Are Hillel/ Jewish Federation and Family Services/ Rose Project Confused About Last Weeks Anti-Israel Event at UC Irvine?

(Note: Italicised portions are our emphasis)

Hillel and Jewish Federation and Family Services/ Rose Project Statement May 19, 2016:

Rose Project of JFFS and Hillel OC

Last night, the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at UC Irvine held a screening of “Beneath the Helmet” with the support of Hillel. The event was protested by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other students, who made aggressive and threatening remarks to participants and physically intimidated and threatened one student attempting to enter the event.

Hillel and JFFS Rose Project professionals who were present worked immediately to ensure Jewish students were able to continue participating in the event safely. When that was no longer possible, they contacted university police and Student Life officials. While the protest was allowed to continue, the university took steps to ensure the SSI students’ safety.

Hillel and Rose Project continue to work with the university administration to investigate the incident. We encourage the administration to hold accountable the protestors who threatened our students. We continue our work to ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students are able to engage in programming in a safe environment.

Our students are not intimidated. Today’s Artists for Israel event on the main thoroughfare is going forward as scheduled, with Hillel adding further protections to ensure student safety. We are also providing support for students who need to talk about Wednesday’s incident.

We appreciate your continued support, as Hillel and Rose Project work to ensure students are free to express their support for Israel on campus, and all students are protected against threats and intimidation.


Hillel and Jewish Federation and Family Services/ Rose Project Statement May 20, 2016:

Rose Project of JFFS and Hillel OC

Clarifying Misstatements About Anti-Israel Incident at UCI

There are several critical inaccuracies in the Campus Reform account of what happened at UC Irvine on the evening of Wednesday, May 18 when a group of protestors demonstrated outside an event sponsored by the student organization Students Supporting Israel (SSI).

The Students Supporting Israel event was not, as the Campus Reform article implies, shut down. According to eyewitnesses, including local Hillel professionals, the Jewish students were not in any way forced to retreat. When the police arrived, they ensured the SSI program could continue. One officer remained in the classroom with the students until the film was over and they concluded their program. 

The protestors were allowed to remain outside of the building.

When the SSI students were ready to leave, the officers moved the protestors to an area sufficiently distant from the exit, so that neither group was visible to one another. The police then escorted the SSI students to their cars and an Assistant Vice Chancellor stayed to assist the students.

Hillel is working with the university police and administration to ensure this incident is appropriately resolved.


 Jewish Federation and Family Services latest Statement :

Connections - the e-newsletter of Jewish Federatin & Family Services

The following is an update of developments surrounding the incident last week in which a pro-Israel event sponsored by the UC Irvine student organization, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), with support from Hillel, was targeted by anti-Israel protestors on the UCI campus.

First, we thank the community for the outpouring of support for our students — those who attended the screening of “Beneath the Helmet,” and others involved with the pro-Israel community, as well as the Hillel staff who were at the screening last Wednesday evening. Our students and pro-Israel campus organizations are strong and will not be intimidated. This was demonstrated by a wonderful celebration of Israel held by SSI, with Hillel, on the campus main thoroughfare less than 24 hours after the film screening incident. We are proud to thank our partners — Artists for Israel, StandWithUs, and Hasbara Fellowships — and the hundreds of students who turned out to make this a joyous and successful event.

The university has launched two parallel investigations, one by the UCI Police Department and the other by the Department of Student Affairs. These investigations are meant to uncover any criminal activity and violations of campus codes and policies, and to determine whether disciplinary or legal actions are appropriate.

UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a strongly-worded statement the day after the incident, stating the university’s belief that the line of civility was crossed. The Chancellor affirmed that the university will protect free speech, and that threats, harassment, incitement and defamatory speech are not protected.

We thank the university administration and the UCI Police Department for the seriousness, speed and sensitivity with which they are treating this matter, and for seeing to the mental health and security needs of our students. It should be noted that UCI police officers and administrators from the Department of Student Affairs arrived on the scene quickly, and campus officials were in the room with students and staff continuously until the students concluded their event. These officials comforted frightened students and advised them of their right to continue with the event until its completion. Hillel and the Rose Project staff are working closely with the university administration and police to support their investigations and to ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students are able to engage in programming in a safe environment. Staff is also in regular communication with the targeted students, and will continue to see to their needs.

