OC Jewish Experience

The official blog of Jewish Orange County

OP-ED by Jordan Fruchtman

The following Op-Ed article appeared on JTA this week by Jordan Fruchtman, the executive director of the Hillel Foundation of Orange County, CA

— The University of California, Irvine administration recently recommended the suspension of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) from campus for one academic year for violating four separate university policies — including disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace — in connection with demonstrations against a speech on campus by Israeli U.S.  Ambassador Michael Oren. These students methodically interrupted the ambassador at the Feb. 8 event, forcing him to leave the stage. He finished his talk only after police arrested 11 students.

This important UC Irvine decision sets a new standard for how student groups operate on our campus. The university must be a place for the free exchange of ideas. However, this can only be accomplished if all parties subscribe to a code of civility and mutual respect. MSU crossed the line when it tried to silence Ambassador Oren, a world-renowned scholar and the representative of a close American ally. The Irvine decision ensures that all of our students will be held to the same rules of conduct and will enjoy the right to be heard.

What are the practical implications for Jewish students at UC Irvine?

First, a little background. Despite severe anti-Israel rhetoric, the Jewish community has thrived at UC Irvine. This year we opened our first dedicated Hillel facility, which is located directly across the street from campus. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of Jewish activities in Orange County grew from 68 to more than 175. One program, iFest, is an Israel festival sponsored by Anteaters for Israel (AFI) that exposed more than 2,000 students to Israel’s culture, people and history. Our Israel Fellow, through a partnership with Hillel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, engaged over 100 students in a meaningful and personal way while training and educating our students on Israel advocacy.

The university’s recent disciplinary action gives many Jewish students a greater sense of support from the administration and offers the hope that the most virulent anti-Israel rhetoric, speakers and actions may be discontinued. They are optimistic that next year, students will not post a picture of Anne Frank wearing a kaffiyeh on the side of a mock Israeli tank. Or perhaps they will refrain from bringing Amir Abdel Malik Ali to the campus to show support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

But our student activists are not retiring from the fight. They remain poised to refute anti-Israel symbols and rhetoric that have appeared on campus, such as a so-called “apartheid wall” or a handpainted map of Israel that deceitfully showed Tel Aviv as “occupied territory.” Our approach is to equip our students with the knowledge and the skills they need to be leaders on campus and in the Jewish community. To do so we want to strengthen Jewish life on campus, not to pack up our tents and leave.

The UC Irvine decision is a positive step for our campus and perhaps for higher education in general. At a time when anti-Israel activists are working hard to delegitimize Israel on campus and in the community, UC Irvine’s principled response may set an example for other universities in dealing with their own anti-democratic protesters. We can only hope that demonstrators on other campuses will think twice before trying to squelch a pro-Israel speaker or engaging in noxious, anti-Semitic rhetoric.

But the Jewish campus community should not rely on the university administration to fight our battles. Like our own student activists at Irvine, we must all continue to proactively educate our campuses about Israel and be prepared to advocate on her behalf.


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June 29, 2010 Posted by | UC Irvine | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alliance Between Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Service

News today coming out of Orange County today……

Jewish Federation Orange County and Jewish Family Service of Orange County announced today that the organizations have entered into a long-term strategic alliance designed to save one of the Jewish community’s most important service providers.  Going forward,    the institution will be known as Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County.

“The hard truth is that we are in a time of economic crisis combined with a 64% increase in service demand,” said Philip N. Kaplan, Chairman of the Board of Jewish Federation.  “In the last year, one of our three Jewish day schools closed its doors.  Several Orange County Congregations are discussing mergers.  Throughout the country, Jewish social service agencies have ceased to operate.  Jewish Family Service was on the brink, and we took immediate action to guarantee its survival.”

When the severity of the crisis became known, the boards of both organizations quickly established a task force to address short- and long-term solutions.  A joint decision to form the alliance was unanimously approved by both boards.  A board-level transition team was appointed to ensure uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian services.

While each organization will continue to maintain its individual nonprofit incorporation status, the alliance will be governed through increased integration between the two boards.

“The core strength of JFS is best-in-class humanitarian services,” said Daniel J. Koblin, Chairman of the Board of Jewish Family Service.  “Federation is known for its expertise in fundraising, leadership development, communications and financial management.  This alliance is a true partnership, in which each institution can focus completely on core competencies toward a shared goal: to provide more services to more people, more efficiently.”

