September 3, 2008
That campus anti-Semitism thing, you say it’s your birthday
It is unfortunate that The Jewish Journal would choose to run as its cover story two weeks ago an article by Brad Greenberg that preys on the deep and recurrent fears of some in our community of a rampant anti-Semitism on our college campuses ("Quiet War on Campus," Aug. 22).
There was nothing newsworthy about the article, no recent event or episode to prompt it. The episodes and anecdotes recounted in the story were months and, in most cases, years old -- and have been amply rehashed in the Jewish press.
Indeed, the chief novelty that we discerned in Mr. Greenberg's article was his willingness to report that "the amount of anti-Israel activity on campus is so negligible that it is almost impossible for students to find unless they are looking on all but maybe three campuses a year" —and this from the director of student programs at AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], an organization that is usually not deemed to be slack in defending Israel.
What is even more unfortunate were the letters last week in support of the article. They revealed precious little awareness of the state of affairs on college campuses, and even less of the nature of academic freedom. One letter suggested that we should be outraged because a certain UCLA professor did not submit to a request from an off-campus group to invite a "mainstream speaker" to offer a competing view to his on Zionism. We value the principle of academic freedom and regard it not only as the cornerstone of the American university, but as a key stimulus to intellectual creativity and innovation.
We may not agree with the views of all our colleagues on Israel or other subjects. But to begin to demand -- and even legislate -- the introduction of so-called balanced perspectives in the classroom is a step not to be taken lightly. Where does it start and where does it end? Should we have insisted that the course on the history of Israel taught at UCLA last year by a distinguished historian of Zionism should have included a speaker who advocated the dismantling of the State of Israel? Is that the kind of balance required? We think not and see the university as a free marketplace of ideas, where logic, quality of argumentation and fine scholarship win out over shoddy research and propaganda.
At the end of the day, we, as longstanding observers of and participants in college life today, concur with the AIPAC official that, thankfully, anti-Semitism is a negligible presence on our campuses today. To regurgitate episodes from four to six years ago is not only not news. It is a disservice to the legitimate fight against anti-Semitism, as well as to the important work of Hillel and other groups in nurturing a vibrant Jewish life on so many college campuses today.
Professor Aryeh Cohen
Rabbi Susan Laemmle
Professor David N. Myers
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Professor Roger Waldinger
There was little explanation in your article as to why the conclusions of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) -- dismissing the Zionist Organization of America's (ZOA) civil rights complaint that anti-Semitic harassment at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) was not being adequately addressed by university officials -- were wrong.
The major problem with OCR's decision was that it denied Jewish students the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI protects against racial and ethnic harassment, but to OCR, Jewish Americans are a religious group, not an ethnic group, and thus fall outside the scope of the law.
Jews are an ethnic group, sharing an ancestry, a heritage, traditions, language, homeland and culture. Not protecting them from anti-Semitism on college campuses means that a national problem may go unaddressed, because colleges and universities need not answer for their conduct.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, representing groups across the religious and political spectrums, complained about the decision in the ZOA's case against UCI and urged OCR to reconsider it, saying that "[t]his decision will affect Jewish students not only at UCI, but also at other colleges and universities across the United States."
In addition, three Republican U.S. Senators and six Democratic U.S. Representatives, including California Representatives Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Linda Sanchez (D-Cerritos), sent letters to the secretary of education, complaining about OCR's decision. According to the Senators, OCR's conclusion was "inconsistent with its prior policy statements."
Similarly, the Congress Members emphasized that it "reversed OCR policy, as clarified in 2004, of protecting Jews against anti-Semitism."
Fortunately, congressional efforts are underway to amend Title VI so that it is clear that Jewish students are protected and they can get their education in an environment that is tolerant and welcoming, rather than intimidating or threatening.
Morton A. Klein
Susan B. Tuchman
Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America
There is a time and a place for everything. Marty Kaplan's birthday article is inappropriate and does not belong in The Jewish Journal ("Happy Birthday to Me," Aug. 22).
I am happy to say that I spent many years in Delaware. My children and granddaughter still live there [and] I have worked on Senator Biden's campaigns ("Rob Eshman's Monday Journal," Aug. 18).
Biden understands the issues of the Israel and her neighbors better than most Senators including our own California Senators.
Biden definitely makes a difference I am thrilled to be able to say that I worked on his campaign and that he would always answer my phone calls when I needed him.
I believe he is a great asset to the ticket.
DeLet: The Solution
I was pleased to note that Rob Eshman identified DeLeT as a "solution" to the "shortage of top-quality teachers in Jewish day schools" and that he singled it out as a "model" of how "to streamline qualified professionals into the teaching profession" ("The Teacher," Aug. 29).
This is precisely what the funders and founders hoped DeLeT would become when they designed the program seven years ago.
In the ensuing years, DeLeT -- Day School Leadership through Teaching -- a fellowship program of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion with a parallel program at Brandeis University, has launched over 90 new Jewish day school teachers.
Today, DeLeT continues to take a novel approach to preparing teachers for day schools by helping novices learn the most powerful research-based approaches to teaching and learning while integrating Jewish and general studies.
Anyone interested in learning more about this novel approach to teacher preparation can check out the DeLeT website (www.huc.edu/delet) or e-mail Rivka Ben Daniel, DeLeT's Education Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Michael Zeldin
Rhea Hirsch School of Education
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
The New Jewish Funeral
Your article takes me back several years when a friend lost her 4 1/2-year-old son ("Green is the New Black," Aug 8).
Thank God I knew someone, Rob Karlin from Los Angeles Funeral Service, who was the most helpful and compassionate person in this time of sorrow. Through his knowledge and contacts, he arranged casket, service and flowers through several resources and by the time we were finished with the comparison of prices from the first quote, Mr. Karlin saved by friend over $3,500 ... a major difference in my friends needs.
Several months after the funeral, my friend contributed a portion of her savings to the Tay-Sachs Disease Support Group in memory of her son.