OC Jewish Experience

The official blog of Jewish Orange County

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Over the past week there has been inflammatory discourse in our community among Jews with a common purpose.  It became abundantly obvious over the past several days that this was due to several misunderstandings.  When the truth came to light we had reconciliation.  Once again we observe that accurate information is a powerful enemy of those who use bits and pieces to foment negative feelings and hate.

Monday night at a student/community meeting, the students reviewed their actions and made peace with one another.  They suggested a series of monthly meetings composed of students and community members to facilitate open communications and prevent the type of acrimony we saw over the past several days.  The Rose Council, Federation and Hillel have all agreed to help facilitate these meetings.

We wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and encourage everyone to reflect on all they have to be thankful for – including the energetic OC Jewish community in which we reside.


Shalom Elcott
President and CEO
Jewish Federation & Family Services
Orange County

Jordan Fruchtman
Executive Director
Hillel Foundation of Orange County

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Hillel, Jewish Federation Orange County, UC Irvine | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guest Post By UCI Alumnus

Guest Post by Oren Klein

Open Letter to the Jewish Community,

This is a genuine call for students to be seen as legitimate voices within the Orange County Jewish community.  No one operates in a vacuum and, after all, any decisions the Jewish community makes directly affect us as well.  UC Irvine’s Jewish students – and therefore residents of Orange County – also ask for transparency, and the right to know and be consulted when the community discusses issues surrounding their campus.

Our disagreement began with a simple misunderstanding, yet has ballooned into full-blown feud.  One party is calling for the Jewish Federation of Orange County and Hillel Student Union to disassociate itself from the Olive Tree Initiative, its Jewish students, and repudiate it for showing the Palestinian perspective; the other is asking for solidarity

The main argument comes from local supporters of the Jewish Federation of Orange County voicing concerns that they may have indirectly funded an anti-Israel speaker through the Olive Tree Initiative.  The reality is that a distinct group of private donors in the Rose Project are the ones supporting the initiative.

UC Irvine has a history of anti-Israel activism, as I am sure we all have witnessed; however as a direct result of private Jewish donations to the Rose Project, UCI’s Israel advocacy received national acclaim.  In fact iFest was the creation of Anteater for Israel’s past President, and an Olive Tree Initiative co-founder, Isaac Yerushalmi.  For the past few years Irvine’s leading pro-Israel organization on campus has been run by members of the Olive Tree Initiative. In the end, efforts to tar and feather Jewish community and student support for this initiative is an equally disturbing “character assassination” that should not be tolerated.  The accusation that the Olive Tree Initiative fails to represent Jewish interests on campus, and is somehow a danger to the state of Israel, is a grave allegation and faulty misconception I wish to challenge.

Ultimately it is the Rose Project, and its Jewish donors, that have the choice whether to disassociate itself with the Olive Tree Initiative, however other Jewish donors who do not support the initiative can support other avenues for pro-Israel advocacy through the Jewish Federation of Orange County.  I only ask that the Jewish community at least recognize the influence the imitative has on Israel advocacy.

First off, the Initiative demands respect for our first amendment freedom of speech, and if we as a community support this fundamental right, we are equally obliged to respect the right for any George Rishmawi to speak on campus.  The initiative also respects our fundamental right to freely associate with whomever we wish, including the right for Jewish students and community members to support the Olive Tree Initiative and its presenters.

Secondly, the Israeli perspective was extensively covered by the trip’s itinerary, and is prominent within the Olive Tree Initiative community. We met with Danny Tirza, the IDF architect of the separation barrier; spoke with active soldiers, reservists, and even retired generals.  We had a private meeting with a Holocaust survivor, and received a deeply moving tour of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; and to top it off we met with the spokesperson for the Jewish Community in Hebron, residents of Efrat, toured the city of Ariel and had the privilege of meeting with an Israeli evacuee from Gaza.

We swam the sea of coexistence and religious plurality throughout the corridors of Jerusalem’s Old City, and spoke with an Arab-Jewish co-owner of Maxim, who witnessed a suicide bomber disguised as a “pregnant” woman kill three generations of an Israeli family in his restaurant.

