SFSU sentence for Menaker doesn’t sit well with some

The verdict is finally in.

Tatiana Menaker must perform 40 hours of community service for a nonprofit community group with a charitable purpose after she made comments to pro-Palestinian demonstrators during a San Francisco State University rally in May.

No specific nonprofits were suggested in the verdict. But she cannot volunteer with any organization that is solely identified with a community she most closely relates to: Russian emigres, the Jewish community or the state of Israel.

“It’s the epitome of hypocrisy,” said Menaker’s attorney Alexander Anolik.

While happy that Menaker was not suspended from the university, Anolik called the sentence, issued by an administrative law judge and approved by University President Robert A. Corrigan, a prime example of “the permeation of anti-Jewish bias,” at SFSU.

“Does this mean the Jewish community, Russians and the state of Israel are not part of our community?” he asked. “Even in their ‘alleged’ justice they show discrimination and anti-Semitism.”

He expressed similar concerns in a letter sent to Corrigan earlier this week.

Local Jewish community agencies, meanwhile, did not venture so far as to call the sentence anti-Semitic and discriminatory, but did express concerns of their own about the verdict.

“It’s not particularly sensitively worded,” explained Doug Kahn, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco. “It might have been better if the university had emphasized the type of organizations through which Tatiana could have done her community service rather than those which she cannot.”

Seth Brysk, director of San Francisco Hillel, said the university missed an opportunity to send a positive message to students and the community.

“If the intention was for Tatiana to become familiar with an organization that deals with the group she was insulting, why didn’t they just come out and say that?” he asked.

Karen Zatz, associate director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Pacific Region and an attorney, agreed that “the attempt to take Tatiana out of her comfort zone and have her work with other individuals is a little bit of concern to us” because it comes across as “a negative prohibition.”

Menaker, however, said she doesn’t blame SFSU; the university, she said, didn’t know any better. “We cannot demand from the gentiles to understand us as Jews can understand us,” she said. “I don’t hold any grudges.”

Menaker was facing disciplinary action for calling a pro-Palestinian student a sharmoota (the Arabic word for bitch) and telling another to “Go f— your camels” in response to other defamatory words during a May 7 rally.

Two pro-Palestinian students also faced counts, but accepted settlement agreements following separate hearings before an administrative law judge last month.

Because it is SFSU policy not to comment on its disciplinary proceedings, it is currently unclear what type of sentences the pro-Palestinian students are facing.

Therefore Jewish community leaders said they are in the dark as to whether or not the sentences are proportionate.

“At this point it is too early to know,” said Kahn. “Clearly by all reports, there were actions taken [at the May 7 rally] by individuals on the Palestinian side that were far more egregious than any words that may have been uttered by Tatiana. So certainly we hope there is some proportionality in the sentences.”

Kahn said the JCRC is more than happy to speak with Menaker to discuss possible nonprofit groups she might find satisfying.