish people left Egypt.”

The experience is tweaked accordingly for children and adults. “Last night, I was at Temple Isaiah,” Teleshevsky said. “We had a group of adults, so we spoke more about the significance of the different plagues, the story and what we could learn from it.”

Teleshevsky hopes that whoever experiences the Matzah Factory or even reads about it is inspired to do something extra to connect with their heritage. “Connect to the spark inside of you,” he said, whether it’s another Friday night dinner, lighting Shabbat candles, visiting the mikveh, putting on tefillin or doing another mitzvah. “Just reconnect,” he said. “That’s what it’s about.”

Chabad has been running the Matzah Factory for 30 years; Teleshevsky has been in charge for the past seven, and it still draws crowds. “It’s always about updating [the stories and experiences],” he said,  “and making it more fun, more creative, more hands-on and more experiential.”

North Africa and the Holocaust

As I was working with the team creating the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Human Rights Center, we decided to tell the story of the Holocaust geographically rather than thematically and chronologically. After all, the fate of Jews varied country by country. German policy differed in various countries, in part depending on German attitudes toward the local population, German plans for the geographical area after their assumed conquest, and the attitudes of the local population toward their own Jews, whether they be citizens or not. 

Furthermore, the Holocaust happened at different times in different countries. For the Jews of Germany, Nazi policy evolved over six years (1933-1939) before World War II even began, and eight years before the Final Solution – the systematic annihilation of the Jews — became German state policy. In occupied Poland, ghettos preceded the murder of Jews and lasted for between two and four years. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, ghettoization followed the massive massacre of Jews in what has become known as the Holocaust by bullets. There could be no doubt in these regions that the intent of the German occupation was the annihilation of the Jews — in Nazi-speak: extermination.

 In Macedonia, ghettoization was a matter of weeks, deportation a matter of days. Hungarian Jews were persecuted by the German-allied Hungarian government and were taken for slave labor but not murder until after the German invasion of March 1944. Ghettoization followed swiftly in April and early May and deportation began on May 15. By the first week of July 1944 the countryside was Judenrein, without Jews, and all that remained were the Jews of Budapest.

As we explored the Holocaust geographically, one of the problems we faced was how to describe the fate of the Jews of North Africa, who lived under French or Italian or even, during World War II, German occupation. Should we treat those countries independently of their European colonial rulers, or treat them as an offshoot of France and Italy, the dominant colonial rulers?

I wish I could say that we debated the issue philosophically. In the end it was merely determined by spatial considerations, and I shall leave it to future museum visitors to consider the wisdom of our choice. 

I read Aomar Boum’s and Sarah Abrevaya Stein’s book, “The  Holocaust and North Africa” — the result of a 2015 conference sponsored by UCLA and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum —with great interest and considerable gratitude, for it explores the fate of Jews in North Africa during World War II, when colonialism and the Holocaust met.

In each North African country, the fate of the Jews differed by the nature of colonial rule, the colonial power’s attitude toward collaborating with the Nazis on implementing the Final Solution, and the duration of German or allied and collaborationist colonial powers’ control in these lands. As Christians persecuted Jews in countries with an overwhelmingly Muslim-majority population, the attitude of the Muslim population, and most especially its leaders, impacted the fate of the Jews. What also determined Jews’ fate was how swiftly liberating Western allied powers came to control these countries, replaced colonial leadership and reversed anti-Jewish policies imposed by the colonial powers allied with or occupied by Germany.

“Any consideration of the Holocaust in North Africa operates under a handicap… The accepted narrative is that the Holocaust was only a European event.

Any consideration of the Holocaust in North Africa operates under a handicap, as many of the authors remind us repeatedly. The accepted narrative is that the Holocaust was only a European event. North Africa is regarded as a peripheral issue at best, a footnote if considered at all. And while a variety of camps were in North Africa, there were no death camps. Furthermore, with the post-colonial collapse of these Jewish communities by migration to Israel, France or North America, their experience during World War II often takes a back seat toward their more recent trauma, and their sense of loss is the loss of their homes and the demise of their communities that took place in the 1950s and ’60s. The events of the 1940s fade into oblivion. 

There was never any doubt that Sephardim were also victims of the Holocaust. All scholars must consider the European dimensions of the fate of Sephardic Jews in Greece — the great Jewish community of Salonika was deported in 1943 — and in the Balkans, where the Jews expelled from Spain found a haven, but most have avoided North Africa as it does not fit into the Europe-centered narrative. This book is an overdue and most necessary offering that should force a reconsideration of the issue. 

The role of the Holocaust in Israeli national identity further complicates the matter, as the greater the concern with the Holocaust, the more Mizrahim in Israel feel neglected and disregarded. There may also be a sense of “Holocaust envy.” How can their experience during the Holocaust or in exile from their homeland compare as a catastrophe? And there certainly were significant omissions in terms of compensation, reparations and the recovery of property.

“The Holocaust and North Africa” is a carefully chosen title. Notice that it is not entitled “The Holocaust in North Africa.” The term Holocaust evokes ghettos and death camps and more recently murder by bullets, and little of this occurred in North Africa. The book could have also been titled “Where Colonialism and Holocaust Meet” or “Where Colonialism and Fascism Come Together.”

The book is divided into four parts. The first considers the meeting together of colonialism and fascism in consideration of the French colonies of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and the Italian colony of Libya, which for a time was occupied by Germany. Ironically, Jews fared better under French colonial rule than they did in Vichy France and quasi-independent but strongly collaborationist France; and certainly far better than they did in German-occupied France, where Jews had greater rights before the German invasion. Colonialist Italian rulers were more lax in enforcing anti-Jewish legislation than their counterparts in Italy, and in both Italy and Libya conditions deteriorated dramatically after the Germans invaded Northern Italy and reinstated Mussolini. 

The second part of the book deals with diverse experiences of different North African Jewish populations. Occupation, internment and race laws differed country by country, often year by year, and even within some countries by regions, whether rural or urban.

The third part considers the narratives of this period of time, the joining of memory of the past with contemporary efforts to find a useful history; and the final part deals with the efforts, mostly by Holocaust historians, to find a place with the greater narrative for the experience of North African Jews.

One wonders how many more narratives remain to be discovered and how deeply historians of this generation and the next will probe this region. One also wonders whether fictional accounts of the time will be written, and whether this material, mostly in French, will be translated into English or Hebrew. The admirable work of the Yitzhak Ben Zvi Institute, dedicated to the history of Sephardic Jewry, simply cannot compete with the intellectual and economic powerhouse of Yad Vashem.

Conferences vary in the quality of presentations and their written record is usually uneven. Most often, their impact is ephemeral. Not so the conference that resulted in this book. The chapters offer a consistency of quality and perspective, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Future historians will have to consider the fate of North African Jewry, country by country, region by region. This reviewer hopes that future historians do not end their research and their writings at the borders of Europe. “The Holocaust and North Africa” proves that there is much to be learned.

