State of Jewish Bruin Life
In light of the war in Israel
Hillel at UCLA Statement: November 17, 2023
Last week, a disturbing video circulated on social media, showing individuals on campus beating on pinatas with the images of Israel and American elected officials. These unapologetic public displays of hostility only deepen a sense of vulnerability for so many Jewish Bruins. In case you have not yet seen it, we are linking a statement that was made by UC President Drake, and a lead-up statement made by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, on Friday November 17th. While we know these are only words, we look forward to seeing a move into an actionable stage.
On Monday, November 13th, we co-hosted an in-person panel event featuring three Hillel student leaders in conversation with Jodi Rudoren, the Editor in Chief of The Forward. Though we weren’t able to have the program broadcast or professionally recorded, we offer you this rudimentary recording as a mechanism to hear, directly from the students, how they are doing, what it is like to be on campus since October 7th, and what type of support they need from you at this moment.
On Tuesday we live-streamed the March for Israel in Washington, DC in our building. Even from afar, we were enlivened by the solidarity of our people. Thanks to the generosity of an angel benefactor, a 12-person UCLA delegation of our most active student leaders was able to travel to DC to join (and be nourished by) this historic event. Later that day, Hillel hosted a group of UC Regents for a conversation/listening tour of Jewish students. Six Jewish Bruin students bravely and honestly shared the ways in which their campus experience has been challenged in the face of unchecked anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
On Wednesday, UC Regent Chair, Rich Lieb, made a powerful public statement to the Regents, directing Chancellors throughout the UCs to enforce rules for holding to account blatant violations of Jewish students’ rights. We thank the Regents for calling attention to this serious matter and applaud the Chair’s insistence that this issue be handled with urgency! To view his remarks CLICK HERE (at the 53 minute mark). A subsequent response from UC President Michael Drake announced new systemwide efforts focused on campus safety, civil rights, community education and employee training — several of which focus squarely on curbing anti-Jewish hatred.
Today (Friday) UCLA Hillel students will be attending the annual Rivalry Shabbat, hosted this year at USC. While the long-standing competition between these cross-town rivals is fully intact, it is tempered by that which our Jewish students share in common.
In the coming weeks (starting with Giving Tuesday, on November 28th) we’ll be launching our End of 2023 Fundraising Campaign, where the impact of all new gifts will be doubled by a matching grant challenge. As we shift gears, we offer our most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported us since October 7th, enabling Hillel to keep up with student needs and extra-budgetary organizational demands. Your ongoing investment in our Jewish Bruin community, in times of emergency and in times of calm, is critical to our success.
**Important note: Hillel staff are overwhelmed by the hundreds of phone calls and emails from concerned community members who want to be sure we are aware of what’s happening on campus (we are) and that we are doing something to help (thank you). We appreciate your understanding that our staffs’ bandwidth is limited and devoted, primarily, to supporting the students as they navigate campus at this moment of acute vulnerability. While you may not hear back from us, we want you to know that we are continuing to flex our relationships with campus influencers/policy makers and are making headway in holding to account antisemitism when it rears its hideous head. As ever, campus climate is a top priority.**
Hillel at UCLA Statement: November 8, 2023
Today’s campus climate update is heavy and we invite you to take a few deep breaths as you read about how this week is going at UCLA.
After weeks of organizing, Jewish Bruin students planned and executed a flawless and powerful Rally for Israel: #NoHostageLeftBehind on the 30-day anniversary of the Simchat Torah massacre. With the greatest consideration, they staged an “Empty Shabbat Table” with a seat for every hostage who remains captive as well as a haunting display of blue and white balloons flying from empty strollers for the child hostages.
The 700-person crowd waved flags and adorned posters of the hostages. Our refrain: Bring Them Home Now. Campus Rabbis led us in prayer for the protection of the state of Israel, for the return of the hostages and for the souls of those who were brutally murdered. Students, alongside State Assemblymember Rick Zbur and UCLA alumna and acclaimed actor, Mayim Bialik, delivered rousing remarks condemning antisemitism and calling for campus administration to take action to condemn and stop the hateful campus vitriol that has been boiling over in the past weeks.
We marched around campus, feeling a sense of camaraderie and closeness, a much needed moment of unity in a time when we are otherwise feeling so vulnerable and exposed.Thankfully, there were no organized counter-protests.
However, within an hour of the rally, some of the ugliest antisemitic social media posts were made, aimed at sparking fear of Jews on campus. And word began to circulate that the coming days on campus would, again, be punctuated by loud and insistent anti-Zionist actions. Today we heard chanting from the UC Divest action on campus and tomorrow we are bracing for another organized walk-out style demonstration they have titled "Shut It Down."
