New state panel hears about anti-Semitism

California’s new Assembly Select Commit-tee on Campus Climate held its first public hearing March 21 at San Jose State University, where two speakers urged committee members to examine anti-Semitism on campus.

The two co-founders of the Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses, also asked the committee to take steps to ensure that Jewish students at California’s colleges and universities feel safe and welcome.

The committee was formed in response to an incident at SJSU last fall in which a black student allegedly had a bicycle lock fastened around his neck and was otherwise harassed by four white roommates.

The 14-person committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D–San Diego), will have four hearings to explore issues of diversity, race, tolerance and student safety at California’s public colleges.

Leila Beckwith, an Amcha Initiative co-founder and professor emeritus at UCLA, told the committee that Jewish students often “feel uncomfortable speaking freely about their support for Israel” on campus and have at times “felt unsafe” in classroom settings. “In addition, we believe that a number of professors and departments are inappropriately using taxpayer dollars to promote their personal anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agendas,” she added.

Meanwhile, Amcha signed onto a letter this week to San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong urging him to investigate a recent event at which SFSU professor Rabab Abdulhadi “and others glorified and condoned terrorism [against Jews] to SFSU students.” The letter was also signed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Zionist Organization of America and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a U.C. Santa Cruz lecturer and Amcha Initiative co-founder, noted in a press release: “This is the same professor who was the faculty adviser to the SFSU knife-wielding student investigated by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force.”  — j. staff