Michael Berenbaum is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute and a professor of Jewish Studies at American Jewish University.

Judea Pearl Calls on UCLA to Adopt CSU Position That Zionism Is Important to Jewish Identity

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, called on UCLA to take on California State University’s (CSU) recently adopted position that Zionism is integral to Jewish identity.

As the Journal reported, on March 20 a settlement agreement was reached between a couple of Jewish San Francisco State University students and the CSU Board of Trustees in which CSU will issue a statement acknowledging that “for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity.”

In a statement sent to the Journal via email, Pearl said, “This legal settlement is a milestone in the fight against institutional anti-Semitism in academia, and promises to redefine the posture of Jewish students nationwide. The new posture implies that in all matters concerning code of conduct, Zionism now attains the same protection status as any religion or nationality, and Zionophobia turns as despicable and condemnable as Islamophobia.”

“At UCLA, my students and colleagues are waiting for the UC system to respond to the recent settlement and articulate its attitude towards verbal assaults on Zionism or Zionist students,” Pearl continued. “More specifically, we hope that the next wave of anti-Zionist assaults will be met with a stern and deterring condemnation by the UCLA administration and, not less important, that any such condemnation be accompanied by a public statement highlighting the unique and positive contribution that Zionist and Israeli students bring to the cultural tapestry of UCLA.”

“Only public restoration of acceptance can undo years of unrestrained slander of a Jewish Homeland,” Pearl concluded.

The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

In December, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block was one of the 10 UC chancellors who signed a statement condemning “an academic boycott of” Israel as “a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse on the Middle East.”

What’s Happening: Dance, Deli and Discussion

Batsheva Dance Company


YJP Shabbat Dinner
Shabbat dinner with Young Jewish Professionals (YJP) draws career-minded women and men who are committed to Judaism. Network with ambitious 20- and 30-somethings while enjoying a four-course dinner and open bar. Ticket prices increase as the crowd size approaches capacity. 6:30 p.m., bar opens. $60-$90. Online purchases only. Pat’s Restaurant, 9233 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 692-4190.

Mensch Awards
Hungarian Holocaust survivor Bill Harvey; renowned musical conductor Zubin Mehta; the late Leon Bass, a black American soldier who encountered the survivors of Buchenwald as a soldier in a segregated unit; and the refugee-aid organization HIAS are honored by the Mensch Foundation. The Temple of the Arts program is dedicated to Hungarian Jewry and the memory of Elie Wiesel, who the Nazis deported from Hungary in 1944. A Hungarian Shabbat dinner is served and Mensch Foundation Founder Steven
Geiger discusses the state of Hungarian Jewry. Rabbi David Baron leads Shabbat services featuring the 40-voice Spirit of David Black Gospel Choir. 6 p.m., dinner. 8 p.m., Shabbat services. $75 donation requested for dinner. RSVP at Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theater, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Batsheva Dance Company

The Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company returns to UCLA’s Royce Hall to perform “Venezuela,” a new work by Ohad Naharin, the group’s choreographer for 28 years. He created the two 40-minute sections in juxtaposition where dances explore the dialogue and conflict between movement and the content it represents. 8 p.m. March 15, 8 p.m. March 16. $39-$99. UCLA Royce Hall, 10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646.


Adam Milstein

Discussing Anti-Semitism
While leaders in Washington debate anti-Semitism, Israeli-American community leader Adam Milstein discusses how anti-Semitism is anti-American during a Shabbat shiur at Valley Beth Shalom. Milstein, a Haifa, Israel, native, is a real estate investor and philanthropist who has been named among the world’s 50 most influential Jews. He is also the co-founder of the Israeli-American Council, which seeks to strengthen the State of Israel and serve as a bridge to the American-Jewish community. Noon-2 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.


“A Taste of Heaven: The New Jewish Deli”
“The Jewish Deli,” an episode of the PBS food documentary “Migrant Kitchen,” screens at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The episode highlights Wexler’s Deli, which is putting a spin on traditional deli nosh. A Q-and-A session with Micah Wexler and Micah Kassar, the co-owners of Wexler’s, along with the documentary’s producers, Antonio Diaz and Lara Rabinovitch, follows the screening. Wexler and Kassar explain why they left the field of fine dining to enter the deli world. A Wexler’s Deli spread of its house-smoked, hand-sliced fish, bagels and nosh is served after the screening. 4 p.m. $18. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Westside Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-2401.


“I Shall Not Be Silent”
Born into a Prussian family at the start of the 20th century, Joachim Prinz was one of the early Jewish models for civil rights activism for African-Americans, speaking before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. His life story of resistance is told in the documentary “I Shall Not Be Silent,” which screens tonight at Kehillat Ma’arav. A discussion follows the showing of the film. 7-9:30 p.m. $5, suggested donation. Kehillat Ma’arav, 1715 21st St., Santa Monica. (310) 829-0566.


“What Did American Faith Communities Stand For?”
A U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum panel examines the question “What Did American Faith Communities Stand For?” during the rise of Nazism. Jewish Journal columnist Dan Schnur moderates a discussion featuring Suzanne Brown-Fleming, director of International Academic Programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Stephen Haynes, a professor of religious studies at Rhodes College; and Jody Myers, a professor of religious studies and director of the Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program at Cal State Northridge. A reception follows. 7:30-10 p.m. Free. Registration required. Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 556-3222.

Have an event coming up? Send your information two weeks prior to the event to for consideration. For groups staging an event that requires an RSVP, please submit details about the event the week before the RSVP deadline.

A New Tzedakah Model for Just $5

From left, Alex Dardashty, Mason Eghbali, Aaron Shahmaram, Natan Hekmatjah and Leah Khoubian at a fundraiser to benefit Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp. Photo by Celine Torkan

Growing up in Beverlywood, Mahyar Asher Eghbali often witnessed grand gestures of monetary tzedakah, (charity) in his community, particularly in the synagogue. 

“I’ve always believed there has to be a way to give, even if you don’t have a lot of money,” Eghbali, 31, told the Journal. “What if you aren’t that religious and only come to synagogue on the High Holy Days? Tzedakah shouldn’t only happen in synagogue and it shouldn’t have anything to do with how religious, rich or poor, or how young or old you are.” 

So in 2013, together with some of his post-college friends, Eghbali proposed an idea: What if people donated just $5 each month? It sounded doable. That’s why Eghbali, a self-described “entrepreneur at heart,” co-founded Just5, a nonprofit whose fundraising method is all in the name. 

