As a senior at UC Berkeley and a longtime writer on the school newspaper, the Daily Californian, my disappointments surrounding the publication of the Dershowitz cartoon have snowballed over the developments of last week.
My anger, surprise and resentment compounded daily, culminating when the paper’s leadership failed to publish or even personally acknowledge the letter I sent to the editors.
I hope in this op-ed to accomplish two things: first, to simply voice my discomfort over being ignored by the very press institution I’ve worked within for more than three years, and second, to address and reassure my beloved Jewish community of Northern California that while the events last week were shocking, they were not representative of the Jewish experience at UC Berkeley.
Here is the letter to the editor I submitted, dated Oct. 26, 2017.
To the editors;
I have worked for Daily Cal since the first semester of my freshman year at UC Berkeley in September 2014. It was one of the first organizations I joined on campus. In high school I had discovered how meaningful it was for me to be in a newspaper-building community, and I knew that working for a student publication would be an influential part of my college experience.
So it is sadly, and not without anger, that I understand I have complicitly participated in the fallout from the professor Alan Dershowitz cartoon. I cannot stand by anymore, in light of not just the historically racist imagery of the cartoon, but the jaw-dropping response published in the paper as well as the internal memo sent by the editor-in-chief.
In both responses, I am astounded by the deflection of responsibility assumed by the editor. Furthermore, the first publication of the editor’s letter lacked anything resembling an apology — the words “we apologize” were tacked on and updated to the letter online, post-publication. It is indicated at the top of his letter that the piece was updated on Oct. 25 “to better reflect the sentiment of the author.”
Journalistic ethics aside, are we not allowed to ask: Why no apology to begin with? Why did the apology need to be added after the uproar? The Daily Cal has given me much — it has even provided me a platform to write about my Jewishness, even as recently as two weeks ago.
I could use this as evidence to say the cartoon was just a bad mistake, and the intent for its publication did not come from a malicious place — but the editor’s initial lack of apology and lack of admitting personal responsibility for publishing the cartoon, which is of course the editor’s primary job, does not sit right with me.
In the email, the editor addresses how some staff may be feeling hurt, and immediately directs them toward our staff representative, a student who acts as HR. He also says a discussion of the cartoon will be held at the editorial board meeting, and in his office hours. He has also set up a confidential survey form for us to post grievances.
I have no interest in meeting with the editor one on one, in a board meeting or addressing him confidentially online.
It would be a disgrace for me at this moment to not speak up publicly to this institution I have held so dear. I would be thrilled if the Daily Cal agrees to run this letter — I ask for nothing, no personal apology, just the chance to be heard.
Luckily, the paper ran letters from the Berkeley Hillel director, and from members of the Jewish Student Board, so their disregard of me was not blanketed upon the entire Jewish community.
And I will say this: On Friday evening, feeling exhausted from this week’s controversy, I walked 10 minutes from my apartment to the Hillel on Bancroft Avenue. Inside, my friends and friendly faces whom I had not yet met were already lighting candles to usher in Shabbat. A guest, Rabbi Tsipora Gabai of Tehiyah Day School, had been brought in, and she taught us Sephardic melodies to the Kabbalat Shabbat service and told stories as students filled the lobby, waiting for dinner.
The building itself is gutted — exposed wood panels, torn out walls, lines of naked bulbs lighting the room — because it is under construction, to be renovated into an even more accessible and welcoming space for future Jewish students.
Campus-wide, lectures from Jewish professionals and scholars continue to be held. I am constantly humbled by the visibility and pride of our community, and grateful for all the resources provided to us.
Scheduled for Friday, Nov. 3 is Shabbat ABC, Across Berkeley Campus, and my friends will host dinners and dance parties in their apartments, their co-ops and their own spaces they call home. For me, Shabbat ABC is one of the best nights of every semester, because it highlights the warmth and breadth of our community.
I welcome anyone, especially seniors in high school who may be concerned about our campus life, to reach out about joining a Shabbat celebration this week. It would be a joy to introduce you to the UC Berkeley as I see it, the school where Jewish life is beautiful, open and, most importantly, vocal.