Israel has become known for its technology power. JTA recently posted this video called Israeli robots invade New York. The video shows
includes an explanation of a robot snake which can make its way through battlefields, caves, tunnels and buildings while and recording real-time videos. It comes the from Ben Gurion University’s robotics lab.
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When it comes to the vibrant Orange County Jewish community, there are endless events held throughout the year. I do not know why but many of them have been sent to me in various forms of communications over the past day or two. This includes snail mail (that means the traditional post office) email as well as facebook postings and other means of communication.
Here is a list and links to some of those events, in no particular order.
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is holding its 2011 membership dinner on Sunday, March 13th. The dinner will feature the Reverend Dr. DeeDee M. Coleman, a pastor at the Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church with special remarks given by AIPAC’s Western States Director, Elliott Brandt.
Israeli General Doron Almog is a popular figure these days. We know this because he is being honored in Orange County by two different Jewish groups. What made it even more ironic is that the postcards for the two different events honoring Almog arrived at in my mailbox on the same day.
The first event is slated for Sunday March 6th at Congregation Beth Meir Hacohen-Chabad in Yorba Linda. ” A Morning with Major General Doron Almog” an Israeli Hero is being presented in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund.
General Almog returns to the OC for an event that has been rescheduled for June 12 at the St. Regis Hotel in Monarch Beach. It is the Jewish National Fund’s Tree of Life Gala. Proceeds from the event will benefit Aleh Negev, a residential facility for the most severely disabled.
Let us not forget about the largest annual community event in Orange County. It’s not until May but certainly worth mentioning now as a save the date note. The 2011 Israeli Expo, which traditional draws thousands of visitors. This year’s Expo will happen on Sunday, May 22nd. Stay tuned for more information or click on the link above.
Yesterday I was at one of Orange County’s best shopping destination: Fashion Island. I was sitting outside, enjoying lunch when a mom and daughter plopped down next to me with their dog. I was speaking in Hebrew at my table when the mom noticed and began to speak with us in Hebrew as well.
It turns out the mom is Israeli and the conversation quickly turned to Jews living in Orange County. The daughter sitting next to us, with her wavy brown hair and big smile, graduated from UCI last year and is currently working on her acting career in Los Angeles.
When I learned she was an Anteater, I had to ask about her experience at UCI and how much her college experience was influenced by events that have played out in the media.
I have met many of the active Jewish college students and had never had the pleasure of visiting this woman before. It was only one opinion but I wanted a perspective from a Jewish student not in the middle of the ruckus during the past two years.
This is what she told me.
Yes, she was aware fo the problems with the Muslim Student Union. During her college days, she had gone to a few events with Anteaters for Israel (AFI) and spoke kindly of recent graduate Isaac Yerushalmi, an active UCI Jewish student.
Her overall experience during her days at UCI was positive. She was a drama major and focused her energy at school in this area. She is a proud Jew and overall gave her experiences at UCI a thumbs up. She was honest, forthcoming and you could see her mom was proud.
Balance. It is just one perspective, but another positive experience from a young Jewish adult at UCI.
The media continues to cover what is going on at UCI on many different fronts. In case you have missed anything in the last few days. From the Huffington Post, to the Washington Post to the Daily Pilot….Here are brief descriptions of the stories with links directly to them.
LA JEWISH JOURNAL
UPDATED: 100 UC Irvine faculty protest criminal charges against Muslim Students
One hundred faculty members at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have called on Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to drop criminal charges against 11 current and former students arrested in February 2010 for disrupting a public speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. on the UCI campus. See the full story here.
THE WASHINGTON POST
How to handle the “Irvine 11”? Litigate or negotiate?
A story by Brad Hirschfield. Orange County, CA District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, is pursuing criminal charges against the so-called “Irvine 11,” the 11 students who planned and executed a major disruption of last year’s speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the UC Irvine Campus. And now some 100 members of the University faculty are publicly calling on Rackauckas to withdraw those charges, something he has no intention of doing. Most people are debating which side is right. Full story is here.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
On Free Speech, ‘Anarchy’, and the ‘Irvine 11′
The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. came to UC Irvine last year for a meeting and to give a speech.
A handful of protesters, well, protested. They shouted down the ambassador, Michael Oren, during his speech and were ultimately escorted away by the police.
In response, the school suspended the Muslim Student Union, which denied having planned the protest. It also reprimanded several students.
Simon Wiesenthal Center supports charges against protesters who interrupted Israeli Ambassador
A leading Jewish organization on Tuesday came out in support of the Orange County district attorney’s decision to file criminal charges against 11 students who interrupted a speech last year at UC Irvine by the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Full story here
THE HUFFINGTON POST
Jon Wiener, a professor of history at UCI, penned the story that ran for the first time yesterday. Click here for the full story.
OverKill in Orange County
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas’ decision to bring criminal conspiracy charges against 11 UC Irvine students smacks of political posturing. Click here for Full Story
It has been a while since I’ve posted in this space and my return is timed with the following letter that was sent to me by email this today. It is from Shalom Elcott, President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.
As we informed you last June, the UCI administration suspended the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and took disciplinary action against the students who participated in the organized disruption of Ambassador Oren’s talk at UCI in February 2010. At that time, we wrote that “we commend the University for this judicious decision in support of free speech and civil discourse…”
Last Friday, the Orange County District Attorney announced that the 11 students arrested at the Oren event were charged with conspiring to disrupt the speech. The students will be arraigned on March 11th on several misdemeanor counts, and if convicted, could be subject to fines, probation through community service or a jail sentence.
“This case is being filed because there was an organized attempt to squelch the speaker, who was invited to speak to a group at UCI,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement. “These defendants meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting. This is a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to a failure to uphold the Constitution.”
So, are criminal charges excessive or warranted?
The disposition of this case is a matter outside of the authority of Jewish Federation & Family Services. The UCI administration took action according to its charter and its regulations. The Office of the DA has taken action according to its reading of the Constitution and the laws of the State of California.
We believe that the actions of both the UCI administration and the District Attorney send a strong message to this community — indeed to all communities — that civility must be safeguarded. We recognize that colleges and universities have always been environments in which difficult (and sometimes confrontational) dialogues take place. Yet we also believe that if planned, rogue disruptions are allowed to continue without consequences, we will have accomplished nothing despite our best efforts.
Consider this: At no point in this year-long process has the MSU, its students, attorneys or representatives acknowledged any wrongdoing. In fact, they have continued to deny it. There have been no statements of apology or contrition. Not once has there been an effort, on their part, to reach out and say “We’re sorry. We blew it. We’ll do it differently next time. Let’s talk.”
Consider this as well: What happened at UCI last February is happening around the country as part of an organized “BDS” (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against the legitimacy of Israel and self-determination of the Jewish people.
We say: let this be a teachable moment for all of us! While the legal process takes its course, let us think about how we can pursue actions for positive change and an improved campus climate. How we can bring more partners together – both Jews and people of other faiths – to strengthen and improve the student experience at UCI?
The role we play, as community catalyst and convener, is that of bridge-builder. We seek to build bridges of interfaith understanding, collaboration and respect, on campus and in the community. Bridges are built when people of differing viewpoints come together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. When civility is lacking on one side, the bridge crosses only half the river, and we remain apart.
Shalom C. Elcott
President and Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation & Family Services