With its subscription-based model, people sign up on the website and register to become members, and $5 is withdrawn from their bank accounts every month. Since its inception, Just5 has since included options for members to donate more, but the minimum monthly commitment remains $5. At the end of the month, Just5’s volunteer board chooses a recipient for the accumulated funds, usually a Jewish individual or family in the community facing economic hardship. 

Once the funds are sent, members receive a newsletter via email or can view social media posts detailing the recipient while keeping them anonymous.  

“That helps each member feel a connection to who they’re helping,” Eghbali said. “From the beginning, I always said that this platform is going to be made and run with true love. This isn’t about writing a big check to put your name out there. None of that matters here. Everyone is equal here. Everyone can make a difference with just $5.” 

Just5 reviews applications through its website and chooses where to allocate funds based on need. Even though it doesn’t give exclusively to Jews, Eghbali said it’s mostly Jews who apply simply based on referrals. Over the years, Just5 has helped people deal with domestic abuse, expensive medical bills and rent struggles. It recently pitched in over $1,500 to support the rebuilding efforts of Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp, which were destroyed in the Woolsey fire. 

“Tzedakah shouldn’t only happen in synagogue and it shouldn’t have anything to do with how religious, rich or poor, or how young or old you are.” — Mahyar Asher Eghbali

Just5 is completely run by volunteers and has practically no overhead costs. Any overhead incurred is limited to website maintenance and credit card transaction service fees, which are funded by outside donors. That translates to 100 percent of members’ charged fees going straight to the designated recipients. 

“That type of model was always the goal,” Eghbali said. “My friends and I always just thought that aspect would really make the idea cool.” 

As life takes Eghbali, a licensed pharmacist who runs his own delivery-based pharmacy in downtown Los Angeles, in a different direction, he wants to keep Just5 running well and keep it in the family, too. 

“The truth is, a lot has changed since I started this,” Eghbali said. “I’m married, our third child is on the way and it’s very hard for me to put as much time into the organization as I’d like. So I turned to my brother and he has been amazing.” 

Last year, Mason Eghbali, 20, a student at UCLA, took over for his older brother. He runs Just5 with the help of his good friend and classmate Aaron Shahmaram, 20, and together they’ve injected new life into the organization. They established a new, younger, 12-person board mostly composed of UCLA students. They hold bimonthly meetings at UCLA Hillel in Westwood. 

“For college students, giving back isn’t always a priority,” Mason Eghbali said. “We’re busy much of the time, but charity is an important thing to have on our minds. It’s only $5 that you’re being charged monthly. It’s so easy and simple, so there’s really no excuse, even for college students.” 

To attract new members, they’ve held social events both on campus and in the community, including challah bakes, a Purim gift-basket-making event benefiting low-income families and Shabbat dinners in conjunction with UCLA Hillel, Moishe House, Jewish Awareness Movement (JAM) and GoSephardic, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring the next generation of Sephardic youth.  

“The events are so much fun and help spread the word,” Eghbali said. “We’re able to get a lot of new members that way.”

Shahmaram added that word of mouth is often the best method to entice new members. “It’s an easy sell,” he said. “I was just talking to a friend of mine on campus recently and realized I hadn’t told him about Just5 yet. I quickly explained it and got him to sign up that day.” 

Just5 currently has more than 360 members. But the new leadership isn’t satisfied. “Right now, we’re mainly helping people in our community,” Eghbali said. “But sometimes we get people reaching out from New York or Florida. It would be really wonderful if this was set up in other places.” 

“I know a lot of people my age who say that one day when I become successful I’m going to give back,” Shahmaram said. “Well, this organization is telling them, why wait? Do it right now. It’s such an easy, effective model and we know that there’s so much room to grow. There’s no reason not to get involved in this and help out the community.” 

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, campus director of UCLA’s Hillel, still remembers when Eghbali and Shahmaram sat down for coffee with him last year to explain Just5 and asked to hold a meeting in the sanctuary. Now that Kaplan has seen them in action for about a year, it’s pride he feels when thinking about his students making a difference in the community.  

“With this, you can change someone’s month or year or even life in the community,” Kaplan said. “It’s also just a good use of time. They’re college students, so even though they’re busy, it’s not like a full-time job. This is phenomenal and, in my mind, it’s true leadership. They are examples of true mensches, doing all of the types of things that we want our next generation to do.”

WATCH: SSI Debates Anti-Israel Students on West Coast College Campuses

Screenshot from YouTube.

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) released a video on Feb. 17 documenting various man-on-the-street style debates with students on West Coast college campuses.

SSI President Ilan Sinelnikov, Director and Strategic Partnerships Elan Chargo and founder of SSI Columbia Rudy Rochman went to UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State University, University of Washington, University of Oregon and Portland State University as part of their 2018 West Coast Van Campaign to seek a dialogue with students on Israel and Zionism.

One part of the video shows a student telling Rochman that the Israeli flag is offensive because it suggests “that you are pro-Israeli government.”

“No, you’re pro-Israeli people,” Rochman replied. “It’s an actual people.”

The student replied that others may see it differently, prompting Rochman to say, “It’s the wrong way to take it. The same way I would say to an Israeli that it’s wrong for you to see a Palestinian flag or to meet someone who’s a Palestinian and directly assume that they’re bad.”

Another student thought Zionism meant “endorsing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine”; when Rochman explained that Zionism means that “the Jewish people have a right to exist,” the student said, “You’re gonna feel for those people [Palestinians] because they have less. They’re dying more, at least what it seems to look like from everything that the media shows.”

“There’s no future without Palestinians, and there’s no future about Israelis,” Rochman said.

On one campus, a man started yelling at Rochman for supporting “genocide” for wearing a T-shirt that had the word “Israel” on it. When Rochman asked the man if Palestinians have ever murdered Jews, the man denied it.

“They kill colonizers, that’s who they kill!” the man said.

At another campus, a student asks Rochman why SSI is featuring a sign associating Palestinians with “terrorist salaries.”

“The Palestinian Authority is actually paying people who are going and killing Jews,” Rochman replied. “We need to be able to condemn that.”

The student argued that “the Israel Authority is doing that, too,” prompting Rochman to say, “They’re not paying anybody to kill. If an Israeli citizens goes and kills a Palestinian, they are jailed and they are condemned by the entire society.”

Other students admitted that they didn’t know much about Israel or Zionism and that groups like SSI are needed to educate the student populace about it.

“There is an ideological warfare on Israel on campus,” Sinelnikov said at the end of the video. “The bias, the misinformation and the lies are outrageous. And for that reason, Students Supporting Israel engaged. We want you not just to support Israel from your home, but we want you to take your pride and support to Israel to campus.”

