Tag Archive | Anti-Semitism

Israeli ministers are not “Smelly,” and Fighting the Good Fight Against Jew Hatred on Campus

JesseArm

It is not easy to be Jewish or pro-Israel on today’s North American college campus. This misleading, hate-filled sign put up by student activists who aim to do nothing more than demonize and delegitimize Israel’s very existence has become a cancer on the collegiate scene.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the news this week of a bus bombing in Jerusalem is Harvard Law School’s efforts to protect the privacy of third-year student Husam El-Qoulaq. He is the head of the Harvard Chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, and at a recent guest talk featuring Israeli dignitary Tzipi Livni, he asked the profound question of why she is so smelly.

This hiding and protecting the student from any future shame as he goes off into the world looking for a job can be seen in the linked article from the Harvard Law Record, where they do not list Husam El-Qoulaq’s name. 

Political correctness and tolerating the intolerant is not going to make this growing storm of Jew hatred go away any time soon. Remember, the Nazi party began when it gained strength within Germany’s college campuses. 

It’s a good thing there are a lot of good Jewish lawyers.

One of them is my dear friend Joanna Abramson. Here is a Detroit Jewish News article from this week’s issue about her fight, written by Senior Copy Editor David Sachs. 

Attorneys who want to help fight antiSemitism on campus can contact Joanna Abramson at (248) 706-1700 or joanna@ abramsonlawoffices.com.

In post-World War I Germany, Joanna Abramson’s grandfather Ernest Gans suffered intense anti-Semitism while attending law school at the University of Munich.

He ultimately fled Germany a month before the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. Gans’ granddaughter Joanna, now a West Bloomfield attorney, in sharp contrast, experienced no anti-Semitism whatsoever as a proudly pro-Israel student at the University of Michigan in the 1970s.

But when her son arrived for orientation at the University of Michigan in 2004, new freshmen were met by protestors with signs and chants calling Israel an apartheid state and equating Israel with Nazism.

“It was a completely different University of Michigan than I experienced,” said Abramson. “It was more like the University of Munich that my grandfather experienced. “This is the experience occurring all over the United States today. As attorneys, we can’t sit by and watch this happen.”

Abramson, a board member of the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan (JBAM), organized a conference of local attorneys with featured speaker Yael Mazar, the director of legal affairs at the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs (SWU). She addressed about 50 lawyers April 7 at the Max M. Fisher Federation Building in Bloomfield Township.

Abramson seeks to inspire attorneys to join the fight against anti-Semitism on campus. She got a positive response from attorneys attending the conference. Mazar, a Los Angeles native who is currently living in Israel, conducts legal workshops and advises students on confronting extremist activity. Before joining StandWithUs, she specialized in civil rights and hate crimes law with the Anti-Defamation League. She sought to educate the attorneys attending the conference about anti-Semitism on campus and discuss what they could do to combat it.

Providing the student point of view was SWU-Michigan’s campus liaison Andrew Moss, a junior at U-M in Ann Arbor. Moss works with college and high school students across the state to plan and implement pro-Israel programming.

HATRED OF ISRAEL AND JEWS

Mazar described how easily anti-Israel rhetoric and demonstrations can morph into antiSemitism, giving the specific definition of anti-Semitism promulgated by the U.S. State Department. In addition, she spoke about the staged disruptions by anti-Israel factions when proIsrael speakers seek to speak on campus — which violate the speakers’ First Amendment right to speak and the audiences’ First Amendment right to listen.

She also told of harassment of Jewish students across the country, including, for instance, fake “Israelistyle” eviction notices in college dormitories or bogus student government allegations like those brought up and dismissed recently against U-M student Jesse Arm. Regarding anti-Semitism, Mazar said that absurd charges of the mass killing of Palestinian children were like the age-old blood libel of Jews killing Christian children to make Passover matzah.

