Stow Lake is named for William W. Stow, speaker of the Assembly in 1855 who railed against the state’s Jews. (Photos/Wikimedia Commons, Souvenir Evening Post; Collage/Gabriel Greschler)
Stow Lake is named for William W. Stow, speaker of the Assembly in 1855 who railed against the state’s Jews. (Photos/Wikimedia Commons, Souvenir Evening Post; Collage/Gabriel Greschler)

Cal parent weighs in on Berkeley Law; Change name of Stow Lake; etc.

In a fog at UC Berkeley

Professors Ron Hassner and Ethan Katz, heads of research centers funded by the Jewish community, professed happiness that “only” nine Berkeley Law student groups formally banned Zionist speakers in their bylaws (“UC Berkeley has many Jewish-filled ‘zones.’ If you want to support campus Jews, learn about them”). Would these gentlemen also profess happiness about the following instances of legal action that were necessitated by other instances of rising antisemitism on college campuses nationwide?

New York University’s 2020 agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) following a complaint filed on behalf of an NYU student that cited numerous instances of antisemitic activity on the campus.

The OCR investigation of a complaint alleging that Jewish students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have faced an alarming increase of antisemitic harassment and anti-Zionism.

The OCR’s acceptance of complaints alleging that UCLA violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to prevent a hostile campus environment for its Jewish campus community in direct violation of the school’s Title VI obligations.

The U.S. Department of Education’s decision to investigate the University of Southern California after a Jewish student claimed she resigned from student government because she endured harassment over her pro-Israel views and  allegations that USC  allowed a hostile environment of antisemitism to proliferate on its campus.

The OCR opening of an investigation of University of Vermont for its repeated failures to address the rampant issues of antisemitism on the UVM campus, including ongoing antisemitic intimidation, harassment and exclusion of Jewish students.

‍Williams College reached a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education in lieu of an investigation over its student government rejecting a new pro-Israel group, Williams Initiative for Israel. The school must submit documentation to demonstrate that it is complying with the “same rights and privileges” clause.

The trend is unmistakably clear, but apparently Mssrs. (Berkeley Law Dean Erwin) Chemerinsky, Hassner and Katz are unable or unwilling to recognize it.

Julia Lutch

‘Cavalier attitude’ on campus

Dean Chemerinsky’s op-ed (“Dean of Berkeley Law: Don’t generalize about BDS on campus”) did little to appease my concerns.

As a Jewish Cal parent with a current Jewish student on campus, I am concerned about the cavalier attitude Berkeley is taking toward obvious discrimination. This is spreading across our nation’s schools, and complacency and excuses are not the answer.

A Zionist is someone who simply believes that Israel has a right to exist. The vast majority of Jews believe that the State of Israel should continue to exist — between 90% to 95% in recent polls.

They may have criticisms of the government. They may believe in a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict. They may disagree with “settlers” currently taking Palestinian land.

But to the majority of Jewish people, Israel signifies a place where they can live in freedom and safety, unlike other parts of the world. A homeland that is part of our identity.

Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of UC Berkeley Law. (Photo/File)
Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of UC Berkeley Law. (Photo/File)

Anti-Zionism is antisemitism; it denies the right of Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.

Dean Chemerinsky says in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal: “Berkeley Law, and the Berkeley campus, has a strict rule prohibiting discrimination and indeed has an ‘all-comers’ rule that all student organizations and all student events must be open to all students.”

It is disingenuous to claim that these groups would be welcoming to anyone who supports the State of Israel when they won’t allow speakers with the same viewpoint.

This doesn’t seem like an actual “all-comers” policy. It seems like a hostile environment that most Jewish students would not be comfortable entering.

I question the poll that says 74% of Jewish students are comfortable on campus. I would like to see how it was phrased. Perhaps they should be asked if they would be comfortable attending one of these group’s meetings or encountering them on campus.

I can tell you that my son, who is a junior, does not feel comfortable voicing his opinions freely on campus like many of his Jewish peers. Coming from the New York area, we were warned that Berkeley was not a friendly campus for Jewish students, but we never imagined this type of open hostility.

Berkeley can do better. They need to address this matter in a more serious manner.

Jill Gordon
Demarest, N.J.