‘Homelessness’ Now Resides at UCLA’s Hillel

Ted Hayes and the artist, Pat Berger. Photo by Peter Martin

In the winter of 1984, artist Pat Berger learned that the American Red Cross planned to erect two enormous tents near Los Angeles City Hall to help feed the homeless for Christmas. She went downtown to investigate and began talking to the men, women and children standing in the long lines snaking out from the overcrowded tents onto the sidewalks. She approached two men and asked permission to photograph them. They agreed — on one condition: she had to shake their hands.

“I said, ‘Of course,’ ” Berger recalled. “I realized they just wanted to be part of the human race. It’s such a solitary life. I knew I wanted to get involved, and I decided to do a consciousness-raising statement through art.”

Berger, who will turn 90 in March, called up this memory during an interview at the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel, where 18 of her 35 paintings inspired from that period of her life are on display. The exhibition, simply titled “Homelessness,” may consist of images created in the mid 1980s, but the scenes they depict remain alarmingly timely. 

At the exhibition’s opening on Jan. 24, the Dortort also hosted Berger’s longtime friend and fellow homelessness activist Ted Hayes and a series of speakers from UCLA and neighboring facilities, who considered ways to confront the topic of homelessness.  

After that Christmas encounter 34 years ago, Berger got to work. She met regularly with the residents of Hayes’ Tent City and Skid Row, and conducted more research of homeless people living by the beaches. She worked extensively with Hayes, who at the time lived on the streets and who she helped get office space in the Bradbury Building downtown. She also spent time with film maker Gary Glazer, who featured her work in his documentary, “Trouble in Paradise.” 

“I spent five years down there, and there were so many stories,” Berger said. “It was the most exciting time of my life. For five years, that was my beat.” 

As Berger advocated, she also painted, creating a series of 35 acrylics and lithographs depicting people and scenes meant to be neither glamorous nor gut-wrenching. Among them, a group sits at a half empty table in Venice consuming “Christmas Dinner”; two boys holding soda cans wander amid the clutter of boxes and containers in “Home for a Day”; and a woman sits guarding rows of “Donated Shoes.” 

“I think it’s important for our community. This is where they do their Shabbat dinners. I want them to understand that they live in a very privileged society — except, of course, those who are homeless.” — Perla Karney

“She was a toughie,” Berger said. “I would go down and sketch and take pictures when I could. I had to be careful, because if they didn’t like it, they would chase me away. Some of them were people who would never go into shelters. I don’t blame them, really.” 

The works were first exhibited in the cafeteria of the Weingart Center for the homeless on Skid Row. In the ensuing years, they have traveled the nation and are filling a very specific function at the Dortort, according to the center’s Artistic Director Perla Karney. 

“I think it’s important for our community and for our students to have an in-your-face kind of thing,” Karney said. “This is where they do their Shabbat dinners. This is where they have their lectures. This is where they are confronted with these paintings. I want them to understand that they live in a very privileged society — except, of course, those who are homeless.”

This region has a turbulent history with homelessness, according to data compiled by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and the California Housing Partnership Corporation. According to homelessness counts between 2010 and 2017, the number of homeless people across Los Angeles County increased from 38,700 to more than 55,000. In March of 2017, voters approved a tax increase to fund $3.5 billion to address homelessness over the next 10 years. The effects of that financial boost are still being determined, but the number of homeless in Los Angeles County decreased by 4 percent in 2018.  

Local universities are by no means exempt, including UCLA, which operates the Bruin Shelter for homeless students. During his opening remarks, Hillel’s Executive Director Rabbi Aaron Lerner said that approximately twelve students from the shelter made the rounds of Westwood area churches in search of a place to live. Turned down multiple times, they ended up in Santa Monica, housed several miles away from their educational base.

Lerner evoked the theories of Eli Ginzberg who, during the heart of the Civil Rights movement, insisted that Jewish organizations “must first, foremost and always be concerned with the deepening, furthering and survival of our specifically religious Jewish values.”

“I’m left wondering about accepting the challenges of [Ginzberg’s] words from more than 55 years ago, when there are parking lot programs that are available for the city to make space for people who have cars but have no homes, when I have space that’s not used at night,” Lerner said. “What am I really willing and able to do? I don’t have a good answer for you.”

“Homelessness” is on display at Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. For more information, call 310-208-3081 or visit   

Lessons From Her ‘Shanghai Jew’ Father

As a child growing up in New York, Naomi Goldman often heard her father’s wartime stories. A Holocaust survivor, Robert Goldman spoke to Naomi of trying times in the ghetto — in China. 

The late Robert Goldman was one of the “Shanghai Jews” — one of 20,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1930s and 1940s for Shanghai. At the time, aside from the Dominican Republic, the Republic of China was the only viable option for Jewish refugees.  Robert grew up under brutal Japanese occupation in Shanghai’s Hongkou District ghetto until his teens. 

“My father’s challenging past to get to this country was very formative for me,” Naomi Goldman said. “Because of that, he was someone who placed great importance on the community and was so proud to be part of his local Jewish community and all that entailed. I got that from him.” 

When she was 12, her family moved to Torrance, where they became members of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach. Her mother, Faith Goldman, remains on the board to this day. The family also volunteered with local social justice causes. 

“I was always taught to think about how to give my time, talent and resources to good causes and vulnerable populations, such as immigrants like my father,” Goldman said.

Today, Goldman lives in Westwood and divides time between her childhood synagogue and Sinai Temple. She began her career in talent management after graduating from UCLA. 

“But I was only enjoying the part where I’d get clients connected to charities,” she said. “So I made a life change. I decided I wanted my life’s work to impact causes and communities.” 

“I was always taught to think about how to give my time, talent and resources to good causes and vulnerable populations.”

Today, as the head of her own successful communications company, Goldman carries on the legacy of her parents, supporting a bevy of progressive causes. She previously ran the state of California’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Campaign for several years and shepherded faith-based partnerships and educational programs that served as models for AIDS service organizations nationwide. She currently handles strategic communications for the chief executive office of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. 

“Whatever I’ve done in my life, whether it’s around community engagement, volunteering, philanthropy, serving on boards, it comes from being raised by exceptional role models — my parents,” she said. 

During the recent midterm elections, Goldman canvassed, phone banked, rallied and fundraised for local progressive candidates. Recently, she started a magazine for the Visual Effects Society called “VFX Voice,” focusing on how digital animation and special effects can merge the worlds of emerging technology and social justice. 

“I’ve written about how the Shoah Foundation has been using virtual reality to share Holocaust testimony and preserve things for next generation,” she said. 

Another of her deepest passions is disaster relief. For years, she has volunteered extensively with the Red Cross, providing comfort to displaced families affected by wildfires. For someone who always tries to make change and think big, those experiences have shown her that it’s often the small moments that matter most. 