She stated the three criteria of how antiIsrael antagonists cross the line into antiSemitism, as laid out by the State Department in its Fact Sheet “Defining Anti-Semitism”: • Demonizing Israel: Using the images of anti-Semitism to characterize Israel, comparing Israel to the Nazis or blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions. • Double Standard for Israel: Requiring of Israel a behavior not expected of any other democratic nation and focusing only on Israel for human rights investigations. • Delegitimizing Israel: Denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination and denying Israel its right to exist. However, the State Department adds, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

TROUBLE ON CAMPUS

The University of California (UC) regents have recently had to confront rampant antiSemitism on their campuses. Mazar gave the example of swastika graffiti and vandalism aimed at a Jewish fraternity at UC-Davis. She pointed out the case at UCLA in Los Angeles where Rachel Beyda was at first summarily rejected for a student government position because questions were raised that her Jewish faith would affect her impartiality. Also, at UC-Santa Cruz, an anti-Israel faction tried to prevent student representative Daniel Bernstein from voting on a pro-BDS resolution before the student government because he was Jewish. Mazar also discussed the case of U-M student Jesse Arm, a student government representative who was charged with ethics violations for peacefully disagreeing with the builders of an “Israel Apartheid Wall” on campus.

Arm was denied the opportunity to be represented by counsel at a student government hearing but received legal advice in advance from the SWU and West Bloomfield attorney Lawrence Katz. The student government wound up dismissing all allegations against him. SWU has prepared a pamphlet “Know Your Rights!” for Jewish students affected by anti-Semitic intimidation by anti-Israel factions. Included are issues of suppression of pro-Israel speech, challenging hostile professors, hate speech, anti-Semitism and harassment.

Students are given a hotline to get free legal help by filing an incident report through the website EndBDS.com or by calling (844) END-BDS7. Mazar says SWU has a pro bono legal team that will assist students facing antiSemitism with legal tools to utilize. She invited Detroit-area attorneys to get involved through Abramson’s efforts. SWU’s partners in the “Know Your Rights!” project are the American Center for Law and Justice, the Lawfare Project, the Louis D. Brandeis Center and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

EXCEEDING THE RULES

Mazar said one tactic SWU has used against pro-BDS resolutions has been to examine the bylaws of the resolving organization to see if it exceeded its authority by taking action on inappropriate issues.

This succeeded in an instance at UC-Davis. Lawyers can be helpful in advising students about rules and bylaws. Mazar cautioned that even though proBDS resolutions don’t always pass, the torrent of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric could still influence the beliefs of future leaders who are subjected to unsuccessful BDS efforts.

When anti-Israel demonstrators prevent pro-Israel speakers from having their say, Mazar said that the protestors should be arrested and prosecuted. For instance, 10 such demonstrators at UC-Irvine were convicted of disrupting a 2010 speech by then Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.

Another weapon against anti-Semitism is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits federal funding to institutions that discriminate. In cases in 2004 and 2010, Title VI was applied to protect Jews. In 2013, the ZOA filed a Title VI action against Brooklyn College when the college did nothing when four non-disruptive Jewish students were ejected from a pro-Palestinian event. In light of the action, the college apologized to the students and implemented policies to prevent future similar discrimination from occurring.

STUDENTS’ VIEWS

Moss, a junior at U-M majoring in political science and international studies, represents SWU-MI and works to fight anti-Semitism and BDS. “I built this position,” he explained, telling how he assists and educates students across the state. He was trained in pro-Israel activity by SWU prior to starting college in its MZ teen intern program. Moss told the lawyers they should “let the students know the community is behind them” regarding anti-Semitism on campus. He said students are fighting for the ability to present the pro-Israel side. Larry Katz, the West Bloomfield attorney who volunteered his advice to U-M student Jesse Arm prior to his successful hearing before a student government board, attended the attorneys’ meeting and said, “This meeting is the first step in the creation of a community of lawyers concerned about the BDS movement and growing anti-Semitism, particularly on college campuses. “We want to make sure Jewish students and faculty know their rights and have the resources to counter this propaganda.”

Attorneys who want to help fight antiSemitism on campus can contact Joanna Abramson at (248) 706-1700 or joanna@ abramsonlawoffices.com. Local attorneys are especially needed to serve on the legal help hotline. Their services will be available to people and organizations fighting anti-Semitism.

Speaking Up for Israel

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at U-M fail to silence Jewish student

Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer

Expressing relief that the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government (CSG) Ethics Committee had cleared his name on Dec. 7 of charges of hate speech because he spoke out at a pro-Palestinian demonstration, Jesse Arm, a CSG student representative, said he looks forward to “getting back to work on making campus a better place for all students.”

“Freedom of speech is of critical importance, and all students should recognize that truth,” Arm told the JN shortly after the ethics committee hearing — the first time in the CSG’s history a student serving in a student governmental position had ever been brought up on an ethics violation. “I hope that, in the future, all students will be able to engage in respectful dialogue freely without fear of repercussions for their ideas,” he said.

