Denounce Judaism and Get an A
Ukranian immigrant and San Francisco Bay Area Jewish activist Aleksandra Fliegler speaks to the need for Jews to start standing up against anti-Semitism on college campuses and demonstrating pride and strength in their heritage. To that end, B'nai B'rith International has set up a panel discussion on the subject this weekend in San Francisco, which Aleksandra references in her conclusion:
Denounce Judaism and Get an "A"
by Aleksandra Fliegler
December 5, 2006
It’s two o’clock in the morning at the Hillel house at San Francisco State University (SFSU). The lines between dream and reality are blurred. A handful of outraged Jewish students are preparing press releases, I am making the counter-rally banners "Stop Scapegoating Jews," "We’re not the enemy…"
Earlier that December day in 1993 I was mobbed by an angry bunch on campus when I tried to question the mural depicting Magen Davids with the dollar signs inside them and words "African Blood." I got bullied out of the mural painting area with people shouting "Ask your Rabbi!" Perhaps the whole thing is a nightmare because I know I am in America and I know I can be a Jew here, yet somehow once again I see people blaming Jews for their problems. I felt right at home!
In the few days that followed we had press conferences, riot squad on campus and threats. The Hillel house had to be guarded overnight in fear of assault. On campus, two fit black guys got in my way in an attempt to prevent me from speaking to the reporters: "If she makes a sound, break her f---g neck." Nope, it’s real. Suddenly it dawned on me: I am a Jew and I’ve got nowhere to run. I’ve already made one escape hoping to leave all the trouble behind, in the old country. If I can’t be a Jew in America, then where?
My family name traces back to Babylon and translates from Hebrew as "Pride." For 20 centuries in exile my family managed to keep the Jewish identity despite all the risks involved. Even I as a kid witnessed my mother’s bogus arrest and beating in the Soviet militia station. By the third grade I had to learn to defend myself, and I am just talking about my personal experience. I can go back at least three generations and describe the persecution and humiliation that my family endured and kept our Jewish identity through it all.
Here, "in the land of the free" in 1993, I was not backing down either. I remember one of the Jewish girls was filmed by the news cameras crying and saying "I can’t believe that this is happening in my school!" Unlike her, I had no time to feel sorry for myself. I had to act. I also wasn’t letting them win by affecting my grades – it was finals time. With a handful of students and an ADL attorney behind the scenes, we managed to obliterate the hateful images from the wall, all the while facing our final exams. Unfortunately, putting a stop to hatred at San Francisco State was not as easy as sandblasting a mural off the wall.
The bliss of studying fascinating subjects pertaining to my chosen profession was over and I had to move on to General Education. Most certainly, the intent of creating well rounded, informed adults out of self-absorbed teenagers is a noble one. Upon the award of my degree I would be well versed in subjects other than my specialty: literature, philosophy, sciences, politics, humanities. For that purpose,a curriculum has been devised where each student must take nearly half the classes from each of the aforementioned areas.
Little did I know that my Anthropology class would be introducing pseudo-academic anti-Israel material and if I wanted good grades and my diploma, I was expected to repeat the fallacies taught in the class: Jews are the 20th century white colonizers of poor indigenous Palestinian population, that stole Palestinian land and continue to oppress the local Arab population. As I tried to talk to my young Latino professor peacefully and express doubts about the contents of the course, he made me feel that I was in the minority and that in fact, most Jews here at SFSU and at UC Berkeley (according to him), were supportive of his position.
Though something seemed wrong, I didn’t have enough skill to continue arguing with him. I had no idea that I could have asserted my rights and gone over his head, as far up the chain of command as necessary. Since none of the organized Jewish Community prepared the Jewish students to exercise our civil rights on campus, I saw two ways out of this situation: denounce my people and get my "A" or fail the course. I quit San Francisco State.
I hear many similar stories (graduation rate at SFSU is less than 40%) and I ask myself: how can a lecturer teach that 2+2=5 and still receive his salary and benefits? How can someone like that not lose his or her accreditation? Furthermore, how can the University’s paying clients (students and parents) feel that we are getting quality product (education) for our buck?
Dear fellow Jews, it is through the silence and apathy of the Jewish Community that anti Semitism on campus continues spiraling out of proportion. Jew-haters are free to mob Jewish students and shout, "Hitler should have finished the job" and not event get reprimanded for such behavior. Instead, the campus police arrested the Jewish woman and charged her with assault. Don’t fight back, Jew! A stack of police reports against her by the hostile attackers made her the culprit. She was guilty of one thing: she was a Jew.