We met with Israelis and Palestinians working at Kerem Shalom crossing, and saw firsthand the process of moving humanitarian aid into Gaza.  We even visited the rocket museum in Sderot, where only a fraction of our group made it to the nearest shelter in 15 seconds.  We spoke to Gidi Greenstein on the nature and complexity of Zionism, spoke with Netanyahu’s chief spokesperson Mark Regev on Israel as the Jewish State, and yes even George Rishmawi.

I feel compelled to share with you that the initiative receives substantial criticism from Muslim and pro-Palestinian communities as well. The Olive Tree Initiative has been criticized for funding Israeli organizations, and acting contrary to the BDS movement by staying in Israeli hotels, and speaking with Israeli officials and IDF soldiers.

The Jewish community in Orange County has misunderstood supporters of the Olive Tree Initiative, its membership, and the organization’s values and approach.  In addition, their claims misconstrue critical debate and dialogue for blind support and acquiescence, and underestimate the benefit this experience brings to the future of Israel advocacy. The original letter is further mistaken when it claims that “Jewish students are being sent right into the arms of anti-Israel activists with the full support of the Jewish Federation” when in fact Palestinian leaders and anti-Israel activists are being delivered right into the hands of Israel’s foremost student advocates.

Let me remind you that Students for Justice in Palestine’s inaugural meeting a few months ago, organized by many of last year’s MSU leadership, witnessed a group of Arab, Jewish, and non affiliated students standing up and criticizing the BDS movement and SJP’s tactics.  When has UCI ever seen such strong unity among both Jewish and Arab students against misguided and destructive propaganda? More importantly why?  The truth is that these students were all past and present members of the Olive Tree Initiative, which not only amplifies Israel’s concerns and perspectives, but has been tremendously effective at strengthening the moderate Palestinian voice on campus.

The Olive Tree Initiative should be applauded for its unique approach and contribution to UCI’s campus, as reflected by the UC Regent’s President Award for Outstanding Student Leadership, and the U.S. State Department Award for America’s top ten programs in Higher Education.  The Rose Project deserves recognition for its contribution to Israel advocacy and support for UC Irvine’s Jewish students, and I further encourage the greater Jewish community to support the Olive Tree Initiative.

In conclusion we should shift the debate away from blaming individuals and organizations, and move towards our community’s right and historic duty to engage with individuals who challenge Israel.  Let us set aside our differences regarding the Olive Tree Initiative, and remain united in our support for Israel’s right to exist, its historic message for peace, and one of Judaism’s most profound lessons, the golden rule: doing unto others what you would wish upon yourself.

To further clarify, this letter is written on behalf of no one but myself; a proud Israeli-American, member of the Olive Tree Initiative, and alumnus from the University of California at Irvine,

Oren Klein

November 23, 2010 Posted by | UC Irvine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jewish Students Under Attack

Jewish students at the University of California, Irvine are under attack yet again — but this time, it is not by anti-Israel activists — it is by unhappy members of the Orange County Jewish community.

Last week, a small group of Jewish community members circulated an email calling for divestment and boycott of the primary backers of UCI’s Jewish students: Orange County’s Jewish Federation and Hillel. The call for boycott was on the basis of the organizations’ affiliation with the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI).

The Olive Tree Initiative is an organization founded by a number of Muslim, Christian, Arab, and Jewish students. We joined together because we felt that our campus lacked a socially-safe space for civil and constructive dialogue surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our unity came not through common ideology, but rather from a consensus on the indispensable value of understanding different narratives and opinions in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Being raised in an Iranian-Jewish household, I was always taught that inquiry and curiosity were core tenets of Judaism, and the essence of OTI seemed very much aligned with these two Jewish values.

In the early stages of founding the organization, I approached Jewish Federation & Family Services and Orange County Hillel to rally for their support, because I knew how important it was for them to improve the campus climate at UCI. They foresaw the positive impact of an initiative like this, and graciously offered their support.

