Thursday, December 8, 2011 | return to: views, letters



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J Street U deserves seat at the table

As a leader in Challah for Hunger and a Repair the World fellow at Hillel, I am disgusted by the Jewish Student Union’s rejection of J Street U under the misguided notion that it does not fall within the pro-Israel tent (“Berkeley’s Jewish student union says ‘no’ to J Street U,” Dec. 2).

The JSU has silenced and alienated students like me who are already engaged in Jewish life and are seeking new modes of engagement with Israel. I am deeply committed to a vibrant and diverse Jewish community and am frustrated by the exclusivity and narrow-mindedness of those who consider themselves the “mainstream voice.”

The JSU, which claims to be the umbrella organization for Jewish student groups at Cal, does not represent a large of segment of this community. [JSU co-president] Jacob Lewis and other members of Tikvah are not the only voices that should be heard. J Street U’s commitment to democracy, social justice and peace in Israel clearly fits into Hillel’s Israel policy. I am proud to be a member of J Street U and confident in our right to have a seat at the Jewish communal table.

Sarah Beth Alcabes   |   Berkeley


JSU should reconsider its vote

As a leader of J Street U on a different campus, I cannot help but feel the weight of the Berkeley Jewish Student Union’s decision hundreds of miles away.

When the Jewish Student Union levied its decision, they immediately alienated a vast group of young Jews who look for a way to support Israel, but who do not feel entirely at home with traditional pro-Israel groups. Thousands of students like me see the self-defeating nature of the traditional pro-Israel arguments, and advocate for the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic homeland in a different way.

Were it not for J Street U, I would not be lobbying my Congress people to support Israel; I would not have remained engaged with Israel two years after a Birthright trip; and I would not have stepped into a conversation so polarized and alienating — both sides have views I cannot share entirely — a conversation which, as we speak, is turning young Jews away from Israel on a daily basis.

I hope dearly — for the sake of U.C. Berkeley, my friends there, and most importantly, Israel — that the Jewish Student Union reconsider its decision, and admit J Street U as a legitimate participant in the conversation about Israel.

Ethan Weiss   |   Petaluma


No need for another Israel detractor

Please note that Alon Mazor of J Street U and his colleagues are all members of Kesher Enoshi, a Jewish Student Union–affiliate group for over three years. Many of these students were members of KE when the group’s leaders used their Hillel leadership positions to publicly advocate their support for the campaign to divest the university’s investments from companies that sell to Israel in March 2010.

Not a single KE member spoke out against this hateful initiative. In 2009, these students helped Students for Justice in Palestine bring in Israeli girls who refused to go into the Israel Defense Forces, and whose talk deteriorated into questioning Israel — my homeland’s — right to exist.

Then, they sought JSU funding when they co-sponsored with SJP a hip-hop concert that included lyrics comparing Israel to the Nazis. Then they brought in Breaking the Silence, former IDF soldiers who demonize Israel’s military — one of the most moral in the world — with anonymous, unverified testimony.

This is not a new voice being “silenced.” In fact, they have had a “voice” for many years. In these challenging times when Israel is slandered from all directions, is this really what we need?

David Sverdlov, co-president,

Tikvah Students for Israel



Open the umbrella for all students

Berkeley Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, and as a member of the family of free nations.

We support a range of student groups whose activities advance our mission. The J Street U chapter adheres to our Israel policy and Hillel International’s Israel guidelines and will receive the support of Berkeley Hillel, as do the broad spectrum of other Israel-focused groups we work with, including Bears for Israel (AIPAC group), Tikvah: Students for Israel, Israel Action Committee, Tamid and Kesher Enoshi.

We respect the right of the Jewish Student Union, an ASUC-sponsored group, to make its own decisions, but we  encourage JSU to reconsider its vote and include J Street U as a member.

Berkeley Hillel is committed to creating a pluralistic community that embraces the diversity of our Jewish tradition. In honoring the spirit of college students, it is our goal to guide, mentor and facilitate their unique Jewish expression.

At a time when Jewish students are seeking community, we are careful not to exclude them, and we embrace the wisdom of our namesake Hillel by embodying the value of an inclusive community.

Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, executive director

Berkeley Hillel

Barbara Davis,

president, Berkeley Hillel


J Street supporters are not anti-Israel

I am a Cal alum, a parent of two rabbis, have traveled to Israel five times, bought Israel bonds, contributed to numerous Israeli organizations (from JNF to NIF) and consider myself a supporter of Israel. I am also a supporter of J Street and its college affiliate, J Street U.

I am deeply troubled that as important a group as the U.C. Berkeley Jewish Student Union would consider someone like me to be anti-Israel, as it has decreed J Street U, and, presumably, its members.

Those in the JSU who have come to that conclusion should  read J Street U’s mission statement, which can be seen at

Labeling J Street U as anti-Israel simply does not square with its goals, positions or activities, or those of J Street itself — and it does not demonstrate the type of critical thinking it takes to get into Berkeley.

I urge a re-vote on J Street U’s application for membership in the JSU, and a different result. If Jewish students who are sincere about their respective beliefs about Israel cannot respect each other, how can we ever expect Israelis and Arabs to settle their differences? If that does not eventually happen, Israel will never know peace.

Steven Saxe   |   Corte Madera


Kudos to the JSU

I, for one, am thankful that Berkeley’s Jewish Student Union voted to deny J street U a place in the tent.

The Jewish state is under global attack and facing existential threats. Israel needs advocates, not uninformed critics who add fire to the international campaign of demonization and delegitimization, as J Street does regularly.

J Street welcomed organizations promoting BDS, like Jewish Voice for Peace, as participants in its conference. It co-sponsored a congressional mission to Israel with Churches for the Middle East, a pro-BDS coalition; honored Israeli soldiers who refused to obey orders; supported the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group that calls for the liquidation of the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund; lobbied against a U.S. veto of an anti-Israeli resolution at the U.N. Security Council — leading Rep. Gary Ackerman to end his relationship with the group, writing that J Street is “so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

This conflict is about carving what would be the 57th Muslim- and 22nd Arab-majority country out of the world’s only Jewish country, the size of New Jersey. I’m glad that there are still students who would not give Israel up so easily.

Sheree Roth    |   Palo Alto


See J Street for what it is

I am so proud of Berkeley’s Jewish Student’s Union for saying ’no’ to J Street. It is time the organized Jewish community recognized this organization for what it is: anti-Israel. I just wish my Reform movement would have the sense to do so as well.

Jo-Ann Jacobson   |   Alamo


Posted by noahkulwin
12/08/2011  at  08:03 PM
Leave Adam Naftalin-Kelman Alone

To those who have been taking potshots at Berkeley Hillel director Adam Naftalin-Kelman: stop. As executive director of Berkeley Hillel, Adam has enabled a community of bright, energetic and engaged college students to thrive and learn more about how to better understand their relationships with Jewish life, as well as Israel. And with regard to J Street U, Adam has proven himself to be fair and outspoken ally of those whose voices have been silenced by the unjustified hostility of the Jewish Student Union. This is the same care he gives all students willing to engage with the inclusive, pluralistic Jewish community that is the cornerstone for Hillel’s success.

  With roughly fifty Berkeley students headed to Israel on a Birthright trip this winter, over a hundred students in attendance per week at Hillel’s BBQ, and many other successful programs (ranging from Challah for Hunger to weekly Shabbat services) hosted at Berkeley Hillel - Adam’s record of success at Cal is a model for universities all over the country. His support and love for Israel is unwavering and to be perfectly frank, anyone who says otherwise must be living on another planet. Allowing Hillel to host unequivocally Zionist speakers like Israeli journalist Benji Lowy or law professor Amos Guiora, on top of his 2010 Hillel International “Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Ward” speak to his solidly Zionist positions.

      J Street U is just as deserving of a place at the table as any other group at Berkeley Hillel, and Adam’s support of that simple statement speaks volumes about his character, impeccable credentials and unquestionable integrity.

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Posted by bmoots195
12/09/2011  at  12:41 AM
Who is Dan Spitzer?

Who is Dan Spitzer, the one picking on the youth of the Jewish community, the Jewish students of Berkeley Hillel?

Please tell us, Mr. Dan Spitzer, how do you know anything about Berkeley Hillel? Do come clean and tell us. How do you know anything about Kesher Enoshi and that it is allegedly Anti-Israel, that Students for Justice in Palestine was apparently regularly welcome in Hillel? Who are you, sir, and what makes you think you can speak about the happenings of the Hillel community when - as a student at UC Berkeley for the past 3 years and one of its most active leaders - I can honestly say that everything you have claimed here has been horribly misinformed.

