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Violence against Jewish students at UC Berkeley: Jessica’s Story

Posted by Oyster on June 30, 2011

Dear Jewish Community of California,

Jessica Felber is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley. In March 2010, as she participated in a pro-Israel rally holding a sign that said “Israel wants peace,” the leader of Students for Justice in Palestine rammed a shopping cart filled with toys into her back. Because of that assault, she brought the first federal lawsuit against the University of California for allowing the existence of a hostile environment that she believes led directly to her assault.

That attack was not the first that she or other Jewish UC Berkeley students had experienced on their campus. A year before, Jessica was spat on by the same student who had assaulted her. Jewish students have had pro-Israel signs ripped from their hands, been called “Nazis” and “terrorists,” and had black plastic guns pointed at them at mock Israeli check points. Swastikas have been drawn on dorm room doors and anti-Semitic hate speech graffitied over pro-Israel bus stop ads. Students in kippahs have been called “kikes.” Jessica was frequently afraid to openly show her Jewishness; she would never wear her Jewish star necklace or IDF sweatshirt while walking alone. These incidents and others like them created a hostile environment for many Jewish students on campus.

For several years, Jessica and other Jewish activists implored the campus administration to help them. They met with the Dean of Students and the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion numerous times and described incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence. However despite their concern for the civil rights of other ethnic groups, these administrators acted indifferently to the plight of Jewish students.

These experiences are not unique to UC Berkeley. Jewish students on several UC campuses report feeling harassed, intimidated, and even physically threatened because they are Jews. In some cases it is anti-Israel students groups who are the source of the problem, while in others it is university faculty and administrators who have created an environment hostile to Jewish students by promoting a virulently anti-Israel agenda in classrooms and at university-sponsored events. Many students also describe feeling frustrated and hurt by the uncaring response of the campus administration.

The Jewish students on UC campuses need your help.

Please show these students that the Jewish Community cares about their safety and well-being.

Please let UC President Mark Yudof know that the Jewish Community stands strongly united on this issue and will not back down until the necessary steps are taken to protect Jewish students on UC campuses.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign the Amcha Initiative’s letter to President Yudof and encourage your family and friends to sign it as well:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LettertoUCPresidentYudof

You can also join our Facebook Cause (“Stop the Harassment and Intimidation of Jewish Students at the University of California”) for updates about the letter and to read or report experiences of anti-Semitism on UC campuses or attempts to combat it, and invite others to do the same:
http://www.causes.com/causes/615378-stop-the-harassment-and-intimidation-of-jewish-students-at-the-university-of-california?m=892208b3

Thank you,

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz tbenjami (at) ucsc.edu

Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles lbeckwit (at) ucla.edu

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