As a recent alumnus, and as a veteran leader of UCI’s Jewish student community, I feel compelled today, to write in defense of Jewish students, whose voice has been smothered and ignored throughout this controversy, and in defense of Jewish Federation and Hillel, the two most significant organizations who have stood by the students’ side for years, through the tough times and the good, to keep our community alive and thriving.

As the past President of Anteaters for Israel (AFI), UCI’s pro-Israel student organization, I was active in leading the pro-Israel community at UCI for nearly half a decade, perhaps longer than any student leader in the history of UCI.  I attended the University at a unique period of time; I was one of the few individuals who witnessed a once loosely connected group of Jewish students transform into the vibrant community that exists today.

I was the guy on the front lines. Every time an anti-Israel speaker came to campus, I rallied students together, grabbed the markers and poster boards, made signs, and headed out to protest. I was the one on Ring Road, the main quad on campus, debating face to face with those who sought to delegitimize Israel, when no one else would. I was the one who voluntarily spent my Saturday nights planning Israel festivals and speaking engagements with Israel’s Consul General, when all my other friends were out having fun, enjoying their college years as they should be. And I did all of this because I love Israel.

I was also the guy who helped start the Olive Tree Initiative, a student organization which is one of the victims of this unfair slanderous campaign today, by members of our very own community. Why is the group under attack? Because OTI recently chose to invite a Palestinian speaker to campus, whose message certain community members disapprove of.

I co-founded OTI to promote dialogue and understanding about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through experiential learning. Sometimes, this means hearing from people who possess different or even controversial perspectives. In the past, the group has hosted a plethora of other speakers, including Avihu Cohen, an Israeli who lost his father to Palestinian terror, and even controversial figures such as Ron Nachman, the Mayor of Ariel and a leader of the Judea and Samaria settler movement.

I am not one to demand that every person agree or support OTI. But when any member of my community expresses doubt in the organization, I share with them this: OTI has managed to convince members of the Muslim Student Union, a group whose leaders traditionally advocate against any recognition of Israel, to visit Israel, to meet with bereaved Israeli families, government spokesmen, and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, to experience Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, to speak with Holocaust survivors, and to understand and hear first hand why comparing Gaza to the Holocaust is not only offensive, but also inaccurate. It’s managed to convince my Lebanese friend, a young Druze girl who lost innocent members of her family in the 2006 Lebanon war, and who once was okay with the idea of Israel not existing, that the Jewish people need a state. What more could we ask for? Arab students to sing the HaTikvah?

OTI students with Israeli Minister of Knesset Orit Zuaretz (Kadima)

It goes both ways. The initiative has also helped Jewish students develop a greater understanding of the challenges and hardships faced by the Palestinians, and this carries great value in itself.

OTI is remarkable because it has been the only successful attempt in developing relationships between members of Anteaters for Israel and the Muslim Student Union.

I personally have found the Olive Tree Initiative to be one of the most exceptional educational initiatives available to UCI students today. My experience with OTI is what inspired me to complete my graduate studies in Israel, and to dedicate my life in service to the Jewish people.

To be honest, I am embarrassed that members of the Jewish community would speak so negatively about an organization which encourages dialogue and conversation between Jewish and Muslim students. Rightfully so, these community members, along with most of us, are unhappy with many of the actions and speakers hosted by UCI’s Muslim Student Union. Yet they speak negatively about the efforts of Jewish students to befriend and engage Muslim students in an attempt to create change, and they are demanding that funding be cut off from the rest of Jewish students who are not even remotely involved in this situation. Does this sound rational to you?

For those in the community who initiated or support this boycott, I plea to you: take some time to speak to the Jewish student leaders at UCI. Ask them questions. See what they think about this boycott. If you are unable to ask the students these questions…then ask yourself a question: Do you truly have the students interests at heart?

A call to boycott and divest from the Jewish Federation of Orange County and Hillel would greatly impair Jewish student life on the campus, and is entirely contrary to the community’s needs.