So please, no more completely misguided comments, no claiming I don’t know what I’m talking about… until you share how you know. Are you a Hillel staffperson? Have you attended any Hillel events? Kesher Enoshi events? Who are you Dan Spitzer and why should we believe your fantasies?

Oh, and stop picking on students - is this what you are promoting as the values our Jewish community should embody?

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
12/09/2011  at  07:57 AM
bmoots, Is JSU Misinformed? Is Tikvah Misinformed?

Who the hell are you, b moots, to sanctimoniously say that Berkeley’s true Jewish leaders in JSU are in error? Since you claim to be a “student leader” at UC Berkeley over the past three years, are you a member of Kesher Enoshi? Did you support BDS vs Israel at Cal?

By your tacit condemnation of the realizations articulated by JSU and Tikvah, you are apparently contemptuous of Jewish students who support Israel. Since you are likely one of the stridently anti-Zionists rightfully critiqued by JSU and Tikvah, do please come clean, if you can rid yourself of the grime of Kesher’s hatred of the Jewish homeland.

As for me, I am a writer living in Berkeley and a Zionist who, as a journalist and ex-academic, has made it my business to become aware of what has been transpiring on the Berkeley campus spearheaded by SJP and their Kesher pals at Hillel who attempt to denigrate Israel at every turn by vile propaganda.

And it is crystalline to any reasonable observer that Rabbi Kelman has offered these haters a cover for their untruths, a tragic reality apparent to all of us who watched this sorry situation at Hillel evolve…

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Posted by bmoots195
12/09/2011  at  11:38 AM
Dan, you might be a writer, but you're also...

... a troll. Writer, journalist, and ex-academic, huh? That’s cute, Dan, I asked you not only who you are - but who you are pertaining to HOW YOU KNOW EVERYTHING YOU’RE COMPLETELY MAKING UP.

Let’s speak some truth to power. Tikvah is a small organization, with members numbering in a couple tens of individuals, and far less active members. Now, there are maybe 300-400 other students that attend Hillel throughout the semester and have different stories of how Hillel functions, what they think about Kesher Enoshi, JSU, JStreetU, everyone.

I want you to cut the bullshit, Dan Spitzer, and lay it out on the line. You have the floor! How do you know what you know? Give me dates, times,  events. The more vague you are, the funnier it is that you’re spreading this propaganda which you keep assuming is an obvious truth everyone knows. Ok, if its so obvious, then tell me: What specific events that Kesher Enoshi held scare you? When did they take place? Show us - please - this magical connection they have with SJP. How often was SJP at Hillel and how exactly did Kesher Enoshi facilitate that?

You know what Dan, these are trick questions. I know you might reply, but you won’t answer my questions fully. Do you know why? Because they have no answer - they are fabrications. Tikvah has tried to make these claims that you are supporting and failed over, and over, and over. They’re lies and misrepresentations of reality. In fact, the vast majority of the mainstream Jewish community is not only behind Kesher Enoshi, JStreetU, and Adam Naftalin-Kelman… but is against you. I dare you to prove me wrong. That will be hard to do considering I am an infinitely more involved member of the community you are fabricating lies about.

Oh, and Dan Spitzer, stop calling you and your croneys Israel supporters. The only Israel you are supporting is one that even Jeffrey Goldberg said recently in The Atlantic “will soon enough be forced to face a choice: Grant citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank, or cease to call itself a Jewish democracy.” So be honest about what you really are - you are not a supporter of Israel… you are a supporter of Greater Israel.

And please, remember not to go off topic, it will only be to your own embarrassment on this public forum. Who, what, when, how, why? How do you know what you know?

Good luck smile

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Posted by bmoots195
12/09/2011  at  11:50 AM
Oh, one more thing

... And just in case you give me some crap about how both the JSU and Tikvah can be misinformed, allow me to take care of that now.

The vote was 10 against JStreetU, 9 for JStreetU, and 2 abstain. The vast majority of those voting against JStreetU were Tikvah members, perhaps with the exception of 1 individual. Now you are more in tune with reality!


