What Is Happening? - October 21, 2022

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is conducting a study of the Greater Portland Jewish Community in partnership with the Lane County Jewish Federation, extending from SW Washington to the Willamette Valley and Lane County, led by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. The study will begin next week, take several months to complete, and since this is a random sample, not everyone will be contacted.


Please note: You may be contacted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center on the phone or via text or receive emails from the Cohen Center at Brandeis University. They will clearly identify themselves as part of the study.


Calls will be coming from 603-397-0660

Texts will be coming from 603-397-0765

Emails from Cohen Center will be from noreply@qemailserver.com

Letters in the mail from Brandeis University


For more information about the study, please visit this webpage.


What is happening? It seems as though antisemitism and anti-Zionism are all around us. Let’s take a look at a few recent issues:


Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) went on a three-hour diatribe about Jews a few days ago. He suggested that Jews manipulate and control basically everything. “I’m #MeTooing the Jewish culture, y’all gotta stand up and admit to what y’all have been doing." Over the last few days he has continued basically saying every problem has a Jewish cause.


He was upset that Instagram restricted his account over anti-Jewish remarks. “Who do you think created cancel culture?” he tweeted. These recent unhinged comments by Ye prompted a conversation about censorship by social media companies and how to handle hate speech. The United States protects hate speech as freedom of speech under the First Amendment.


Yuval David wrote, “Whether his social media posts and the endless Jew-hatred being spewed on social media by Jew-haters remains protected as freedom of speech, this further shines a light on the antisemitic tropes, false narratives, and dangerous myths about Jewish people that have been prevalent for too long. What do we do about it? When we encounter hate-speech, we must respond with more speech. If cancel culture is wrong, then counsel culture and consequence culture are right.”


Together we can all do something about this. Speak out and fight back against those who attack with hateful false narratives and old tropes assailing Jews.


University of California Berkeley School of Law now has fourteen student groups that have amended their by-laws to prohibit Zionist speakers. They will “not welcome those that have expressed and continue to hold views in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.” The bylaw also calls for engagement with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights. Groups represent wide swaths of the law school, including Berkeley Law’s women, Asian and Pacific Islander, African American, LGBTQ, and Middle Eastern student populations.


This happened in late August, yet only became national news in the past few weeks. There are varying views on "what really is," what this means for students on campus, and how the university and students should respond. Here is an interesting podcast from the Shalom Hartman Institute on this topic from yesterday.


To me, this is not about policies. People can object to Israel’s policies on the settlements. People can push for improved Palestinian rights. And there are many who support a two-state solution. Even so, all of these individuals, if they are Zionist, would be banned by these groups. Even the dean of the law school, Erwin Chemerinsky, conceded that he would be banned, as would 90% of Berkeley’s Jewish law students.


Here is an article from The Daily Beast written by Jewish students at the law school (understanding they do not represent all Jewish students). They conclude, “This by-law, and its subsequent training, explicitly excludes Jewish students. Therefore, out of respect for the Jewish community, we ask these student organizations to rescind this by-law. In the alternative, we ask U.C. Berkeley to stop funding these discriminatory policies. Without change, Jewish students are forced to choose: hide our identities, condemn our ancestry, or accept our marginalization, stigmatization, and exclusion as Zionists.”


After meeting with Berkeley administrators last week, San Francisco’s Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement noting that “talk of ‘Jew-free zones’ is factually inaccurate and not productive.” But the Council also decried the law student groups’ campaign against Zionist speakers as antisemitic.


To understand what is happening we need to grasp two things. First, these groups are not merely criticizing Israel. They are challenging Israel's right to exist. Second, this is about silencing and excluding any Jew who does not adequately (in these people's minds) condemn the Jewish state.


To be frank, it hurts me to write about such things.


A few notes connected to Israel in a positive way:


  • Our community’s trip to Israel in March 2023 will close registration on October 31. If you are interested in joining us, please visit pdxisrael.org.


  • In summer 2023, 3,000 Jewish teen athletes, ages 12-17, representing communities from across the globe, will come together to experience the magic of JCC Maccabi, the world’s largest Jewish youth sports event. Join Team Oregon July 5-23 in Israel (scholarships are available) or in Ft. Lauderdale August 6-11. Sports include: baseball, basketball, ice hockey, girls volleyball, boys and girls flag football, soccer, tennis, swimming, and dance. More information at oregonjcc.org/maccabi or call Saul Korin at 503-452-3427.


  • One of Israel's most beloved musicians, Yoni Rechter, is coming to the Reser Arts Center in Beaverton with "Falling Out of Time," a song cycle based on the novel by Israeli writer and Booker Prize winner David Grossman, and composed by Grammy award-winning Argentinian-Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov. The songs are performed in Hebrew and English. The program is on November 1 and ticket information can be found here.

Shabbat shalom.


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