The Jewish Federation and Hillel of Orange County are the organizations that continue to help the students create and grow the thriving community they enjoy today. Despite the demands of a small number of community members, and perhaps at times even some national groups, these two organizations have always stood by the side of students. They have been there for UCI’s Jewish community through the good times and the bad. I hope our Jewish students can continue to count on you for your support.

The writer has asked to remain anonymous.

This post is also listed at http://israelforliberals.com/uci-jewish-students-under-attack/

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Jewish Federation Orange County, UC Irvine, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

From the President of Hillel at UC Irvine

This morning, the President of UC Irvine Hillel, Matan Lurey, sent out the following letter to the Orange County Jewish Community.  I have attached it for you to reads:

Lurey was referencing the the letter posted to this blog last week.

November 22, 2010 Posted by | Organizations, UC Irvine, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Letter from UCI Students and Hillel on OTI Event

Hillel also sent the following letter to its mailing list this evening:

Dear Friends of Hillel:

Yesterday I received a disturbing email from Ms. Dee Sterling, accusing Hillel of, among other things,  supporting  George N. Rishmawi, an anti-Israel speaker involved with the International Solidarity Movement. This assertion is untrue.  Emails like this are irresponsible and reprehensible.  While Ms. Sterling’s allegations are not deserving of a response, I do, however, feel it is important to at least set the record straight, especially because Ms. Sterling uses her untrue assertions as a basis to request that the Jewish community withdraw their support of Hillel and Jewish Federation and Family Services.

First, please be advised that, contrary to Ms. Sterling’s assertions, Hillel does not support  George N. Rishmawi  or  ISM, the organization with which  he is affiliated.   As a matter of principle, the values of  ISM are in direct conflict with Hillel’s values and Hillel’s stance on Israel.   Second,  as a factual matter, Ms. Sterlings assertion that  George N. Rishmawi was invited to speak at UCI on November 22, 2010, is untrue, as the person that has been invited  by the Olive Tree Initiative to speak at  UCI on November 22, 2010, is a different  George Rishmawi, whose full name is  George S. Rishmawi, who is the director of Siraj Center and whom we have been told is no longer involved with ISM.  Although this second point is not important, as compared to the first point above, it demonstrates the confusion that Ms. Sterling is disseminating to third parties.

I will be demanding from Ms. Sterling an apology and a retraction of her email.   If you are unfortunate enough to receive this email from Ms. Sterling or other persons, I hope you will give it the attention to which it is entitled (i.e., none).  Also, I am hopeful that you will not allow the basis assertions of Ms. Sterling to affect your ongoing support of Hillel, Jewish Federation and Family Services and the Jewish students.

Please find below a response from student leaders at UC Irvine, co-signed by nearly 100 students.

Jordan Fruchtman
Executive Director
Hillel Foundation of Orange County

Dear Orange County Jewish Community, Friends, Parents and Affiliates,

There is currently an email being circulated that is asking the community to stop supporting  Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County and OC Hillel.  This is  regarding the Olive Tree Initiative’s decision to host a Palestinian speaker, Mr. George S. Rishmawi, at UC Irvine on November 22., 2010  Let us be clear that the Jewish Federation and Hillel is, in no way, sponsoring or funding Mr. Rishmawi’s visit to UCI. The Jewish students of the UCI community feel this email, written by Dee Sterling, is not in the best interest of the students on this campus. Her call to remove funding sources from the only Jewish and pro-Israel groups on campus is unfair, unjust, and unwise.

The funding behind the Jewish Federation of Orange County and OC Hillel comes from private donors, individuals such as yourself, that feel the need to have an educated, supported, and thriving Jewish community at UC Irvine. We find it disconcerting that people who claim to represent Jewish interests in the community would ask donors to remove or reduce funding which could result in the elimination of the following programs:

Anteaters for Israel: The biggest pro-Israel group at UC Irvine, which is funded in part by OC Hillel and the Rose Project of the Jewish Federation.

Hillel at UC Irvine: The community of Jewish students at UC Irvine, which has weekly Shabbats and Open Houses that foster a sense of Jewish community at UC Irvine, with hundreds of students in attendance.

