Monday, July 18, 2011

Promotion of hatred against Jews, Israel at UCSC

NOTE TO READER: A small but mighty contingent of courageous Jewish activists in the UCSC community are fighting for the hearts and minds of the student body against huge, anti-semitic organizations at UCSC such as Students for Justice in Palestine, the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and the Women in Black. A voice of reason has been Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew lecturer at UCSC. Here is her letter seeking support from Jewish Californians to raise awareness about anti-semitism at UCSC and to seek action from an administration that is loathe to admit a problem exists. Tammi is a member of Scholars for Peace in the Mideast which has hosted nearly a dozen pro-Israel speakers at UCSC, events which were mostly boycotted by students and University staff. Ironically, UCSC has the largest percentage of Jewish students of any UC campus yet the anti-semitism demonstrated here is among the worst of all UC campuses. ----Becky Johnson, UCSC grad 1988


Dear Jewish Community of California,

Bigotry against Jewish students has occurred on University of California campuses over many years and on many campuses. Jewish students have been subjected to: swastikas; acts of physical aggression; speakers, films and exhibits that use anti-Semitic imagery and discourse; speakers that praise and encourage support for terrorist organizations; the organized disruption of events sponsored by Jewish student groups; and most recently the promotion of student senate resolutions for divestment from Israel that seek to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State.

PHOTO: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Last May, more than 700 Jewish UC students signed a petition expressing outrage at anti-Jewish rhetoric and imagery on their campuses. They asserted that these incidents are as offensive and hurtful to Jewish students as a "Compton cookout" or a noose are to African American students.

In addition, dozens of Jewish students from three different UC campuses, who responded to an on-line questionnaire, described feeling harassed and intimidated by the promotion of hatred against the Jewish State and of Jews. Almost all of the students felt that the administrators on their campuses did not treat Jewish concerns as sensitively as they did the concerns of other minorities such as African Americans and Latinos.

In June 2010, leaders of 12 Jewish organizations, including the Orthodox Union and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, wrote to UC President Mark Yudof, expressing their concerns about the hostile environment faced by Jewish students on UC campuses, and calling on him to address this serious problem immediately. President Yudof responded by asking Jewish leaders to have patience and faith in the newly-established Advisory Councils on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion.

Over the last year, however, these
Advisory Councils have failed to address, or even acknowledge, the problem of anti-Semitism on UC campuses. In fact, the aims and actions of the Advisory Councils since their inception, as revealed by documents released under a Freedom of Information request, show that Jewish students are not a focus at all.

In an effort to convey to President Yudof the deep concern that members of the California Jewish community feel for the well-being of Jewish students, and their distress that the harassment and intimidation of Jewish students have not been addressed by UC administrators in a substantive way, we have created the AMCHA Initiative. AMCHA is the Hebrew word meaning "Your People" and also connotes "grassroots," "the masses," and "ordinary people." It is our goal to bring together Jewish people from all over California so that they might speak in one voice, united in their concern for the safety of Jewish students on UC campuses.
Jewish students, like all students, should be guaranteed a campus environment that is safe and conducive to learning.
Please help protect Jewish students at the University of California by signing the Petition to UC President Mark Yudof protesting the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students on several UC campuses:

In order to reach as many Jewish Californians as possible, please circulate this letter widely.

For more information, contact Tammi Rossman-Benjamin:
Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz

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