The University of California system has a problem with anti-Semitism, two local Hillel directors testified Monday.
"To solve a problem, you must be able to name that problem. We have a problem here. That problem is anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Evan Goodman (at right, below), executive director of Santa Barbara Hillel, told a committee of the UC Board of Regents.
“Many of us believed that anti-Semitism was a thing of the past…We were wrong,” Goodman continued. “Anti-Semitism has roared back, most notably on university campuses, and especially on our UC campuses. It adversely affects the education and lives of our students. This hostile environment causes prospective students to think twice about enrolling in the University of California.”
The UC Board of Regents Committee on Educational Policy is currently debating whether to include a definition of anti-Semitism as part of a larger statement of principles against intolerance. A vote on the matter is scheduled for next month.
“The reality for Jewish students on campus today is that they are treated not protected with the same care as other student groups,” testified Rabbi Aaron Lerner, executive director of Hillel at UCLA (pictured right, above). Lerner called for “explicit policies” and procedures that would protect Jewish students in the UC system from experiencing a “hostile environment.”
Such an environment includes attacks on students’ personal religious and cultural identity, as in the case of UCLA student Rachel Beyda, who in February was questioned in a hearing as to whether her Judaism presented a “conflict of interest.” as she ran for a seat on the school’s judicial board.
(UCLA’s Chancellor Gene D. Block, who is Jewish, issued a memo to the campus in the wake of Beyda incident, calling her treatment by her student peers “intellectually and morally unacceptable.”)
Other incidents on campuses include demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and or holding the Jewish state to double standards.
“At a university, of all places, there must be space for legitimate political discourse and analysis. This includes legitimate critiques of Israeli policy,” Goodman testified. However, he added, “when the one Jewish state in the world is obsessively singled out for condemnation, Jewish students recognize that their own religious and cultural identity is being called into question.
“The resurgence of anti-Semitism is directly paralleled with the increase in virulent anti-Israel activity.”
The U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism currently contains the “three Ds” test: delegitimizing, demonizing or double standards applying to the State of Israel and its leaders.
“Whether you adopt the State Department’s definition or choose to create your own, you must find a way to recognize the link between demonizing the Jewish homeland and demonizing Jewish students on campus,” UCLA's Lerner testified.
Added Lerner: "As the representative of nearly 3,000 Jewish students on campus, I demand that action be taken."