MPME at UC Irvine: A pragmatic and anti-BDS organization, that works to show
Arab and Islamic injustice in the world and supports Israel through political means.

American-Israel Alliance: A coalition of AIPAC-trained  pro-Israel advocating   students that approach student leadership to support pro-Israel agendas on and off campus, and pro-actively prevent BDS movements on campus through personal relationships.

Furthermore, Olive Tree Initiative is a diverse group of students, many of whom are proudly pro-Israel and anti-BDS, and who comes from a variety of backgrounds and connections to Judaism and the Middle East.  We respect their choice of the to attend possibly controversial events with speakers from both sides of the conflict in an effort to raise discussion, awareness, and education on the campus.

Such statements as the one made by Dee Sterling are entirely inappropriate, intolerable, hurtful and create a divide amongst the Jewish students and student groups, community, faculty, parents, and friends. At this critical time, we all must band together to fight anti-Israel propaganda and anti-Semitism; rather than send emails out to community without context, without connections to campus, and without the approval of any undergraduate student or organization at UC Irvine. This is completely and entirely unacceptable and the student community will not tolerate it.

There was absolutely no attempt to contact any Jewish student leader or any of the Jewish student organizations at UC Irvine before making this statement, which affects all of us—all of the Jewish students—with such magnitude. We, the students—the Jewish students at UC Irvine—as well as the community and faculty who support us, are open for discussion on any topic at any time, and strongly condemn this email from Dee Sterling.

The following students which are the most involved with Jewish life on campus are against Dee Sterling’s call to boycott UC Irvine Jewish Life, and to sanction the community organizations that are helping us the most. Any divestment from the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Hillel of Orange County – arguably the only two active communities that directly aid and work with the students—would be a travesty.

For more information, please visit https://ocjewishexperience.wordpress.com.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Community Events, Israel, Rose Project, UC Irvine | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will the Real George Rishmawi Please Stand Up

There has been some confusion over which George Rishmawi is coming to speak at UCI on Monday.  The following letter, just issued by Shalom Elcott at the Jewish Federation & Family Services, appears to clear up the confusion.  This was just sent out by the Federation to the Orange County Jewish Community.


Dear Friends:

An email is being circulated in our community that derisively criticizes Jewish Federation & Family Services and Hillel Foundation with respect to a program of UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative (OTI). The email being circulated incorrectly identifies the speaker coming to UCI. The speaker is George S. Rishmawi. However, the person being described in the letter being circulated is George N. Rishmawi.

While the names are only separated by a middle initial, these are two different people with two different points of view. George S., who is coming to campus, has met with Jewish students on previous OTI trips and is not, to our knowledge, a member of the International Solidarity Movement (a well-documented anti-Israel enterprise), having cut his ties to ISM in 2004. By contrast, his cousin, George N., is the despicable character being described in the circulated email.

As importantly, however, the writers of this email call for removal of funding from the only Jewish and pro-Israel groups on campus, a suggestion that could not be more absurdly misguided. And worse yet, they engage in personal attacks on professional staff, attacks that could warrant legal action based on their erroneous statements.

In the event you have received or may receive that email, I wanted to share some important facts with you. There is a genuine difference between promoting dialogue and promoting hate. We will not stand on the sidelines as some attempt to push aside an honest agenda for true dialogue.

We understand that there are members of our community who have zero tolerance for anything hateful against Israel or Jews being said. We, too, share those feelings. What we do not share is the viewpoint that every distasteful occurrence at UCI provides grounds for a chancellor to be dismissed, for an administration making effective progress to be sanctioned, and for contributions in support of our Jewish students to be withheld.

Whether they realize it or not, the circulators of the email are engaging in the same tactics of delegitimization used by the anti-Israel people they condemn. Here are the facts that we know:

Fact #1: Jewish life on campus is thriving and the pro-Israel voice at UCI is the strongest that it has ever been. That’s not our statement, that’s what the Jewish students at UCI are saying.

Fact #2: The Rose Project has, in the past, provided scholarship funds for knowledgeable Jewish students to participate in OTI’s annual trip to the Middle East, in the company of students of other faiths.

