Another query about Jewish identity, another wake-up call

Is the specter of a new breed of anti-Semitism haunting California universities? We have to wonder now that yet another Jewish student in this state has been questioned and treated with contempt by an official student group simply because of her religious identity.

Molly Horwitz, a Paraguayan-born Jewish student at Stanford, is running for the Associated Students of Stanford University undergraduate senate. She says that her motivation in seeking office is to make a positive impact on the lives of her fellow students, especially by improving access to mental health care.

Horwitz says she’s always been proud of her identity as a Jew of color, which is why she sought the endorsement of the campus’ Students of Color Coalition. She experienced a rude awakening when, facing a panel of coalition members, she allegedly was asked, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?”

As Horwitz makes clear in her op-ed reprinted here, she was shocked almost to the point of tears — not because she was asked about her stance on divestment, which she felt was appropriate, but because it was assumed that as a Jew, she could not think clearly about the issue.

A similar incident took place in February at UCLA, when Jewish student Rachel Beyda was grilled by a student council panel while she sought a seat on a student judicial board. Beyda, from Cupertino, was similarly asked whether her judgment on the divestment issue would be clouded given her Jewish community activism.

Translation: If you’re Jewish you must be prejudiced against Palestinians and in no way fit to represent your fellow students.

In Beyda’s case, the original council vote rejecting her was overturned once a faculty member pointed out the prejudice underlying her questioning. Her inquisitors apologized in a letter to the student newspaper. As for Horwitz, she did not get the SOCC endorsement, which as of midweek was disputing her version of the story.

Both incidents are chilling wake-up calls. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the volatility surrounding the anti-Israel activism on California campuses is creating an atmosphere in which distrust of Jews in general is allowed to foment. The one has become a slippery slope leading to the other.

We’re pleased that these incidents have drawn national media attention. It is also heartening that at UCLA, the student senate passed a resolution against anti-Semitism, and this week at Stanford, the Board of Trustees stated it would not consider a student senate resolution calling for divestment, calling it “divisive.” Bias must be called out whenever it occurs.