“I remember the Shabbat after the Woolsey Fire, sitting in a shelter with a family with four kids that had no home,” she said. “All we did was color together, read books, and they taught me about cartoon characters they loved. I also like intimate experiences like that, just being a part of a few moments of peace in that really tough time.”

Read more about our 2019 mensches here.

Year in Review 2018: Top Videos

2018 was a busy year in the Jewish community and at the Jewish Journal. Take a look back at some of our favorite videos from this past year!

“Exotic Fruit Blind Taste Test” Jan. 30

Exotic Fruit Blind Taste Test

Tu B'Shvat is here. Come eat with us!

Posted by Jewish Journal on Tuesday, January 30, 2018


“A Very Special Love Story” Feb. 12

A Very Special Love Story

It’s been nearly four years since Danielle and Shlomo tied the knot. Both of them have special needs. This is their inspiring love story.Read more about their story here: you to

Posted by Jewish Journal on Monday, February 12, 2018


“Open Temple Seder Crawl” April 4

Open Temple Seder Crawl

We joined Rabbi Lori Schneide Shapiro and Open Temple for an experiential Seder crawl in Venice Beach.

Posted by Jewish Journal on Wednesday, April 4, 2018


“Ari Fuld- I’m Always on Call” Sept. 16

Ari Fuld – I'm Always on Call

Ari Fuld, terror victim, in a 2018 video interview at Jewish Journal.JJ LINK:

Posted by Jewish Journal on Sunday, September 16, 2018


“L.A. Vigil for Tree of Life” Oct. 29

L.A. Vigil for Tree of Life

The L.A. Community honors and remembers the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting.

Posted by Jewish Journal on Monday, October 29, 2018


“Pittsburgh Remembers the Victims” Oct. 31

Pittsburgh Remembers the Victims

Pittsburgh Remembers the Victims

Posted by Jewish Journal on Wednesday, October 31, 2018


“UCLA Campus: Protestors March Against National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference” Nov. 24 

On the UCLA campus: Protestors march against the National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference

On the UCLA campus – protestors march against the NSJP conference and hold a celebration of Israel

Posted by Jewish Journal on Saturday, November 24, 2018


“A Very Disney Hanukkah” Dec. 3 

A Very Disney Hanukkah

The Jewish Journal team explores the foods, music and fun of Hanukkah as the Disneyland Resort's Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park celebrates the Festival of Lights.

Posted by Jewish Journal on Monday, December 3, 2018


“A Sumptuous Tast of a Sephardic Hanukkah” Dec. 6

A Sumptuous Taste of a Sephardic Hanukkah

Posted by Jewish Journal on Thursday, December 6, 2018


“Hanukkah in Venice, CA” Dec. 10

Hanukkah in Venice, CA

Posted by Jewish Journal on Monday, December 10, 2018


See more from our Year in Review here.

Ten UC Chancellors Denounce Academic Boycotts of Israel

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Ten UC chancellors signed a statement denouncing academic boycotts of Israel at the urging of the AMCHA Initiative.

The chancellors, including UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, were signatories to a statement that read, “We write to affirm our longstanding opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholar.”

“Our commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as Palestinian colleagues, colleges and universities is unwavering,” the statement read. “We believe a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse on the Middle East.”

The statement was issued in response to a letter from the AMCHA Initiative, which had 101 signatories, calling for university presidents to sign a pledge against academic boycotts. The signatories wrote a thank-you note to the UC chancellors.

“Our 101 organizations applaud you for issuing a strong and unwavering statement condemning the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel on UC campuses, in response to our request,” the letter stated. “We especially appreciate your unequivocal declaration that an academic boycott of Israel ‘poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.’”

The letter continued, “Thank you again for your moral leadership, and for speaking up in defense of the academic rights of all students and faculty at the University of California.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Los Angeles bureau tweeted, “We commend Chancellors from all 10 campuses for their strong, proactive statement opposing academic boycotts of Israeli institutions & individual scholars. Thank you for prioritizing needs of students & pursuit of academic opportunity over politics.”

Max Samarov, executive director of research and campus strategy of StandWithUs, said in a statement sent to the Journal, “We applaud UC Chancellors for reaffirming their opposition to academic boycotts and their support for the free exchange of ideas.”

“Those who seek to cut Israeli academics off from the rest of the world or prevent students from studying in Israel are on the wrong side of history and engaging in bigotry,” Samarov said. “We urge all universities to increase academic exchanges and study abroad programs in Israel, in the face of this hateful campaign.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that it was “an important statement.”

“In a sense, it’s a shame that it even has to be made, but the idea that places that are supposed to be caretakers for freedom of speech would be in the front lines of shutting down and shutting out academic airplay with the Israeli institutions of higher learning, it’s a shameful reality,” Cooper said.

Cooper added that the condemnation needs to become a UC policy that applies “to deans, to academic advisors, to professors.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, said in a statement sent to the Journal that while the statement is a good “first step,” the chancellors should also “address the hostile climate that BDS activities are creating in the university, which adversely affect all pro-coexistence students and faculty.”

“At the very least, the chancellors should make it public and explicit that Israeli and Zionist students are welcome at the University of California,” Pearl said.

Hanukkah Illumination Rocked by Darkness of Hate

The National Menorah Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Our age seems to be addicted to what Mark Twain called “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But when it comes to the upsurge of anti-Semitism in the United States, especially on our campuses and on our streets since Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue slaughter of 11 innocents by a white supremacist Jew hater on Oct. 27, you don’t need statistics — just the litany of shameful specifics — to bring home the alarming truth.

Here are but a few recent campus “incidents” across the U.S. during Hanukkah:

Now, to top it off, at Harvard University — which rolled out the golden carpet in 1934 for high Nazi official Ernst Hanfstaengl (a Harvard alum) who used the occasion for anti-Semitic incitement — the Chabad House menorah was knocked over on the first night of Hanukkah, an incident being investigated as a hate crime.

Statistics released by the FBI confirm that the Hanukkah attacks were no aberration.  Hate crimes rose an astounding 17 percent last year, yet crimes targeting Jews, who represent only 2 percent of the population, soared 37 percent. 

Not all anti-Semitism emanates from neo-Nazis. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) raised a Palestinian flag above the University of Vermont’s Davis Center, surrounded by handmade signs (put up in violation of university policy) calling for an end to United Nations Resolution 181, which recognized Israel’s right to exist as a U.N. member state.

The SJP and at least initially, its ally, J Street University of Vermont, repudiated an earlier Israeli flag-raising as allegedly symbolizing “the moral  bankruptcy of Zionist ideology … [and the] ethnic cleansing of Palestinian civilians” as well as Israel’s “racist and oppressive … sexist, homophobic, and transphobic policies.”

Campus campaigns demonizing Jews and other Zionists as racists and supporting ethnic cleansing along with demands that the lone Jewish state, home to world’s largest Jewish population cease to exist, open the door wide for more attacks against American Jews.