We have never sponsored, funded or promoted OTI’s speaker series at UCI. While we do not control who gets invited to the campus, we do help facilitate OTI’s invitation of pro- Israel speakers. A case in point is the December OTI program that features David Makovsky of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy and Gaith Al- Omari, Advocacy Director at the American Task Force on Palestine. These two gentlemen are on a joint speaking tour regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Rose Project of JFFS has also sponsored speakers at UCI such as Alan Dershowitz and Ambassador Michael Oren.

*** Everyone in the Jewish community has a voice, and we respect every voice. We respect more the voices that are for something constructive, than the voices shouting in opposition to our direct communication with, and support of, Jewish students. We will not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Real progress has been made for Jewish students at UCI. We believe that the development of intelligent, capable, self-sufficient Jewish leaders means that, occasionally, students may have to be exposed to some distasteful things during their development. Therefore, we ask that you disregard the call, by a few in our Jewish community, to abandon the students and the institutions that support them. Jews should not be fighting other Jews. That is precisely what the delegitimizers of Israel and anti-Semites would like to occur. Rather, we should work together to fight delegitimization tactics aimed at Israel and the Jewish community.


Shalom C. Elcott

President and CEO

Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Jewish Federation Orange County, Rose Project, UC Irvine | , , , | 6 Comments

BDS Video is a Must See

The BDS Movement, which stands for Boycott Divestment Sanction is the latest effort to isolate Israel and create new Boycotts against the only democratic state int he Middle East.  I encourage you to watch this important video.  Their message is clear:  Boycott Israel and do not buy Israeli made products.  The BDS movement is against any collaboration movement between the Palestinians and Israeli’s.

If you’d like to know more about this movement, I suggest the following links:

BDS Israel and Decoding the Message — This page uses statements by BDS leaders, infers what they mean also states the facts of what they ignore.  Click on the link.

This next article was produced by the Reut Institute and is titled:  Eroding Israel’s Legitimacy in the International Arena.  Why is it important?  It provides background on what Israel is facing:  A dramatic assault on the very legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish and democratic state. The groups promoting this delegitimacy aim to isolate Israel and ultimately turn it into a pariah state.

These hate groups are organized, sophisticated and well trained in traditional media as well as social media.  We need to be educated about this subject.

November 18, 2010 Posted by | Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Olive Tree Initiative: Looking in the Mirror

Guest Blog: By Cathy Shutaya

All too often the media has defined the life of a Jewish student at UC Irvine, especially after controversial events that take place against Israel. This notion of such events negatively impacting Jewish life on campus is far from the reality. Although some adverse effects have come out of the tensions on campus, Jewish life at UCI is thriving—creating committed, passionate students and future leaders within a supportive community. For some, like myself, who have never had a strong association to Jewish life, UCI is the ideal place to get involved. This year, I was given the opportunity to work for Hillel’s Social Media team which allows me to show a new face of UC Irvine—one that has always existed, but has oftentimes gone unrecognized. My name is Cathy Shutaya, a second year Public Health Policy major involved in Jewish life on campus. This is my first blog, about the Olive Tree Initiative, a group with many accomplishments. OTI is one instance of the “bridging” that has been taking place between Jewish and Muslim students of different backgrounds and religious scope.

The Olive Tree Initiative, established at UC Irvine, seeks to promote peaceful dialogue on the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The program embarks on its third year of successful engagement of fellow Anteaters. OTI has been recognized both by Chancellor Drake and UC President, Mark Yudof at the May UC Regents meeting in San Francisco. Daniel Wehrenfennig, Director of OTI, also announced at the Welcome Back event that the program has most recently been recognized on state and national level with the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy (in partnership with the U.S. Department of State) Award for most innovative program in higher education.
The religiously and ethnically diverse group of students returned from the region with first-hand experience of what the conflict truly entails— a conflict that is very different from the one we see portrayed by the media and especially on the UC Irvine campus. With the propaganda aside, the students noted that while there are hostile areas inhabited by Jews and Arabs there are also numerous regions where coexistence is flourishing and as a result, bringing many socio-economic benefits to all parties. The West Bank is perhaps one of the best examples of such success due to cooperation on both sides. “People are coexisting peacefully…makes you wonder ‘why hasn’t this been solved?’” asks Natasha Couts, a participant on the trip. The speeches given by each member provided evidence that these students were open-minded to seeing the struggle on both sides of the conflict, despite preconceived perspectives. “All perspectives have something important to teach” says Arturo Jimenez after the group met up with Israeli and Palestinian academics, government officials, civilians, etc. The goal of the returning group is to spread the knowledge they have acquired from traveling to Israel/Palestine in order to narrow the divide on the conflict and bring hope for peace and reconciliation.