One-of-a-kind Lorry Lokey

I just read the wonderful obituary for Lorry Lokey (“Philanthropist Lorry Lokey, 95, gave millions for education”).

I had the honor of meeting Lorry around 2001 when I was participating in a capital campaign drive at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame. Rabbi Gerald Raiskin had set up a meeting for Lorry and myself at the synagogue. He showed up in jeans and an old car and was very understated.

We knew he was interested in education and had the architects build a model of the new school, with three options. The most expensive was $5 million. When we discussed the school in more detail, he said you have to go for the option that is the most extravagant.

I then said I don’t believe we can raise enough to do that. He said: How about I give you $3 million and pay you early, so you don’t have to pay as much to the bank.

I was absolutely stunned by his generosity. He then left saying he needed to get a haircut at the same barbershop he had frequented for 40 years.

As your story mentioned, he was not about having his name on buildings. He insisted the building be named the Helen and Gerald Raiskin Torah Center.

I have never met anyone like him. He enriched my life, simply by modeling his goodness and generosity.

Ron Sosnick

Who flowed into Palestine?

In your article about Jewish activists standing with Indigenous people, you mention that “some are also struggling with what they see as a parallel between being Jewish ‘settlers’ on Native American land in Northern California and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land” (“Through reparations, education and land statements, local Jewish activists are standing with Bay Area Indigenous people,” Oct. 13)

I became fascinated with the Palestinian claim of indigeneity to the land of Israel after I came across Robert Kennedy’s 1948 articles in the Boston Post. Kennedy wrote: “The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944, came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state. This is the only country in the Near and Middle East where an Arab middle class is in existence.”

Stickers distributed by Jews on Ohlone Land (Photo/Andrew Esensten)
Stickers distributed by Jews on Ohlone Land at an event on Oct. 2, 2022. (Photo/Andrew Esensten)

I hope that those who are interested in the claim of Palestinian indigeneity will consider my study on the subject, published in the Middle East Quarterly: “Were the Arabs Indigenous to Mandatory Palestine?”

What I found was that Kennedy was witnessing the fact that during the British mandate period, Arabs from many lands flowed freely into Palestine while Jewish immigration was severely limited.

Sheree Roth
Palo Alto

‘Offensive’ cartoon in J.

As I was perusing the Oct. 14 issue of J. during the High Holidays, I came across a very disturbing “cartoon” titled “Where’s My Timbrel.”

It suggested that Sephardic Jews are “not really” Jewish and that they were somehow “involved in the slave trade.”

If this was meant to be amusing, I would like other Sephardic Jews to weigh in on this matter, too.

My Sephardic ancestors were expelled from Spain, Iraq and Egypt for being Jews and living a Jewish life. Hence, I find this cartoon offensive and insulting.

Esther Salem
San Francisco

Change name of Stow Lake

My husband and I just learned of the vile antisemitic namesake of a prominent Golden Gate Park feature from an Oct. 22 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Is there really any reason not to change the name of Stow Lake now that it has been brought to people’s attention — since at least 2019? The renaming of places like Squaw Valley shows that it can be done, hopefully without the usual delays because of extraordinary circumstances.

Given the alarming uptick in antisemitic speech and acts in recent years, Jewish people are especially sensitized to something like this. In my husband’s and my case, we are residents of the Inner Richmond and heavy park users: jogging around Stow Lake would now feel like opening a wound. And we’ll refrain from taking visiting family and friends there while it still holds the name.

It’s only worthy of this city, which does so much to meet other communities’ needs, to be aware of the egregious wrongness of this name to Jews, and act to correct it with haste.

Two quotes in your Dec. 6, 2019 article (“This S.F. lake is named after California’s most antisemitic politician. One man is trying to change that”) sum up the situation:

“[This is not a situation of] a guy that did popular things and just happened to have this antisemitic streak. Antisemitism really defined his political life. He is known for this bigotry” (said by historian Fred Rosenbaum).

And: “The obvious question is whether San Francisco regards antisemitism on the same level as bigotry against other minority groups. We’ll get the answer to that question when we see what action our city leaders take on Stow Lake” (said by Steve Miller, a Jewish S.F. resident)

Rina Bander
San Francisco

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