And reaction by some university officials to anti-Semitism has been nothing short of outrageous.

For example, the initial statement issued the day after the Pittsburgh synagogue bloodbath from Columbia University’s Student Life Office, was mute about exactly who was slaughtered and why. Only after indignant protests, many from Jewish Columbia alumni, was a revised statement issued condemning “horrific anti-Semitic violence.” The hemming-and-hawing was similar at Dartmouth College.

Denial by euphemism is awful. But could anything be worse than the UCLA administration’s decision, a few weeks after the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht pogrom, to give its go-ahead on specious free speech grounds to the national conference of Students for Justice in Palestine, whose ranks include leaders who have tweeted: “LOL let’s stuff some Jews in the oven” and “We need to put Zionists in concentration camps. Now that would be a life experience for them” and “Every time I read about Hitler, I fall in love all over again.”

What is to be done?

American-Jewish students inclined to visit or study in Israel — or just speak up for the Jewish state — are often subject to intimidation and ridicule, sometimes by the professors who teach them. The Jewish community and national organizations must ensure that no Jewish student is left alone to fight back. Timidity in the face of anti-Semitic bullying must end. And fight back they must! When it came to mobilizing for Soviet Jewry in 1960s and ’70s, students led and adults followed. Now the legitimacy of the Jewish state, Jewish history and Jewish values are under assault. We need to nurture young Jews who want to fight back, not become invisible.

Beyond the campus, American Jews must recalibrate our interactions with neighbors, believers and nonbelievers, to forge new alliances to confront and defeat history’s oldest hatred, a hatred that seems to grow stronger every day.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of global social action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Historian Harold Brackman is a long-time consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Obituaries:Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter, Holocaust Survivor,

Eva Chorub and Gloria Katz

Gloria Katz, Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter, 76
Gloria Katz, who partnered with husband Willard Huyck and director George Lucas to write “American Graffiti,” died Nov. 25 — her 49th wedding anniversary — at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 76. The newspaper said she had ovarian cancer.

Katz made rewrites for the character of Princess Leia for Lucas’ follow-up to “Graffiti,” “Star Wars.” In a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she said Lucas had “a lot of reservations” about his “Star Wars” (1977) script as filming was about to begin. “He said, ‘Polish it — write anything you want and then I’ll go over it and see what I need,’ ” Katz said. “George didn’t want anyone to know we worked on the script, so we were in a cone of silence.”

Katz envisioned Princess Leia to be a woman who “can take command; she doesn’t take any s— … instead of just [being] a beautiful woman that shlepped along to be saved,” Katz said.

Katz and Huyck also co-wrote “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984), produced by Lucas from his story. 

The couple shared, with Lucas, an Oscar nomination in 1974 for their “American Graffiti” script.

The couple also co-wrote the screenplays for “Lucky Lady” (1975), directed by Stanley Donen, plus “Messiah of Evil” (1973), “French Postcards” (1979), “Best Defense” (1984), “Howard the Duck” (1986) — all directed by Huyck — and “Radioland Murders” (1994).

Katz was born in Los Angeles on Oct. 25, 1942, and majored in English at UC Berkeley. She earned a master’s degree in film from UCLA, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Katz served on the board of the Writers Guild of America and was an adviser to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, slated to open in 2019.

She is survived by husband William and daughter Rebecca.

Eva Chorub, Holocaust Survivor, 92
Eva Chorub, a Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the Lodzer Organization, died Nov. 10 at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 92.

She was born in Ozorkow, Poland, on Aug. 12, 1926, one of four children. During World War II, her family was forced from its home and into the Ozorkow and Lodz ghettoes, her son, Jacob Cherub, said in a eulogy. She later was transported to Auschwitz. 

After the war, Chorub returned alone to her hometown and learned that the rest of her family had been murdered by the death squads, Cherub wrote.

During her homecoming, Eva met Isaac Chorub, who also had survived the Nazi concentration camps. They wed and had son Jacob while living in a displaced persons camp in Germany.

The family immigrated to the United States in 1949. The couple’s second child, Judith, was born in the U.S.

The couple lived in Boyle Heights, where she worked as a dry cleaner, wrote Cherub (who modified of his last name). After the family moved to the Fairfax area in 1956. In the early 1960s, they opened a wholesale clothing store in downtown Los Angeles.

With other Holocaust survivors in Los Angeles, Eva and Isaac were among the founders of the Lodzer Organization in 1975.  Their mission was to support Jewish organizations around the world, educating future generations.

The couple were married for 72 years. 

She is survived by husband Isaac, son Jacob, daughter Judith and granddaughter Sarah Gurian.

Brave Students Oppose Anti-Semitism

Photo from Flickr.

Most of us never have to deal with anti-Zionist activists protesting outside our homes or harassing us at our jobs. We can make a conscious decision to face our opponents at rallies or protests or in other public settings, but we almost never enter into in-person encounters unless we deliberately choose to do so. 

But brave pro-Israel students at UCLA and other universities face that challenge every day. Last week, I wrote about the threat of anti-Semitism on our college campuses and praised those students for the work they do and the risks they take to confront that threat. But even while we support and applaud those courageous young people, many in the Jewish community have come to view the campus battle lines as something far removed from our own lives. 

What happens on college campuses, though, rarely stays on college campuses. And the thing to remember about college students is that they often graduate. After they receive their diplomas, they take with them into the real world the lessons they learned both inside and outside the classroom. A cultural attitude or policy preference that a young person develops as an undergraduate doesn’t disappear when they finish college; it accompanies them for many years afterward.

Once they complete their education, these young people grow up to stay at Airbnbs when they travel. They buy music from Lana del Rey and Lorde. They join the National Women’s March, even if the March’s leaders are consorting with Louis Farrakhan. 

None of these ideological or consumer choices make someone anti-Semitic, of course. But our biggest danger as a community doesn’t come from a small number of haters as much as from a much larger group that ignores or tolerates or minimizes hate. The more difficult challenge is not from those few individuals who learned during their college years that they should despise us, but rather the much larger group that learned they just shouldn’t care very much one way or the other.

This ambivalence manifests itself in every corner of society. The owners of Airbnb aren’t anti-Semites. It just never occurred to them that discriminating against Jewish settlers on the West Bank was anything more than a politically correct concession. Most of the singers who refuse to perform in Israel aren’t intentionally malicious, but rather simply oblivious to the security necessities of a nation that must protect its people against terrorism. And those Women’s Marchers who choose to excuse the behavior of their leaders aren’t haters themselves, they’ve just decided that the March’s other goals are higher priorities than standing up against hate directed toward the Jewish community and homeland.

Until now.