Humanitarian programs of Jewish Federation & Family Service include crisis intervention, emergency assistance, support groups, employment and financial empowerment programs, professional counseling, a special needs advocate, educational scholarships, and a range of services for older adults including bereavement groups, care management and the SilverStreak senior transportation program.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Jewish Federation Orange County | , , , , | Leave a comment

UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended

Many in our community have waited a long time for UC Irvine officials to take action against the ongoing actions by the Muslim Student Union.  Some thought it would never happen.  Today’s blog is will certainly get your attention.

Jewish Federation Orange County announced this morning  it has learned the results of UC Irvine’s judicial process.  UCI has suspended the Muslim Student Union (MSU) for one year and placed it on disciplinary probation for an additional year.  That’s not all. The MSU is also required to collectively complete 50 hours of community service.  As a result, it will not be allowed to conduct organized campus events until at least the fall of 2011.

Here is what Shalom Elcott, the President of the Jewish Federation Orange County had to say about the decision.

“We commend the University for its judicious decision in support of free speech and civil discourse.  The University’s disciplinary action regarding the MSU establishes an important and appropriate precedent and sends a powerful message to other universities across the nation.”

According to a UCI campus document, suspension means that the recognition of the MSU organization has been revoked.  Gone.  Done.   Additionally the document states that no current executive officer listed on the Dean of Students registration application form will be allowed to act as an “authorized signer” for any other student organization at UC Irvine during the suspension.  The effective dates pertaining to the suspension are from September 1, 2010 to August 31, 2011.

How did this come to pass.  Let’s go back to events that happened earlier this year.

On February 8, 2010, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren visited the Orange County, California, campus for a planned visit and speech to UCI students and community members.  During the 90-minute event, Oren was repeatedly interrupted by members of the Muslim Student Union, 11 of whom were arrested. The investigation into this incident revealed the Muslim Student Union’s well-documented and premeditated plan to prevent Oren from delivering his presentation.

The results of the campus judicial reviews regarding the 11 individual students arrested at the Oren event will not be released by the University.  Privacy laws protect the student notifications, so we cannot know the outcome at this time.  Unless the students step up and make or challenge the announcement themselves, we may never know how the university has punished them.

Jewish students at UCI, whose campus experience is largely a positive one, have been the target of the Muslim Student Union’s anti-Israeli campaigns and anti-Semitic slurs for years.    The MSU, while publicly denying its student programming as being anti-Semitic, brought fringe speakers to the campus just last month.  One speaker, Malik Ali, said during a campus speech just steps from the UC Irvine administration building, “Ya’ll (Jews) are the new Nazi’s.”  Ali also confirmed his public support for terrorist organizations Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Elcott added….

“While some in the community called for a public boycott of UC Irvine and have condemned the administration, we have always believed in working constructively through the appropriate channels with campus and community leaders.  While we would have liked for the administration to have come to this conclusion more quickly, we are pleased that after due process, the MSU has finally been sanctioned.  ”

Along with the Jewish Federation, there have been many organizations involved in this battle.  They include the Anti Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Hillel.

By involvement, this includes ongoing meetings with campus faculty and staff, meetings with UC Regents, University of California President Mark G. Yudof as well as ongoing discussions with members of Congress.  Additionally, the Federation has held continuous meetings with students and key community leaders.

I was able to personally speak with leaders in community and here what they had to say about this decision.

“When a group spews hate and calls for violence they must be stopped.  A public university ought to be a place for civil discourse and vigorous debate, but not a place for vitriol and incitement.  I applaud the Chancellor and the University for taking action.  Standing up against hate is always right.”

Rabbi Richard Steinberg, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot

“These results serve as a reminder that the 1st Amendment is a non-negotiable American value. The MSU must understand that they do not have the authority to control what students can and cannot hear on campus. My family left the Middle East to come to America and realize their dream of freedom and equality, but the same forces that oppressed us there have followed us here. I am proud to see that American universities will not tolerate these attempts to silence or censor the voices of minorities.

I hope this landmark decision will lead to a new beginning between moderate Jewish and Muslim students; one of mutual respect, cooperation, and appreciation for one another.”

Isaac Yerushalmi, UC Irvine Alumnus, Class 2010

“The UCI administration has taken seriously, the on-campus actions of the MSU and their serial disregard for University policies and civil discourse. UCI is an outstanding academic and research University and the talented Jewish students on campus benefit most when members of the broader Jewish community support enhanced educational, leadership and social programming.”

Jeff Margolis Co-chair, Jewish Federation Orange County’s Rose Council.

“UCI’s administration has done the right thing and is to be commended. We can all have faith in the American system because the results show how well it works. The Orange County Jewish Community will continue to bring positive education, programming and discussion to the UCI campus.”

