A Feb. 3, 2020 UC Berkeley student union meeting where students debated a measure to remove a controversial anti-Israel display. (Photo/Sunny Shen-Daily Californian)
A Feb. 3, 2020 UC Berkeley student union meeting where students debated a measure to remove a controversial anti-Israel display. (Photo/Sunny Shen-Daily Californian)

Berkeley Law dean wrong about antisemitism on campus; A swastika is a swastika; etc.

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Berkeley Law dean shouldn’t be surprised

After reading that Erwin Chemerinsky has spent 15 years as law school dean — first at UC Irvine, then at UC Berkeley — I was reminded of the story of Rip Van Winkle. Asleep for 20 years, he woke up —  surprised at all he had missed (“Dean of Berkeley Law: Don’t generalize about BDS on campus,” online, Aug. 29).

Chemerinsky seems surprised too — by the current epidemic of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, antisemitic activities sweeping across U.S. university campuses. He claims there’s often a “false narrative” that there is significant antisemitism and that many campuses are not hospitable to Jews. That, Chemerinsky declares, is “nonsense.”

At Berkeley, he adds, “I have seen little antisemitism among our faculty, staff and students at Berkeley Law or on the campus.” Contrary evidence exists, as documented by the Amcha Initiative, which investigates, documents and monitors antisemitism on many U.S. college campuses

Chemerinsky blames the media for  “using this minor incident to paint a misleading picture about the nature of my law school, my campus and higher education.”

Chemerinsky is correct: “It is no more antisemitic to criticize Israeli policies than it is anti-American to criticize the policies of the federal government.”

But doesn’t he know that Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine are not criticizing Israeli politics? Doesn’t he know that this “small group of students” is working to erase the existence of a Jewish state?

June Brott
Walnut Creek

Law school dean is off mark

Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky characterized universities as places where all ideas can be expressed and where all are treated with tolerance and civility (“Dean of Berkeley Law: Don’t generalize about BDS on campus,” online, Aug. 29). How about a thought experiment?

What would happen if a law student group asked other student groups to put in their bylaws a statement urging them to refrain from inviting ”speakers who have expressed and continued to hold views” critical of Mahmoud Abbas’ pay-to-slay policies or who condemn this Hamas statement of intent: “There is no alternative to a fully sovereign Palestinian State on the entire national Palestinian soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.”

What would happen would likely demonstrate that all ideas certainly cannot be expressed on campus.

At the very least there would be accusations of Islamophobia and shrieks about “feeling unsafe,” time-tested ways of securing publicity and accommodation to aggressive demands based on supposed victimhood.

Dean Chemerinsky writes, “I do see great concern about the Middle East and human rights violations by Israel.” One can only wonder why, in the interests of expressing all ideas, he failed to balance that by also mentioning egregious human rights violations by Fatah and Hamas.

Julia Lutch

A swastika is a swastika

Regarding the ADL’s supporting the right to display the swastika (“ADL event about California hate bill affirms Hindu-Jewish solidarity on swastikas,” Aug. 12), would any synagogue, Jewish organizations or extremists actually display it as a sign of solidarity with the Hindu community?

Unfortunately, the Nazis hijacked the symbol, but, practically, symbols have meaning. What would the ghosts of 6 million plus think?

Lawrence Wolff
Mill Valley

Reflecting on Rwanda

I cannot get the story of Ziggy’s Playground (“Ziggy’s Playground: San Francisco family builds joy in Rwanda,” Aug. 4) — nor the people responsible for it — out of my head due to our personal experience.

Ten years after the horrific Rwandan genocide in 1994, my husband and I spent time hiking to see the gorillas. This was an addition to a trip to other African countries arranged by a tour company.

Upon our arrival, we were met and told that the only way to see the gorillas was to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial first. To say it was an eye-opener and a real tear-jerker is putting it mildly. As our guide drove there, I kept naively asking if there had been bodies on these roads. Of course the answer was yes. There had been bodies everywhere.

Opening day at Ziggy's Playground included the release of colorful beach balls.
Opening day at Ziggy’s Playground included the release of colorful beach balls.

If I recall correctly, the memorial (where more than 250,000 bodies are interred) and visitor center were started by two British brothers, but I cannot find this information anywhere.

It is named a memorial not a museum. Where the Rwandan genocide differs from the Holocaust is that neighbors murdered neighbors with the idea of ridding the country of the Tutsis. Yes, there was some of that in the Holocaust, as well, but it was not the primary goal as it was in Rwanda; it was Hitler’s goal.

Kudos to Debbie Findling and Steven Moss for their incredible project.

Marianne Friedman

Stick to the facts

I am not going to argue with Quentin Kopp (“Boudin deserved to go,” Letters, Aug. 18) about his position on the recall of Chesa Boudin.

I was among the 17 retired Superior Court judges who opposed the recall.

However, Kopp’s statement that George Soros donated to the anti-recall campaign of Chesa Boudin or his campaign for district attorney is false. Soros remains a perennial punching bag of conservative Republicans and right-wing Holocaust denier Victor Orban, prime minister of Hungary. He has also been the recipient of virulent antisemitic attacks.

Ellen Chaitin
San Francisco

Nice piece on stuttering

Excellent first-person article by the cantor who stutters (“Sanctifying the stutter: How I embraced my speech disorder as a cantor,” online, Aug. 24).

As a retired speech pathologist, I lament the paucity of information about speech disorders. This was evident when Joe Biden ran for president in 2020; he is a stutterer, as well.

The writer of the piece — Cantor Malachi Kanfer of Sutton Place Synagogue in New York City — researched the appropriate vocabulary and explanations of stuttering, including that individuals with disfluency disorders rarely stutter when singing. Thank you.

Karen Levi
Potomac, Maryland

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