Under the charges brought up by the pro-Palestinian group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), Arm faced possible removal from his student governmental seat for emotionally, but peacefully, criticizing their Nov. 19 demonstration.

The demonstration featured SAFE members costumed to look like Israeli soldiers pretending to harass others at a mock checkpoint in front of two large, wall-like signs that included a dove targeted in a rifle’s crosshairs and the words “To Exist Is To Resist.”

Arm told the JN, “I objected to the use of that phrase in particular because I believe it to be a plainly regressive way of looking at the conflict no matter what side you are on. To exist is to coexist. To exist is to dialogue. To exist is to compromise. To exist is to strive toward peace.”

The incident occurred on the same day Jewish students on campus learned of the terrorist murder of Jewish American Ezra Schwartz in Israel, though campus media reports that the timing by SAFE was a coincidence. Arm, who passed the demonstration on his way to a class, spoke out and offered his contact information to later discuss the issue, but a SAFE representative was not interested in continuing a dialogue.

The Ethics Committee reviewed the incident, which was documented in a video presented by SAFE. SAFE’S own video, however, proved that Arm acted appropriately — and it wound up supplying the evidence that exonerated him.

The Ethics Committee concluded, “Arm should not be penalized; and members of student government have the right to speak passionately … and advocate on behalf of the causes they believe in. [Arm] remained well inside his First Amendment rights and … he never attempted to speak on behalf of Central Student Government or even mentioned the governing body.”

To justify their ruling, the CSG cited Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution of the Student Body of the Ann Arbor Campus of the University of Michigan, which states that “no authority, academic or civil, shall infringe on a student’s freedom of speech, freedom to peacefully assemble, or freedom to demonstrate grievances.”

The Ethics Committee also stated “SAFE has the right to continue to discuss these important issues, just as Representative Arm should have the right to continue to speak freely and participate in dialogue. … This expression cannot be censored; the emotional responses that students have are real and valuable.”

‘UNFOUNDED COMPLAINT’

Leading up to the hearing, Hillel Executive Director Tilly Shames in a statement said that she had “faith in our Wolverines, and I believe our student government will see there is no substance behind this complaint and will not take action against Jesse.” She said that prior to the hearing, Alex Adler, the Michigan Hillel governing board chair, spoke at the CSG and several other students came out to support Arm against an “unfounded complaint made by students with a BDS agenda.”

Heidi Budaj, Michigan regional director of the AntiDefamation League, praised the efforts of organizations like Hillel and Chabad who have “boots on the ground” to support and advocate for Jewish students on campus. She also questioned SAFE’s motives as well as what standards SAFE felt Arm violated.

“The ADL by no means wishes to limit the right to free speech by any group,” Budaj said. “However, it is not clear as to which standards of behavior Arm is being held against.”

After the hearing, the Ethics Committee concluded that the operation rulings of the committee must be “reformed” as it was unclear as to what standards Arm should have been judged and whether or not Arm was allowed legal representation at the hearing.

According to Article VIII of the Conflicts of Interest Code, a member of the CSG may have an ethical conflict of interest of serving on the CSG if they receive money or payment from any student organization as a direct consequence of their membership in the Assembly. It also states, “No member of the Assembly possessing a conflict of interest with a student organization may participate in debate or vote on any matter regarding the organization with which there exists a conflict of interest.”

There is no language about CSG members participating, or speaking out, at a campus demonstration. Attempts to reach CSG and SAFE representatives before and after the hearing by the Detroit Jewish News went unanswered. *

JesseArm

It is not easy to be Jewish or pro-Israel on today’s North American college campus. This misleading, hate-filled sign put up by student activists who aim to do nothing more than demonize and delegitimize Israel’s very existence has become a cancer on the collegiate scene.

France Can Take A Lesson in Religious Tolerance from Detroit’s Interfaith Council

On these snowy days I admit I have done way too much trolling on my Facebook news feed. One alarming video clip that came across my newsfeed was a very disturbing video of Fascists in France waving a red swastika flag, shouting Jews Out! Jews Out!

Do they have the right to march peacefully and express their views in a democratic society? Maybe. Have these French citizens forgotten the history of WWII when the Nazis themselves goose-stepped through the streets of Paris shouting the same hatred? Absolutely. 

Today’s Germany would not stand for such hate marches, free speech or not. In fact, it is illegal to fly the Nazi Flag anywhere in Germany or have a Nazi rally. 