With the notable exception of courageous leaders like Amanda Berman and her colleagues at the Zioness Movement, too many Women’s March participants and supporters have been willing to overlook the close relationship that March leaders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory maintain with a notorious anti-Semite like Farrakhan. It was only after Farrakhan’s most recent invectives against the Jewish people that broader pressure began to build on Sarsour and Mallory to distance themselves from him. (Women’s March Founder Teresa Shook, actor Alyssa Milano and several regional March leaders deserve special credit for their efforts to bring necessary attention to the controversy.) 

Sarsour and Mallory have issued defiant and unsatisfactory responses to this pressure, creating a dilemma for all the women and men who support the March’s goals. Is it better to pretend that Farrakhan’s allies in the March leadership have satisfied our concerns about their relationship with him and their support of his agenda? Or does it make more sense to continue to push for their ouster, even at the risk of potentially weakening the broader impact of the March scheduled for Jan. 19?

The answer can be determined by how troubled each of us is when anti-Zionism oozes into anti-Semitism, and where this particularly noxious brand of hatred ranks on the list of outrages to decide how much that disagreement matters to each of us.

Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, and at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and the former director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region.

When Jews Are Seen as Goliath, Not David

David and Goliath by Guillaime Courtois. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

When the American Jewish community looks in the mirror, we see David carrying his sling. But to everybody else, we look a lot like Goliath. 

The 12 tribes of Israel have thousands of years of underdog status that should give us the hard-earned credibility to stand with other subjugated peoples. Which makes it especially frustrating when those whose travails are of more recent vintage see us as oppressors rather than the oppressed.

It becomes even more aggravating when groups of Palestinian provocateurs set up shop on our children’s college campuses, deliberately baiting us into a series of high-profile confrontations for which there is no clear path to success. If Jews and other pro-Israel voices push back against the lies and hatred directed at our community and our homeland, we provide our antagonists with an even more visible platform. Even more damaging is that a public altercation reinforces that David and Goliath narrative — in precisely the wrong direction — as the presence of well-meaning political and community leaders standing on Israel’s behalf elicits predictable bleating from the conspiracy-minded about the influence of the “Jewish lobby.” 

The alternative is even worse, as failing to push back allows the worst of the anti-Zionists and anti-Semites a free pass to peddle slurs and slanders to a young and impressionable audience.

This brings us to the curiously named faction known as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). With the possible exception of the two prepositions, there are absolutely no truthful words in the group’s title. Most of their member “students” are very occasional and heavily subsidized attendees of graduate classes. There is no evidence of the organization’s existence in or adjacent to the biblical boundaries of Palestine. (The group was founded in Berkeley, just over the border with Oakland.) And the term “justice” suggests a concern for fairness, respect and peace that is altogether absent from its public pronouncements.

But the SJP-ers are persistent, and they understand that most college campuses are petri dishes in which support for the suppressed is carefully tended, but whose residents have not been on the planet long enough to remember when those terms applied to the children of Israel. So, a familiar scenario played out on the weekend of Nov. 16-18 at UCLA, where the pro-Palestinian antagonists planted their flag for a membership gathering. 

Leading politicians denounced the assemblage, stirring the student government to denounce the collusion of “outside powerful forces.” The pro-Israel and Jewish communities turned out in peaceful but virulent protest, and by the time the conference ended nothing had dramatically changed. The haters had hated. The protesters had protested. But the protracted erosion of pro-Israel sentiment among our nation’s next generation of leaders had incrementally advanced, creating an even greater long-term challenge for our community and our future.

“It’s hard out there for Goliath, especially in a pro-David crowd. And it’s even more challenging when that crowd believes that we are simply Goliath pretending to be David.”

The result is that brave Jewish and pro-Israel students of UCLA and other universities throughout the state will continue to spend their days on campuses where young progressives develop growing levels of antipathy toward Israel and corresponding levels of empathy for its detractors. 

It’s hard out there for Goliath, especially in a pro-David crowd. And it’s even more challenging when that crowd believes that we are simply Goliath pretending to be David. Overcoming this credibility gap won’t be easy. But the first step for a Jewish community that still thinks of ourselves as the underdog is to be willing to see ourselves as our potential progressive allies currently see us.

Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, and at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

Pro-Israel UCLA Students Ask Anti-Semitism Panel to Discuss Anti-Zionism

Photo from Flickr.

A group of pro-Israel students at UCLA are calling on a scheduled Nov. 27 panel on anti-Semitism to discuss the issue of anti-Zionism and how it translates to anti-Semitism.

The panel, which is titled “Anti-Semitism Past & Present: Reflections in the Aftermath of Pittsburgh” and is scheduled for 5 p.m., is being put on by UCLA’s Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, and will consist of UCLA’s David Myers and Brenda Stevenson, USC’s Josh Kun and Aziza Hasan, from the Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, as panelists; UCLA Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang will moderate the discussion.

Justin Feldman, the president UCLA’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter; Darion Ouglian, the president of Bruins for Israel; and Hillel co-presidents Jackie Schaeffer and Noy Anisman wrote in a letter to the event organizers and panelists that they should split “half of the panel discussion to classic forms of anti-Semitism (religious/race-based) and half to growing forms of anti-Semitism which emerges organically from the delegitimization and dehumanization of Israel” and acknowledge that anti-Semitism comes in many different “identities, political orientations, faiths, or ethnicities.”

“Our concerns are warranted by the fact of anti-Semitism being expressed today across cultures, religions, ethnicities, nations, and politics,” the students wrote. “This hateful phenomenon is why it is inherently possible for leading members of ‘progressive movements’ such as the Women’s March’s Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory to endorse anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, and shortly get a re-tweet in support, from David Duke of the KKK.”

They added that this “is why the silencing and disenfranchisement of Jewish students on university campuses via the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), whose leaders deny Jews the right to self-determination, are given normalcy.”

“Especially amid recent tragedies, it is encouraging to know that you have arranged your diverse voices to delve into this contested issue,” the students wrote. “We trust that as speakers you will not shy away from exposing and denouncing all forms of anti-Semitism that threaten Jewish life and freedom. Whether being the white supremacist shooting at synagogue members in Pittsburgh or Hamas missile attacks at Israeli civilians in Israel, or the discriminatory silencing of Jewish and Zionist voices by defamatory organizations at UCLA, we need your voice. Indeed, dismissal of anti-Semitism anywhere is a promotion of anti-Semitism everywhere.”

Feldman told the Journal in a phone interview that they viewed the event as the administration’s way of saying that everything is “A-OK” for Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.

“There are actually many issues that they’ve swept under the rug that need to be talked about,” Feldman said, adding that UCLA hasn’t publicly stated any disciplinary measures for individuals involved in the May disruption of an SSI event as an example.