James Weiss, Co-chair, Jewish Federation Orange County’s Rose Council.

“Having heard first-hand of the intimidation prevalent on the UCI Campus and how Jewish students felt the need to hide their religious affiliation, I am happy and relieved to hear of the strong and just action taken by the UCI Administration. Using the banner of “free speech” to browbeat and delegitimize those who feel differently is a perversion of that noble concept and should certainly not be tolerated at our academies of higher learning.”

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine

Jewish Federation Orange County will continue working closely with university leadership to encourage bridge-building programs between Muslim and Jewish students and students of other faiths.   Toward this objective, Jewish Federation established the Rose Project in 2008, which provides funding for positive Jewish programming and support to the Jewish students of Orange County college campuses.  Student leaders of Anteaters for Israel, Hillel: Jewish Student Union, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority take advantage of many leadership development and Israel education opportunities funded by the Rose Project throughout the academic year.   Other endeavors of The Rose Project include the development of a high-level special guest lecture series and bridge-building programs with the Muslim and Christian communities of Orange County.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Jewish Federation Orange County, Muslim Student Union, UC Irvine, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

New Flotilla Music Video is a Must See

I was sent this video link via email this morning and just had to put it up for you to see.  Since Israel has been skewered by the international media, is appears these folks took to YouTube to get the message out and tell the truth about what is going on in the Middle East today.  Sung to the tune of “We are the World”  here are some of the lines from the video.

We Con the world…..We con the people…..We’ll make them all believe…….The IDF is Jack the Ripper

The name of the video, called “Flotilla Choir presents:  We Con the World” was uploaded yesterday and has already gone viral and totaled more than 118,000.  I can only imagine this number is going to jump in the coming days.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Israel Defense Forces | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Try This Little Experiment

The following appeared as an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times on June 1st, but is worth re-printing and linking to the original letter submitted by E. Scott Menter.  Here is what he wrote to the Los Angeles Times

I’d like to conduct an experiment. I’d like to bring some contraband from
Mexico into the United States — let’s say, perhaps, a couple of ounces of
marijuana. Let’s further suppose that marijuana is actually intended as
humanitarian assistance for my roommate, who suffers from glaucoma.

At the border, I am stopped. The police demand to see the contents of my
trunk. Of course, as I am on a humanitarian mission, I feel no obligation
to comply.

My response? I begin beating the border agent with a bat. A couple of my
friends join in. One of them takes the agent’s gun away and shoots him
with it.

We are all arrested and taken to prison in an obvious attempt to sabotage
our humanitarian mission. Though we have no access to TV, we’re certain
our images are being shown all over the world and that the U.N. Security
Council is meeting to condemn this disproportionate action.

At that very moment, with great despair I realize my mistake, one that
will leave me to rot in prison for a very long time. You see, I’ve
violated the borders of the United States: Nobody would consider
questioning that nation’s right to defend itself.

There is, indeed, only one country on Earth judged harshly for acting in
its own self-defense: Israel.

E. Scott Menter

Irvine

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli PM Netanyahu Defends Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Neyanyahu today defended his country’s need for security.

The television address, which I linked below, should be seen and heard by everyone.

Netanyahu said, in part:  “Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea.  I would go further than that.  Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.”

He added later in the speech:

“For this and for many ever reasons, we have the right to inspect cargo heading into Gaza.”

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

New Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine TODAY

Finals week at UC Irvine may be around the corner, but that is not going to stop Anti-Israel protesters from launching a new campaign.

If you read yesterday’s blog, you learned and watched videos Pro-Palestinian protestors attempting to break the Israel Defense Force (IDF) blockade against ships sailing for Gaza.  It did not take long but I just learned via an email that a new protest is scheduled to take place at UC Irvine today in about 90 minutes.  Called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla: a UCI PROTEST Emergency Response, the gathering is scheduled to take place at the UCI flagpoles at noon.

On another, but related note…..

From a media standpoint, I also just learned that Israel Consul General Jacob Dayan will be featured on AirTalk with Larry Mantle – KPCC 89.3 FM LIVE today at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. The Consul General will provide accurate information about the Gaza flotilla situation and take listeners’ questions. You can listen to it live here

——–

Lastly, IDF forces are seen unloading the humanitarian cargo from the Gaza Flotilla and bringing the aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing.  The video is dated June 1, 2010…  You can watch it here for yourself

June 1, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Israel Defense Forces, palestinians, UC Irvine | , , , , , , | 1 Comment