Indeed, the pressure is intense - and Hillel’s work to support students is as important as ever (as is your support to make it happen). We remain grateful to everyone who has made a donation to support our Bruins for Israel Crisis Fund. If you are inclined to participate, we will gratefully use your gift to provide for the students' needs as they are ever-evolving.
We are proud to report that Hillel at UCLA Executive Director, Dan Gold, was nominated by his Hillel colleagues to represent the Hillel Directors and the 10,000s of Jewish students on campus throughout the state to be part of a few conversations with our California elected officials. Earlier this week, Dan joined the CA Legislative Jewish Caucus to plan a strategy for possible legislative action. Yesterday, he was on a call (alongside a small group of representatives from the Jewish world) with Gov. Newsom wherein Dan encouraged him to take immediate action to respond to the rise of anti-Jewish hate on our campus. See JPAC’s X (Twitter) post about it, here.
Thank you, as always, for your care and concern. If you’re local to Los Angeles, don’t forget to come to Hillel on Monday, November 13th for an in-person event: “Being Jewish on Campus Since October 7th.” CLICK HERE to learn more and register.
P.S. In case you missed our previous statements, click here to view them.
Hillel at UCLA Statement: Oct 27, 2023
Yesterday and today Hillel at UCLA has been flooded with emails and phone calls from constituents and stakeholders from every corner of our community. Already on edge, our community is responding to a social media post that captured the hateful rhetoric being chanted during the October 25th “Walk Out for Gaza” rally at UCLA. While many social media posts misquoted the chant as “we want Jewish genocide” the actual rhetoric and language against Israel and Jews were equally unacceptable — “we charge you with genocide”.
We know that this was triggering and no matter the specific words used, the anti-Jewish messages are undeniable. While we rarely do so, today we are compelled to issue the statement below.
Thank you for being with us in our time of campus strife.
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair
Hillel at UCLA stands in support of every Jewish Bruin and all the Jewish students, faculty, and allied students and faculty at UCLA who remain horrified at the terror attack on October 7th and condemn Hamas’ massacre in the strongest possible terms. We mourn deeply for the 1400 innocent lives taken in the most barbaric ways, and we demand the over 220 children, women, men and elderly hostages be returned now.
We are equally disturbed that faculty and students at UCLA continue to refuse to condemn this attack, and worse, have taken to public forums and to campus to defend it or even celebrate it. Make no mistake, the rhetoric that we have heard at the many anti-Zionist, anti-Israel rallies and sessions over the last few weeks is antisemitic and wrong. We 100% reject it and we refuse to normalize it.
We know the Jewish Bruin community - current students, faculty, parents and alumni - are outraged and scared. We know that this inflamed environment on campus and this antisemitic rhetoric is a direct attack on our identity as Jews. It’s done to intimidate us and, worse, is done to divide and weaken us.
Therefore, our response has been - and will continue to be - to show our strength. There has been programming, and prayer; learning and loving; and debate and demonstrations that have happened every day at our Hillel and throughout campus.
With each passing demonstration, hateful rhetoric points further and further toward the greatest fears of our Jewish people. While we acknowledge and appreciate the First Amendment protections, upheld by the university, we strongly believe there is a conscientious obligation to state and take appropriate action over what is immoral.
We are directly engaged with UCLA administration. We know our voices are being heard and we know that we have their support. Yet, after these most recent public events on campus have continued with the same hateful behavior, our message is clear and direct: it is unequivocally wrong to fan the flames of antisemitism, it is wrong to intentionally make Jews feel unsafe or unwelcome, and it is wrong to suggest Israel should not exist.
To our allies: now is the time we need to hear your voices. Now is the time to help us provide moral clarity in our community. Now is “never again.”
To the supportive community outside of campus: we hear your voices and we feel your support. We thank you for reminding us that we are not alone. While our lived experience on campus and the specifics of everything that happens here is sometimes distorted or misreported through social media that doesn’t change what we know to be antisemitic and anti-Jewish hate.
Please continue to have faith in our incredible and resilient Jewish student leaders. They are working through every issue, reaching out to bring every corner of our community together, and they are showing up every hour of every day to lead by example. We invite you to continue to show your support by sharing this story and by joining our Jewish Bruins at UCLA on November 7th on campus where we will mark one month since this nightmare attack. We will join to honor the lives lost, demand the hostages’ return home and show our UCLA community and beyond that we are strong, we are united, and we are not going to be intimidated.