Hillel Foundation of Orange County, which operates Hillel at UCI, along with the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services, condemn in the strongest terms the verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of Jewish students, and the assault on their First Amendment right to assemble by the UCI chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace and their supporters. We state clearly and unequivocally that we support the right of all students to exercise their First Amendment rights, but no student or student organization has the right to  infringe on the rights of others or to instill feelings of insecurity, anxiety or fear.  The attempt that night by an aggressive, screaming mob to force its way into a room of Jewish students, and the pursuit of a Jewish student that forced her to hide in the dark in terror, are unconscionable acts that have no place on a university campus or in American society. The perpetrators of this incident maintain the justness of their actions because they claim that the target of their protest was Israel and the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Make no mistake: with no Israeli officials or IDF officers in the room that night, their actions targeted Jewish and pro-Israel students for no other reason than their connection to Israel and their desire to learn more about the Jewish State.

Those who wish to express their support for the students who attended the event are welcome to post to this Facebook page.

We will continue to keep you apprised of further developments.


Frontpage Magazine Editors: “the JFOC has much to answer for”

The Attack on Frontpage from the Jewish Federation of Orange County

May 15, 2015 by   42 Comments

Unable to withstand criticism from their shameful attacks on Jewish students and pro-Israel activists exposed by Frontpage, the Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC) has taken to the media to slander our publication. These calumnies must not go unanswered.

On May 4th, Frontpage made public serious reports of misbehavior on the part of the JFOC at a student-run pro-Israel event held at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). One of the most notable revelations of the piece was a report that JFOC representative Lisa Armony was witnessed attempting to move pro-Israel activists waving Israeli flags away from anti-Israel protesters who ambushed the event.

Writing on behalf of the JFOC in the Jerusalem Post,,  Armony’s primary complaint was that Frontpage’s coverage was based on “unsubstantiated” information from “unnamed sources.”

In fact, the information directly related to Lisa Armony and the JFOC in this incident was based on anamed eyewitness’ account of Armony’s activity. Gary Fouse, a lecturer at UCI and credible witness, confidently affirmed to Frontpage what he saw. We subsequently reported this eyewitness account, taking the utmost care with the accuracy of its presentation. As such, accusations that Frontpage’s coverage of this incident was flawed are simply false. Continue reading

UC Irvine Pro-Israel Student Group Leader Alleges Opposition from JFOC Leader

Pro-Israel Student Group Meets Opposition from Jewish Leadership

May 4, 2015 by  FrontPage Magazine

On Thursday, April 23rd, courage, contempt and cowardice collided during a pro-Israel campus event called “iFest” that took place at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). In the middle of the festivities, the president of the student group Anteaters for Israel (AFI), which organized the three-day event, was berated and brought to tears by the president of the Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC), who was among the iFest attendees. According to AFI leadership, the incident affirmed that the organization’s decision to purposefully disassociate from the JFOC due to its years of questionable leadership and interference in AFI’s pro-Israel activism on campus was the right course of action.

UCI’s 8th annual iFest featured the theme “Explore Israel” and was held April 22nd-April 24th. One night of iFest programming consisted of a candlelight vigil and a tribute for members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli civilians killed by terrorists over the years. Students from the campus chapters of Hillel, Chabad and Jewish fraternal/sororal organizations spoke at the vigil. The next day AFI “organized a beautiful festival where students enjoyed falafel and BBQ, learned about Israel and won prizes, painted and created art for charity, raised money for Save A Child’s Heart, and collected 170 signatures for a ‘Solidarity Letter with Israel,’” said AFI president Sharon Shaoulian. Shaoulian also reports that the iFest Shabbat dinner held Friday was attended by more people than the previous two years and that it was the best attended Shabbat of the year, with over 85 students attending. A number of sponsors contributed to iFest, including the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), StandWithUs, CAMERA on Campus, the Israel on Campus Coalition, and Hasbara. Continue reading

“It’s like saying that I want my heart removed from my body.”

The Jewish Federation vs. Zionism

(Hat Tip to Ha-Emet)

July 31, 2012 – 11:22 pm

When the Los Angeles Jewish Federation stopped me from speaking last month, I said that Zionism was not welcome at the Jewish Federation. I didn’t know just how right I was. Last week Lori Lowenthal Marcus, the U.S. correspondent for the Jewish Press, reported that “in what has been described as ‘a closeted and cowardly move,’ the Jewish Federations of North America last week rejected the inclusion of the term ‘Zionism’ in a major system-wide planning document.”

