Elcott: Federation was at the “forefront”… Thanks “generous investors”

It should be pointed out that had it not been for the  highly publicized disruption of the Ambassador Oren event, it is unlikely that community members would have been made aware of the depth of  anti-Semitism and harassment of pro Israel students which existed at U C Irvine for nearly 10 years.  In our opinion,  those problems were persistently downplayed by the Jewish Federation of Orange County. (OCITF)

UCI Upholds Suspension of Muslim Student Union

A Special Message from President and CEO, Shalom C. Elcott

Earlier today, Jewish Federation & Family Services received notice that UC Irvine has rejected the Muslim Student Union’s appeal, and has followed through on its initial decision to suspend the MSU.

In the letter to MSU outlining the university’s decision, Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez reaffirmed that the MSU cannot abuse student conduct and campus policies. He stated to the MSU, “By making it impossible for Ambassador Oren to exercise his speech rights during his presentation, you effectively deprived him of his rights…Further, your actions exceeded the protections of both the First Amendment and campus policies, which provide for appropriate time, place and manner restrictions on speech.”  He also added,  “The University respects the MSU’s right to protest, but there were other ways to do so that would not have deprived Ambassador Oren of his right to speak, would not have deprived the audience of its right to hear and engage in an exchange with Ambassador Oren, would not have disrupted a University-sponsored event, and would not have made other audience members an “involuntary audience” to your disruptive actions (UCI Campus Policy 30.30) .” Gomez concluded, “This decision, in response to your appeal, is final and may not be appealed any further.”

Ultimately, the precedent-setting suspension was upheld.  The UCI document obtained by Jewish Federation & Family Services stated that “the MSU violated the following policies:  Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures or other university activities.” The student judicial review process worked.

While we are disappointed that the length of the suspension was shortened, it is not our place to determine the length nor the severity of the punishment. The only way we will know that this decision has been effective will be if a systemic change occurs in the actions and conduct of the MSU, and if the MSU turns to more thoughtful dialogue that befits a university campus.

Jewish Federation & Family Services has been at the forefront of a community-wide effort to make UCI a hate-free zone for all students. This includes ongoing meetings with campus faculty and staff, meetings with UC Regents, University of California President Mark G. Yudof as well as ongoing discussions with members of Congress.  Additionally, the Federation has held continuous meetings with students and key community leaders.

We will continue working closely with university leadership to encourage bridge-building programs between Muslim and Jewish students and students of other faiths.   Toward this objective, we established the Rose Project in 2008, which provides funding for positive Jewish programming and support to the Jewish students of Orange County college campuses.  Student leaders of Anteaters for Israel, Hillel: Jewish Student Union, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority take advantage of many leadership development and Israel education opportunities funded by the Rose Project throughout the academic year.   Other endeavors of The Rose Project include the development of a high-level special guest lecture series and bridge-building programs in the greater Orange County community.

Many organizations and individuals from around the world have supported us in this difficult process.  To all, and particularly to the generous investors who support the Rose Project, our profound thanks.

Our best wishes to you for this Labor Day weekend!



One Response

  1. Blah blah blah, woof woof woof, quack quack quack.

    Let us go back to when the initial announcement of the suspension was made by UCI. Elcott, who was dashing from one news microphone to another to get his name in the papers, produced that tasteless video claiming credit.

    I hardly know where to begin, but to start with, I think that video was self-serving and inappropriate. For years, the Jewish Federation in Orange County denied the problem of anti-Semitism at UCI. A couple of years ago during Israel Apartheid Week, Elcott told me personally (in front of witnesses) that there was no anti-Semitism at UCI and had not been for years. He said that the university was doing an outstanding job. When I brought up examples of hate speech at UCI, he dismissed them as not being anti-Semitic.

    In addition, the Federation took a dim view of Jewish students who openly complained about anti-Semitism and a satisfactory response by the administration. They opposed the efforts of the Zionist Organization of America when they filed complaints with the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. It was always the Federation’s policy to work behind the scenes with university officials to resolve any problems.

    Those efforts achieved little or nothing.

    After the Oren event, however, the local Jewish community saw for itself that in spite of all the denials, there was a problem at UCI, and they wanted answers. Suddenly, Elcott and his allies became the “generals leading the charge” demanding that the university take strong action against the student disruptors and the Muslim Student Union. Elcott’s name was front and center as he ran from one reporter to the next acting as the “lead spokesman” of the Jewish community. He led a party of four to San Francisco to meet with UC President Mark Yudof and have their picture taken. Less clear is what it accomplished. Then the Federation put up a post asking people to “Stand with the Four” (Federation, Hillel, Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee).