Hillel at UCLA Statement: Oct 26, 2023
We’re committed to keeping you updated on UCLA campus life and how Jewish students are doing as events continue to unfold. Assessing communal needs and meeting them is at the center of our focus.
Wednesday brought to campuses around the country (including UCLA) another aggressive form of anti-Israel protest: the walkout (masses of students leaving class in coordinated form and gathering for on-campus protest). These are painful times - our students continue to be confronted by vitriolic campaigns that promote the SJP’s victimhood agenda, targeted chants, blaming Israeli victims for their fate and vehemently denying a future two-state solution. Between the constant disruption and the hateful rhetoric (in-person on campus and in media), students are understandably stretched thin.
On a promising note, UCLA was aware of and prepared for the walkout. Campus was full with UC police and other security and Hillel staff were on site, alongside UCLA administrative partners, to bear witness, bring comfort and give guidance to Jewish students. At our building, we have doubled our commitment to physical security - read to the end for more information.
Hillel is here to support all Jewish students in a myriad ways - and it has never been as important as in the past few weeks. We are restoring students’ sense of safety and agency. Below are a few of the programmatic ways that we’ve been taking care of our Jewish Bruin family in the past week:
- Building stronger connections between students and faculty: When students shared how exposed they felt in the classroom, not knowing which professors would relate to them with compassion and which might act punitively toward them for being Jewish or supporting Israel, we responded by inviting professors and students to “speed network” with each other at Hillel. More than 100 students and faculty have participated in two mixer/organizer convenings and we are on a path to building out this new project.
- Celebrating and empowering leadership: An annual event tradition, the Bruin Leadership Dinner has taken on new urgency and importance in this time of crisis. Taking place in early November, our student leaders have secured the attendance of three powerful California elected officials; Congressman Ted Lieu, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel and Assembly Majority Leader Issac Bryan. When a room full of influential students pairs with leaders of this caliber (and who have the Jewish community's back), we reconnect to our potential and power.
- Marking the anniversary of the Simchat Torah Massacre: With an eye on the one month anniversary of the massacre, our Hillel community is preparing for a large-scale convening of 1300+ people on campus to keep the names of the hostages in our hearts and stand in solidarity. We hope you will join us, save the date for November 7th in the middle of the day on campus (more details to follow).
- Nurturing the heart of Judaism: Hillel continues to provide “regularly scheduled” programming ranging from Shabbat programming, Learning Fellowships, pastoral care, community service and challah baking.
Earlier this week our Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair, Executive Director, Dan Gold, published an OpEd in eJewishPhilanthropy which calls on communities to continue gathering, sharing our stories and telling our truth. He underscores a collective call to action, one in which we must all play a part during the days and months to come. Click here to read it.
Thank you to everyone who has made a charitable contribution to Hillel in the past couple of weeks. Here are some ways that your investment in our community is at work:
- Doubling security presence by ensuring that an armed security guard is on site whenever the building is open to the student public, as well as sending security to protect offsite Hillel programs. When needed, we are hiring two security guards, and UC Police also visit Hillel on rotation to keep us protected.
- Maintaining and expanding critical security infrastructure around the building.
- Increasing access to mental health services including individual therapy, pastoral care and group processing spaces.
- Sending influential students to receive expert training to create their own online social media content.
- Launching new initiatives that bridge students, faculty and administration to each other, paving the path for a stronger and more positive campus climate for Jewish students.
We will not be repressed. Will will continue to show up. Am Yisrael Chai.
Hillel at UCLA Statement: Oct 18, 2023
Last week was a rollercoaster for our Jewish Bruin community and most especially for our Jewish students. Surrounded by around 500 fellow Bruins, we grieved together at our Bruin Plaza Vigil and were nourished by the power of community. We will never forget those whose lives were taken in a brutal act of terrorism and we will continue to say the names of those who are missing and held hostage.
Difficult days on campus followed. On Thursday, what started as a pro-Palestinian rally, became an intrusive and aggressive march through campus, stoking feelings of insecurity among Jewish students. Simultaneously, a national “day of rage” was promoted widely on social media for Friday and many Jewish students were left to worry for their physical safety.
At Hillel, we knew coming to Friday night Shabbat services and dinner would be medicine for the soul. We encouraged students to join us for Shabbat with assurances that their safety was our foremost concern. Hillel organized walking groups from campus to Hillel so no student would feel isolated during this uncertain time. Hillel hired extra security and stayed in close contact with campus police and the LA Jewish Federation’s Community Security Initiative (which works directly with the FBI). Despite the lack of any credible threat, we were on edge.