According to Marcus, “Richard Wexler, former chair of the Chicago Federation and national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in the late ‘90s, revealed yesterday, July 26, that JFNA’s leaders have rejected the inclusion of the term ‘Zionism’ in their Global Planning Table Work Group Report because the term ‘is too controversial.’

“I am beyond disappointed and upset,” Wexler said. Marcus explained, “The rejection of Zionism by JFNA leaders was described by Wexler in his blogpost and in comments to The Jewish Press, as a continuing trend by Federations to distance themselves from Israel.”

This is the most mind-numbing and sickening news. Despite their carefully crafted half-denial, this is an attempt to distance themselves from Israel. And that is suicidal. The Jewish people are Israel. It’s like saying that I want to distance myself from myself. Or I want my heart removed from my body. I don’t want it anymore.

But in response to Marcus’s article, Jerry Silverman, the president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federations of North America, issued a statement: “On July 27, 2012,” Silverman said, “Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote accusing the Jewish Federations of North America of moving away from its support of Israel and Zionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ongoing support of Israel is fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel’s darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel.”

This is not Zionism. The Federation’s statement is clearly a deflection. Helping Jews throughout the world including in Israel is altogether different from Zionism.

I asked Marcus about this, and she pointed out that Silverman’s statement doesn’t say anything about the central claim of her article: that the Federation rejected use of the term “Zionism” in its Global Planning Table Work Group Report. She told me: “I stand by the story exactly as written — as written, some have not read it carefully and misreadings on both sides have blurred facts. It’s regrettable the JFNA folks chose not to respond to my queries and only issued a non-responsive statement after the article was already published.”

This is in line with what Steven M. Goldberg, national vice chairman of the Zionist Organization of America and chair of the ZOA Los Angeles chapter, told me about the Federation’s cancelation of my speech: “What happened to you in Los Angeles was not a momentary aberration. It was part of a pattern that defines the Federation.” The burying of the term “Zionism” for being too “controversial” is a manifestation of the same moral cowardice. So is what journalist Caroline Glick termed in April 2011 the “Jewish Federation’s financial and organizational support for University of California at Irvine’s Olive Tree Initiative,” a tour of Israel for Jewish students in the U.S.

The Olive Tree Initiative, Glick explains, “claims to be interested in fostering good relations between Jewish and Arab students,” but “it actually just propagandizes against Israel. The speakers who addressed students participating in the two-week trip were overwhelmingly anti-Israel. Almost all the Palestinian speakers expressed hatred for Israel. Many of the Israeli speakers represented groups that call for economic warfare against Israel and defame Israel as a racist state. Half of the supposedly neutral representatives of international organizations who spoke to the group are notorious for their opposition to Israel.”

And here again, when challenged on their support for the Olive Tree Initiative, according to Glick “the Federation and Hillel have dug in their heels.” The Federation also has included “Palestinian” jihad propaganda movies in its film festivals.

We live in times when those controlling the establishment media organizations increasingly fear confronting the true evils of the day, cowed by the forces of Islamic supremacism. It saddens me to number the Los Angeles Jewish Federation among these compromised elites, but it cannot be denied any longer. L.A.’s failed Jewish leadership follows in the rich tradition of its forebears who worshipped the golden calf. Imagine: Zionism is not welcome at the L.A. Jewish Federation.

Jewish leadership is on the trains and thinks we will go quietly. This is tragic. Is it any wonder that the American Jewish left has become a problem for Israel? Who are these people? What is their role? What is the point of these fat, bloated, morally bankrupt organizations? What is their mission? What’s the point of Jewish lay leadership if they submit before their executioners? Shame on our cowardly leadership for throwing one of our own under the bus. We expect that from kapos, not from proud Jews.

The kapos had a gun to their head. What is the Federation’s excuse?


Thumbnail and illustration courtesy shutterstock / mhatzapa.

Pamela Geller is the editor and publisher of Atlas She is the author of The Post-American Presidency.