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, told the Journal in an email that unless such balance is provided at the panel, “the staging of this panel would appear as a sinister attempt to divert attention from UCLA’s unwillingness to deal with its own problem of anti-Semitism which stems, almost exclusively, from anti-Zionist hostilities that are yet to be denounced by the administration.”

Yoram Cohen, a UCLA chemical and molecular bioengineering professor and director of the Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, told the Journal in a phone interview that while he doesn’t know the specifics of what the panelists will discuss, the recent shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the National Students for Justice in Palestine conference at UCLA makes the students’ position understandable.

“We should realize that we should combat anti-Semitism in whatever form it takes, whether it’s anti-Israel activities that are specifically because it is against the Jewish people and the people in Israel, or whether it’s anti-Zionism, which masquerades as anti-Semitism,” Cohen said, “so we should be very careful, and I hope that this is part of the discussion that will take place.”

The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment at publication time.

WATCH: NSJP Conference Attendees Chant ‘Long Live the Intifada!’

Screenshot from Facebook.

A video from Students Supporting Israel (SSI) shows attendees at the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference in UCLA chanting “Long live the intifada!” when a couple of pro-Israel activists infiltrated the conference.

The conference, which was held on Nov. 16-18, was “hermetically sealed” off from the public, but SSI President Ilan Sinelnikov and activist Rudy Rochman were able to sneak in and come on stage holding an Israeli flag and a sign reading “Jews are indigenous to Judea” before being escorted out by security.

SSI’s video shows one of the attendees, identified by the Algemeiner as Mohammed Nabulsi, leading chants of “Long live the intifada! Intifada intifada!”

Sinelnikov can be seen saying, as security is about to escort him out, “These guys scream ‘intifada’ over here, that’s [the] murder of the Jews.”

Two Jews Infiltrate Anti-Jewish Conference

Students Supporting Israel refused to stay silent as SJP hosted their national conference at UCLA, promoting the destruction of Jewish self-determination and inciting violence against an entire group of people. The day when Jews are kept as victims is over. The day where Jewish institutions make excuses or shy away from dealing with our problems, is over. SSI is here to empower the next chapter of Jewish history.We are the youth. We are the key to building a better future. The power is in our hands and it is time we used to impact history.Join SSI. Be a player for Israel, not a fan.Video by Andrew LeibmanIlan Sinelnikov, Rudy Rochman רודי רושמן

Posted by Students Supporting Israel – SSI on Sunday, November 18, 2018

Intifada has typically been associated with waves of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli Jews.

Sinelnikov told the Journal in a phone interview that they were able to find an area where they were able to get by security and enter the building where the conference was being held. When they walked in, the attendees were dancing and chanting “Free Palestine!” before being led back to the main program, where Sinelnikov and Rochman went onstage.

He added that the conference attendees were “shocked” by them coming on stage.

“All the time we see how our events on campuses are being infiltrated and crashed and shut down and SJP wins the fight… This was the first time such a thing happened at the SJP national convention, so not a random event but their main convention” Sinelnikov said, “and they got a taste of their own medicine for the first time.”

“Now they know that everywhere that SJP’s going across the country, Students Supporting Israel will be there. So we are watching them, and our students are ready.”

Other snippets from the conference included a photo obtained by Algemeiner that showed an attendee with a tote bag that read, “Make Israel Palestine Again” as well as a photo obtained by the Journal of the conference logo on a booklet:

Koretz Headlines Protests of National SJP Conference

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz headlined the events protesting the Nov. 16-18 National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference at UCLA on Nov. 18.

The first protest, organized by Yad Yamin, started at the UCLA store; people donned in Israeli flags and holding signs that read “#TogetherAgainstAntiSemitism” and “Stop the next Pittsburgh now!” marched from the store and Perloff Hall, where the NSJP conference members were at the time.

The protesters engaged in a series of chants across the street from the hall, which included, “Hey hey ho ho SJP has got to go!” and “No more hate!” as well as singing “Am Yisrael Chai.”

It was during this part of the protest when Koretz spoke out against SJP on a megaphone.

“This is a conference that shouldn’t have been allowed to take place at the UCLA campus,” Koretz said to cheers. “This is an organization that claims to be nonviolent. They claim that this is just a discussion of policy and criticism of the state of Israel.”

Koretz added, “If this was just a criticism of the state of Israel, I could have joined them. I don’t agree with every policy of the state of Israel. But that’s not what this is. This is a secret meeting. They’re not proudly discussing policy. They are hiding in the shadows, and we have no idea what they’re discussing,” which prompted chants of “What are you hiding?” from the crowd.

The city councilman said that SJP could be planning acts of terror or how to torment Jews on college campuses, highlighting the May disruption of a Students Supporting Israel event at UCLA as well as the NSJP conference logo showing the UCLA Bruin playing with a Palestinian kite.

“That is so symbolic of everything that they stand for, which is violence against Israel and violence against Jews and hate and anti-Semitism,” Koretz said. “This should never have been allowed, and we need to do whatever we can to say this is not acceptable in the city of Los Angeles, it’s not acceptable to the Los Angeles City Council, it’s not acceptable to our residents and we won’t stand for it.”

Koretz told the Journal afterward, “I’m glad my daughter isn’t going here right now, to be honest.”

“Especially since we’re trying to improve safety of our Jewish institutions after the Pittsburgh massacre, the last thing we want to do is bring people who support violence against Israel and anti-Semitism from all over the country to Los Angeles right now,” Koretz said.

When the SJP conference attendees moved from Perloff to Ackerman Union, the Yad Yamin protesters followed and chanted at them as they were being escorted by security and continued once the attendees were inside Ackerman; the chants included, “Say it loud say it clear SJP is not welcome here!” and “Free Gaza from Hamas!”

One of the Yad Yamin organizers, who identified himself as Guy, told the Journal that they hoped to send a message to SJP that they’re going to show up at their events and stand up for Jewish students on campus.

“We’re willing to go face-to-face with these guys,” Guy said. “We’re not scared of them.”

Additionally, Bruins for Israel and Students Supporting Israel hosted a celebration of Israel at UCLA’s Wilson Plaza on Nov. 18, where people could get free food, Israel paraphernalia and fact sheets as well as arts and crafts while Israeli music blared in the background.

“We wanted to have a space for pro-Israel students and our community members to come together and celebrate why we love Israel together,” Darion Ouliguian, president of Bruins for Israel, told the Journal.

Attendees at the celebration included Koretz, Rep. Brad Sherman’s (D-Calif.) team and members of the UCLA administration.

“It’s exactly what we wanted,” Jewish Agency Fellow Amit David told the Journal. “It’s peaceful, it’s fun, it feels safe.”

Ouliguian added, “Amidst everything else happening in the background, we are still here celebrating Israel.”