February 15, 2007
UCLA Hillel rabbi apologizes, settles 2003 case with woman journalist
A UCLA Hillel rabbi accused of accosting a freelance journalist in October 2003 has sent the writer a letter of apology as part of a court settlement.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, UCLA Hillel director, was accused by Rachel Neuwirth of verbally and physically assaulting her outside Royce Hall, on the UCLA campus, during a speech by Alan Dershowitz more than four years ago.
The letter was part of a settlement reached by Seidler-Feller and Neuwirth on Jan. 19, 2007. In the letter, Seidler-Feller wrote "I am deeply sorry that I hit, kicked, and scratched you and called you a liar. By taking these unprovoked actions, I have contradicted the pluralism, peace and tolerance about which I so often preach."
The incident occurred after Seidler-Feller approached some pro-Palestinian activists protesting Dershowitz's speech and invited them to an event featuring Suri Nusseibeh, the Palestinian representative for Jerusalem. Nusseibeh has been accused of encouraging Saddam Hussein to launch scud missile attacks against large Jewish population centers in Israel. Overhearing the invitation, Neuwirth started arguing with the rabbi, who then assaulted her. Neuwirth responded by calling him a "Kapo", a derogatory term used to describe Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II.
Neuwirth filed a report with campus police the day after the incident, which occurred on Oct. 21, 2003, and the university turned the investigation over to the city attorney's office. She also filed a civil suit against Seidler-Feller and Hillel in November 2003.
In December 2003, the city attorney's office ordered Seidler-Feller to undergo a 36-hour anger-management course, and to pen a letter of apology to Neuwirth.
Neuwirth described that first letter of apology as "slippery," and pursued her civil suit, which was scheduled to go to trial in April 2007.
On Jan. 19 both parties reached a settlement, the terms of which have not been disclosed. However, Neuwirth told The Journal that it included a "substantial amount of money" in restitution, to be paid by Seidler-Feller and Hillel, as well as a new letter of apology.
Neuwirth also said both parties have agreed to not "disparage or denigrate" each other.
Seidler-Feller's attorney Joshua Pollack, an associate at Proskauer, Rose, LLP, would not comment on the terms of the settlement, nor on the length of the negotiation, except to say that "The matter has been resolved amicably."