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Posted by Dan Spitzer
12/09/2011  at  12:05 PM
Can You Tell Us the Truth, bmoots?

Are you a member of Kesher Enoshi? Did you support BDS vs Israel? I doubt if you will candidly answer this, but it is clear from your comments that you certainly supported BDS vs Israel.

I’ve seen videos taken of Hillel student meetings which provide unimpeachable evidence of everything both I and Tikvah have maintained about Kesher and its exerable SJP partners. Moreover, I’ve spoken with numerous Hillel students who were appalled at what Rabbi Kelman permitted allowing this venerable institution to be transformed into a spawning ground for anti-Israel activity.

Why should JSU include anyone of your ilk into its ranks? Moreover, in a democratic vote, no matter how slim, JSU is keeping haters like you out of its democratic organization. Good for them—they truly represent a majority of Jewish students on campus who proudly call themselves Zionists.

Apparently, bmoot, you don’t recognize majority rule. And this is appropriate for those who support the Palestinian “cause,” as democracy in most of the Arab world, unlike Israel,  is a very bad joke—akin to smearing lipstick on a sow…

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Posted by bmoots195
12/09/2011  at  12:18 PM
What videos?

Kindly share with us. What did you see in the videos? I was likely in attendance at every single one of those events you have seen from a distance, so please share with me your unimpeachable evidence.

You are being manipulated, Mr. Spitzer, absolutely and utterly manipulated. Tikvah is not representative of the majority on campus, many have left Hillel because of the tactics Tikvah has succumbed to, because of the conflict that has erupted. Many stopped attending JSU meetings. Silencing those that do not agree with you has not served as a successful strategy to bring together community. It has decimated the community, and people like you keep it going without even having to suffer the consequences of having to live in our community. The Jewish Student Union is not representative of the Jewish community at Cal.

And yes, I am a past Head Coordinator of Kesher Enoshi. And no, I am against the BDS movement. To hell with your litmus test, Dan, its those kind of disgusting things that destroy the fabric of our community.

This will be my last comment because evidently you have no ability to prove anything you say. Next time you make claims about my community, be prepared to back them up with reality, because we all have to live with the consequences of them. Goodbye.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
12/09/2011  at  12:25 PM
Finally, the Truth...

bmoots not only acknowledges he is not just a member of Kesher Enoshi but a supporter of BDS. Hillel, JSU, and any other supporters of Israel should throw you posterior first out of any congregation they may hold. You have admitted you are one of the haters.

My wish for you: cross over into Gaza wearing a T-Shirt with the Star of David etched upon it.

And once you do so, I too will be able to bid you “goodbye.”

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Posted by bmoots195
12/09/2011  at  12:27 PM

... he can even misrepresent things I say right to his face. I think my direct quote was “I am against the BDS movement.”

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Posted by bmoots195
12/09/2011  at  12:29 PM
but he only sees what he wants to see...

... so its no surprise.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
12/09/2011  at  12:56 PM
Thank you, bmoots, for Exposing Yourself as a Hater

For those who couldn’t previously read between the lines, be grateful that bmoots came out of the closet. He is representative of the J Street U mind-set of which JSU reasonably decided they didn’t wish to pollute themselves.

And now, reading bmoot’s revelations, many of you can understand just why JSU made their most considered decision…

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Posted by Jack Kessler
12/09/2011  at  02:22 PM
J Street's and Kesher Enoshi support BDS

It is not just a matter of opinion to say that J Street and Kesher Enoshi are enemies of Israel.  Both are active participants in and supporters of the BDS movement.  BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.

From which it follows that when they claim they support Israel, they are flat out lying to us to our faces. 

That sort of cynicism and dishonesty does not belong at the table of Jewish campus groups.

The lying and cynicism among the BDS movement is endemic.  How else could they conceal their BDS agenda?

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Posted by Ariella
12/16/2011  at  06:11 PM
It's easy to see who's telling the truth

All you need to do is google “Kesher Enoshi Berkeley” and you will find Youtube videos of Kesher members speaking in favor of BDS.  It took me less than five minutes.  I wasn’t sure who to believe at first, but it’s easy to see who’s lying (Kesher is-by no means can they be considered “pro-Israel”) and who’s telling the truth!

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