    Then, with May’s annual Israel Apartheid Week approaching, members of the local Jewish community and other concerned citizens decided that it was time to get involved. The Federation (and Hillel) reacted by discouraging anyone from the community from coming onto campus. People were told that “the (Jewish) students didn’t want them” on campus, as if anyone could speak for each and every Jewish student at UCI.

    What occurred was that during the noon events, hundreds of community members showed up on campus with Israeli and American flags carrying posters calling for the MSU “not to bring hate to UCI”. They behaved civilly. (As I have written there was one Jewish woman -and her husband- who came every day and acted inappropriately. They were not associated with the aforementioned counter-protesters; in fact, I attempted unsuccessfully to get that woman to act civilly so as not to embarrass the pro-Israel side.)

    At any rate, many of the MSU-sponsored speakers (like Norman Finkelstein) were made to look like boobs. Amir Abdel Malik Ali was drawn by Roz Rothstein of Stand With Us into making another anti-Semitic statement accusing Jews of being the “new Nazis” and conceding he supported, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. After years of speaking at UCI, his statements finally drew a rebuke from the chancellor.

    So what was the reaction of the Federation (and Hillel)to the presence of the community on campus during Israel Apartheid Week? Anger. On Wednesday of that week, Elcott mocked an organizer of the group for having a low turnout on that particular day. Yet, the Federation’s blog, the OC Jewish Experience, was proclaiming that the Federation was coming out to the events to “make sure they were seen and heard”.


    What that presence basically consisted of was Elcott walking around behind the audience and greeting people. He never spoke out, never asked a question of a speaker, and never participated in any way.

    Also during Israel Apartheid Week (on Thursday), that same community organizer was angrily berated by a “high-ranking” Hillel leader telling her that the “students did not want them on campus”.

    A couple of weeks later, when the MSU held a campus protest over the flotilla incident, Elcott approached the same organizer and asked her to pose a critical question to one of the speakers. Of course, it would never occur to Elcott to ask the question himself.

    Then, with the university finally taking action, guess who was front and center. Elcott, of course, with that ridiculous video. Once again, we were reading the grand proclamations of this poseur in all the news stories. What purpose was served with that video except to pump up himself and his organization?

    Keep those donations flowing, that’s what purpose. If Jewish students were to stop coming to UCI and if Jewish donors stopped donating, the Jewish Federation would be in peril. It also appears that some Jewish donors are more interested in having their names plastered on university buildings than speaking out against anti-Semitism, which is another story in itself.

    You see, the Federation is a source of funding for Hillel, which is a national group devoted to supporting Jewish life on campus and which works within the university structure. The Federation is also involved in the funding of the Rose Project, another Jewish support group at UCI.

    Another point is if, as the Federation claims, they “kept the lines of communication open” to the university, why was it necessary for them to (reportedly) have to file a Freedom of Information request to obtain the report of the university’s recommendation to suspend the MSU?

    It is beyond frustrating to me as a non-Jew concerned about anti-Semitism to witness the fragmentation in the Jewish community and to see how people are working at cross-purposes when there is such a big issue at stake. The fact is that the Jewish Federation has been an obstacle to those who have tried to publicly speak out to bring change to the UCI campus. With that preposterous video, followed by this latest statement emphasizing the upholding of the suspension, while barely noting the reduction, Shalom Elcott is continuing to embarrass himself.

    To summarize, you have a powerful organization, the Jewish Federation, which receives lots of donations and funnels lots of money to UCI-related groups including Hillel. It goes without saying that their very existence depends on keeping a Jewish student presence at UCI. In other words, bad publicity like this issue means fewer Jewish students coming to campus-and it is a fact that many Jews have chosen to avoid UCI-rightfully or wrongfully.

    Similarly, Hillel depends on a Jewish student presence at UCI in order to justify their own presence and funding. Does this explain why the Federation and Hillel-at least up until February 8th- were denying anti-Semitism at UCI-and why they have continued to make conflicting statements on the question?

    It seems to all come down to this; for some, there may be more important issues at play than openly confronting charges of anti-Semitism when raised by Jewish students. Jobs, money, and empires are at stake, not to mention big donors getting their names on university buildings and departments.

    Conflict of interest? You be the judge.

    Gary Couse
    Adj teacher

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