It is through indifference in the Jewish Community that a well-financed multi-million dollar textbook-writing, educator-brainwashing through "workshops" Saudi funded propaganda machine on campuses does not get challenged.
Who decided that it is politically correct to say "Black Pride" or "Viva La Raza" (Viva to the Race) or "Viva-Viva Palestina" but it’s unacceptable that Jews would dare to carve out a tiny piece of land for self-determination in our historic homeland? Who gets to teach the right and wrong to our kids?
I remember how we craved the support of the Jewish Community during the mural crisis, and which was almost invisible to us students. As a former Jewish student, I wish there was someone to educate me about my rights on campus and ways to use the system to my advantage, as our anti-Semitic opponents have done so well.
Recently I went back to campus at SFSU as part of the group accompanying Nathan Sharansky. I found out that Hillel students no longer maintain any presence on campus like we used to, by staffing our daily Hillel table to counter the table with anti-Israel materials, often not based in fact. I was told of a recent incident of an attempt to distribute flyers with Jewish content on campus, which was met by an angry anti-Semitic mob that ripped the stack of flyers out of the Jewish woman’s hands and pushed her off campus territory as if she were riddled with plague.
Fellow Jews, we have letourselves be pushed around for far too long, partly through our own fault. Turning a blind eye to the issue of anti-Semitism on college campuses hasn’t gotten us any place desirable. In fact, many young minds, both Jewish and gentile, got corrupted by this system for decades. Many Jews have stopped supporting Israel and many more gentiles have shaped the public opinion unfavorable to Israel.
I look forward to the time when I can write a paper about the most incredible, most unlikely victory or the Maccabees’ over the Hellenists and have it graded fairly and have it help me graduate. How do we get from pseudo-academic mandatory indoctrination to treating everyone with respect in academia? How do we get from 2+2=5 to 2+2=4?
Our children need our help today. They must learn our proud 5,000-year-old tradition of not compromising our values in the face of opposition. Our courage and Torah carried us throughout history outliving many great empires and nobody, gentile or self-professed arrogant Jew has the right to revise our history or to tell us to throw away our traditions and live as if there were no Torah.
To the contrary, there should be a General Education requirement teaching the students of how Judaism affected the world we live in today. Torah and Talmud have shaped the Justice system, global economy, banking and medical ethics as we know them today. The concept of unity of command (one g-d=one manager) permeates the field of management today. The day of rest on Shabbat is viewed by many as the first model of a labor union. There’s Tzedakah, Tikkun Olam and many other concepts that Judaism has contributed to humanity and to each civilization we lived in. For instance, it was no accident that the famous thinkers of early Renaissance found it valuable to live in the Venetian Jewish ghetto and borrow many of the progressive ideas from the Jews. Unlike Christians, we did not have the dark ages, we never stopped learning,questioning, challenging and passing down the knowledge. If today, through our own inaction, we allow ourselves to be pushed around by these hateful spiritlessmiserable beings, then it is our own fault for allowing them to prevail.
We are living in a place and a time when being Jewish does not present any difficulties. In similar situations throughout our history Jews have been lulled into a false sense of security. Let’s not repeat that mistake and stand up for our rights on college campuses before it’s too late.
B’nai B’rith International has created a panel discussion about the issue of anti Semitism on campus, which will take place this Sunday, December 10 at Noon at theCongregation Beth Israel-Judea in San Francisco at 625 Brotherhood Way. Find out about what’s already been done and how much more remains to be accomplished. It would give me great nachis to see that this Jewish Community cares about the rights of Jews on college campuses and in academia. Seating is limited. All are welcome! 11:10 am — Lox & Bagel brunch, 12:10 —Program. There is no charge for the event.
See you on 12/10 at 12:10
Aleksandra Fliegler was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the US in 1990. She is active in the San Francisco Barea Jewish community in various volunteer capacities. One of her projects is an on-line pro-Israel forum http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JewishClubMaoz. Aleksandra is married and is raising two children in addition to her career as a graphic artist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For background information on the incidents at San Francisco State University referenced above, read my 2004 column, SFSU's Legacy of Intolerance.