I wonder, in this country which proposes to ban the wearing of any religious symbol or clothing, what they teach their children about religious tolerance. 

A few weeks back, I had the honor of attending and covering a “Face to Faith” Journey to Judaism sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Greater Detroit. Sitting in the massive sanctuary of Temple Israel of West Bloomfield with 150 seventh graders, I felt right at home. And you know something, so did the kids. Even if they never set foot in a Jewish house of worship. Even if they never had a Jewish friend. 

Cynics might wonder if such interfaith explorations organized by Detroit’s Interfaith Council really teach tolerance. But, after you watch the disturbing and disgusting video of Fascists marching down a street of what is supposed to be the world’s most civilized city shouting “Jews Out!” consider the alternatives.

Here is the article which ran in the Detroit Jewish News

What does a rabbi look like?  To the uninitiated, a rabbi wears a long black coat, grows a long beard, and therefore must always be a man.

Temple Israel rabbis, teachers, and other volunteers at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield helped to dispel this and many other misconceptions about Judaism as they guided a diverse group of 150 seventh graders from six school districts through a “Jewish Religious Diversity Journey.” The trip was part of a series of explorations into different religions created by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.

According to the council’s administrator Meredith Skowronski, Religious Diversity Journeys for the past 11 years has taken young leaders  – 25 handpicked students from each school district – on six trips to a different house of worship to foster understanding and a celebration of cultural differences.  Participating school districts include Berkeley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston, West Bloomfield, and Walled Lake.

Gail Katz, a retired Berkeley teacher and the director of Religious Diversity Journeys, explained that the program fits in perfectly with the World Religions unit of the seventh Grade curriculum.

“The Journey only extends what they are learning beyond the textbook and the classroom,” said Katz as she mingled with the students during a morning icebreaker. “We strive to increase respect and understanding among all students.”

Rabbi Josh Bennett – who is clean-shaven and does not wear a long black coat –  kicked off the formal component of the day of learning in the temple’s large sanctuary. Students, impressed by the large golden ark on the bimah, learned about the three different branches of Judaism and the belief in one God, learning Torah and the connection to Israel, which unites Jews across every level of observance

Later in the morning, groups of students took turns touring the building and listening to Rabbi Ariana Gordon explain the cycle of Jewish holidays, the complexity of having a Hebrew calendar that is both lunar and solar, and the odd phenomena this year that was “Thanksgivingkah.”

The students also visited the building’s mikvah and viewed an open Torah Scroll with Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny.

“These trips are an invaluable lesson where kids get a hands-on learning experience and are made to feel welcome in different houses of worship,” said Kaluzny after teaching a group about how a Torah scroll is made and written.

Over a Mediterranean vegetarian lunch prepared by Mezza of West Bloomfield and sponsored by Temple Israel, students expressed their appreciation for the program, which allows them to explore other traditions and pose questions that would seem inappropriate or uncomfortable in a classroom setting.

Ben Johnston of West Hills Middle School came away from the program with a better understanding of the different branches of Judaism and the customs and holidays his Jewish friends celebrate.

“This program is important to me because we have a diverse society,” Johnston said. “We go to school with different kinds of kids, and as we get older, these are the people we’ll go to college and work with. We must have the knowledge of their backgrounds so we can be more tolerant and understanding.”

templeisrael 002

Ben Johnston, a student at West Hills Middle school, learns about the role of a mikvah in Jewish life during a Religious Diversity Journey.

Ashley Liles and Maddy Merritt, both of Sashabaw Middle School in Clarkston, do not go to school with many Jewish kids.  The program allowed them to peer into a Siddur and not feel embarrassed to ask why it opens up backwards or why the letters look different than English.

templeisrael 008Maddy Merritt left, and Ashley Liles, right, seventh graders from Clarkston’s Sashabaw Middle school, examine Hebrew letters in the sanctuary at Temple Israel at during a Religious Diversity Journey.

The “journey” gave them a better perspective of the history and origins of the Jewish people.  Not only did it widen their understanding of Jewish holidays beyond Chanukkah, but the lesson with Rabbi Gordon also gave them a broader understanding of a holiday they would otherwise only know as a “Jewish Christmas.”

templeisrael 012

Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel, West Bloomfield, displays a Torah scroll to seventh graders on a Religious Diversity Journey with the help of parent volunteer Janet Cummins of Birmingham.

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