UCLA Students Letter Expresses Deep Concern about the Olive Tree Initiative

The OCITF is posting  the attached letter with the permission of the author:
 Dear Mr. Shalom Elcott,
  I have recently been made aware of the OTI. As a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, I am concerned about the OTI and its goals. Below is a letter expressing my concerns (I have also attached it to this email). If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Naya Lekht
To Shalom Elcott, President and CEO of the
Orange County Jewish Federation:
            My name is Naya Lekht. I am a PhD candidate in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Los Angeles. Recently, I have been made aware of the OTI (The Olive Tree Initiative) of UC Irvine. I am extremely concerned about this program, as I strongly believe that it is doing much harm to both Jewish students on campus and the image of Israel in the public arena.
            I am particularly troubled by several tenets and goals of the OTI. First and foremost, in times when Israel is demonized and unjustly singled out for perennial rebuke in the world, it is morally wrong to bring speakers who further implicate and vilify Israel. Part of the OTI goals is to better acquaint students with various ideas and narratives about the conflict in the Middle East. By drawing an equal sign between those voices who support Israel and those who wish to destroy Israel the OTI is, in effect, legitimizing a narrative that argues for the extermination of the State of Israel. Continue reading

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin’s response to Dr. Daniel Wehrenfennig, Director of the UCI Olive Tree Initiative

Dear Dr. Daniel Wehrenfennig,

You did not write to me directly, though you did blind-copy me on your recent widely-circulated letter (forwarded below), in which you mentioned my name 18 times and attacked a letter I had sent to the heads of the Orange County Jewish Federation and Hillel.  My letter urged these Jewish communal organizations to withdraw their funding and promotion of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) because at least 15 of the OTI’s speakers are affiliated with organizations that have ties to terrorist groups that have murdered Jews, advocate the elimination of the Jewish state, and support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel.  I also pointed out to the OC Federation and Hillel that it is wrong for Jewish communal resources to be used for a trip that engages Jewish students in activities that desecrate Jewish holy days, such as the OTI trip in 2010, during which students spent the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the following Sabbath (and other Sabbaths) engaged in non-Jewish activity in Jordan and the disputed territories.

You fiercely criticized my letter, stating that I “made up facts” and that my analysis was “incomplete and misleading,” “completely inaccurate,” and filled with “wrong information and missing facts,” “a pattern of misinformation,” “erroneous statements,” and “distortion.”  I would like to reply to your charges, which I believe are wholly baseless, extremely disingenuous, and highly offense to the Jewish community in general, and to me personally as a UC faculty member, and as a Jew. Continue reading

More Concerns Raised About the Olive Tree Initiative

The following letter to Jewish Community Leaders  is copied to the OC Task Force and a number of Jewish Organization by Tammi-Rossman Benjamin, a Jewish educator and faculty member at UC Santa Cruz.  Ms. Rossman-Benjamin’s letter outlines very serious concerns about  the Olive Tree Initiative, the speakers involved and the nature of the organized trips .  Careful consideration should be given to the allegations outlined in this letter.

Dear Mr. Elcott and Mr. Fruchtman:

I am a faculty member at UCSC and a Jewish educator, who has been working with many organizations and members of the community to combat anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism on my own and other UC campuses, including at UC Irvine.

Last week I received the letters which you sent on behalf of the Orange County Federation and Hillel, which shamefully attacked a member of your Jewish community for expressing deep concern about the overtly anti-Israel nature of a Federation-funded and Hillel-promoted program, the Olive Tree Initiative.  I am writing to you to affirm that I and a great many others share that community member’s concerns.

Here’s why:

As you know, the OTI sends students for a two-week trip to Israel and the disputed territories.  During that time students meet with over 50 individuals and groups, an approximately equal number of Israelis and Palestinians, with some international and Jordanian speakers. Overall, there is a clear anti-Israel pro-Palestinian tilt to the OTI.

Of the Palestinian speakers and groups who addressed the students on the most recent OTI trip (Sept. 2010), the overwhelming majority have expressed an overt animus towards the Jewish state, including by advocating for its elimination or for measures to harm her, or by allying with terrorist groups that perpetrate violence against Jews.  Over one-third of the Palestinian speakers have advocated boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.  Moreover, at least two of the Israeli speakers represent organizations which engage in relentless Israel bashing, and several other speakers on the Israeli side have been harshly critical of Israeli government policy.  In addition, two of the four supposedly neutral international organizations, whose representatives made presentations to the OTI students, are well-known for their virulently anti-Israel bias.

The following is an alphabetized list of the 15 most egregiously anti-Israel speakers and organizations from the 2010 OTI trip, with links to their anti-Israel statements and activities: Continue reading