After listening to each student present his or her personal story from their journey, I truly felt that, for once, we have acquired a pause on the “blame game”. These students recognize that too many innocent people have lost their lives on both sides. Although some problems may not have a precise solution, most of the population in the region ultimately seeks peace, whereas it appears that many people who have not even been to the region or those not currently living there just want to perpetuate the hate fueled by second hand media sources. This being said, I began to wonder as I sat in the audience…will this diverse student group, who has gained so much from their experience and who is affiliated to many groups on campus who deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, actually bring peace to our own campus? Or will we continue to see the ever prolonging gap between Jewish and Arab/Muslim students, the bloody Israeli flags during “Hate Week”, and the infamous “Israeli Apartheid Wall”?

November 8, 2010 Posted by | UC Irvine | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recap of Rose Project Evening With Mark Yudof

Last night, the Jewish Federation hosted University of California President, Mark G.
Yudof, on his first-ever visit with the Orange County Jewish community. The evening’s program, part of the Rose Project
Distinguished Guest Lecture Series, was made possible by a grant from the Margolis Family Foundation. The event was co-sponsored by the ADL, AJC and Hillel Foundation.

President Yudof delivered a 30-minute speech to an audience of 400 community members, investors and stakeholders, and took questions from the audience.

Jeff Margolis, Co-Chair of the Rose Project, stated in his opening remarks, “This gathering demonstrates that we, as a community, are not
standing idly by as certain individuals and organizations freely wield anti-Zionist rhetoric and perhaps even promote blatant anti-Semitism
on the UCI campus.”

President Yudof covered a wide range of topics during the 90-minute discussion, which included his condemnation of anti-Semitism at UCI
and the Muslim Student Union’s disruption of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. A noted Constitutional scholar, he also spoke about the
issues of hate speech vs. free speech.

He stated, “I do condemn the anti-Israel speech. I condemn the insults to our students—and they are insults. I condemn the unbalanced
programs, and I condemn the disruption of Ambassador Oren’s speech. And I condemn all the anti-Semitic utterances heard on the campuses. I’ve said that before. I’m saying it now. I’ve said it in writing, and
I will do it again.”

President Yudof commended the community’s dedication to the challenges at UCI and the impact made over the years by our organizations,
particularly since the creation of the Rose Project by Jewish Federation & Family Services. He added, “No matter how hard you work,
no matter how many students of goodwill you have, no matter how effective the Jewish community in Orange County, now matter how active
the students, it only take 20 lunatics and bigots on campus to really upset everyone.”

Earlier in the afternoon, President Yudof met privately with a group of 30 UCI Jewish students to learn more about their experieces on

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Community Events | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deadline Set for Mark Yudof Event: Tonight!

Do not say you were not forewarned.  Just received an email from the Jewish Federation about the following event

scheduled for tomorrow night.  Read carefully as the deadline is tonight!

Reservations close at 11:30pm tonight for the historic visit to OC by University of California President Mark Yudof tomorrow evening, November 4th, at Temple Bat Yahm. This special event is part of the Rose Project Distinguished Guest Lecture Series and is made possible by a grant from the Margolis Family Foundation. In addition to your registration, photo ID is required at the door for security purposes. Suggested donation $18 per person. Remaining seats are limited.Register here by 11:30pm tonight!

I previously wrote about this event and you can read out it by clicking here.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | Community Events | , , , , | Leave a comment