Shabbat began with soulful prayer and culminated with a room filled with hundreds of Jewish students and allies breaking bread together for dinner. The presence and participation of more than a handful of UCLA administrators was an irrefutable display of solidarity. Even Chancellor Block, Jewish himself, took the extra effort to spend Shabbat with our Jewish Bruin community in this moment of collective vulnerability. Despite how exposed and scared we felt, we did not let it come in the way of gathering and we will not let anything stand in our way of feeling Jewish pride and togetherness.
Chancellor Block offered a second statement further condemning terrorism and showing support for our Jewish students on Friday.
Israel needs us right now and supporting Israel and Israelis is the most important thing we can do (see links below). At the same time, Hillel at UCLA needs you in this moment of intense campus volatility. We are deepening our investment in security, working overtime to provide pastoral and mental health care, offering essential programming and bringing in experts on the topics that matter most right now. We invite you to help make sure Hillel at UCLA has what it needs to do all this and more for our Jewish students in this most vital moment. Click here to support the Bruins for Israel fund.
Hillel at UCLA Statement: Oct 13, 2023
Earlier in the week we connected with you to share the “state of Jewish Bruin Life,” and today we are inviting you to learn more about how our week progressed. Scroll down to see our initial message.
This has been a week full of heartache and corresponding communal support. On Wednesday night, nearly 500 members of the Bruin community gathered on Bruin Plaza for a “Vigil for Israel” that was organized by students, backed by UCLA administration, protected by UCPD and spearheaded and sponsored by Hillel at UCLA in collaboration with other campus Jewish organizations. We grieved and held each other up despite impossible heaviness. We came together united.
On Thursday our community was confronted by a “national day of resistance” in which students gathered on campus to protest Israel. This demonstration, which began in one central location and then morphed into a march through campus, served as an affront to many Jewish students who are already feeling exposed and vulnerable, particularly in light of widespread social media claims that Friday would be a "day of rage". The impact of psychological warfare may be invisible to the bare eye, however, it is deeply felt and is difficult to rebound from.
We have increased our security at Hillel in several ways and are staying up to date by the hour on any new developments. We are in close contact with members of UCLA administration who are acting as partners to our community in our time of need (including by meeting Jewish Bruins on campus to walk alongside them on their way to Shabbat dinner at Hillel tonight). We are sharing and reiterating connections for mental health support offered by Hillel, campus and other partners. While you may not hear the details (and you may hear other bits of information and rumors), please be assured that we are leaning into these close connections at this uncertain and delicate time.
Safe spaces, services, vigils and rallies in support of Israel and mourning the victims help Jewish students (and allies) feel understood and embraced by the community. Hillel is at the helm of organizing all of this. Among many other things, we are coordinating Jewish faculty on campus. Their involvement is a demonstration of their own personal need for community and their determination to show up for students now and in the future.
As a public institution, UCLA is barred by the Constitution from prohibiting expression based on the viewpoint of the speaker or content of the speech. Members of the Hillel community have direct ties to UCLA administrators to support them in upholding a campus climate which does not tolerate antisemitism, and we are using them. Many of you want to know how you can help. Again, we invite you to please join Hillel and our students by focusing our attention and energy on showing up for the Jewish community and stay in touch with UCLA Hillel for more opportunities to strengthen the Jewish Bruin community. While we and the University cannot always stop some of the hate expressed in our campus, all of us CAN show up for students who are afraid, exposed and in need of context and community.
Am Israel Chai
Hillel at UCLA Statement: Oct 10, 2023
As a member of the UCLA Hillel community, you know that campus is, historically, a hotbed for proxy war activity in times of crisis in Israel. In addition to your worry about the most vulnerable people in Israel, you’re probably also wondering about how students at UCLA are faring - to that end, we are sending this message with important information about the state of our Jewish Bruins in light of the war in Israel.
The last few days have been tragic for the Jewish people, Israel and our community as we continue to learn the horrific details of the massacre that left so many innocent dead, kidnapped or injured. On Saturday morning, we awoke to the unsettling and shocking news and, in the blink of an eye, our weekend plans for celebrating Shabbat and Simchat Torah were reconfigured to make space for the emotional and physical needs of our Jewish Bruin community.
Our Jewish Bruin community is in a state of deep collective concern and Hillel is working overtime to understand and provide for our students’ needs. Presently this looks like:
- Hiring extra armed security as a measure of abundant caution and to ease feelings of exposure and vulnerability among students and staff.
- Organizing meetings of Jewish students representing the broadest swath of identities and affinities to learn more about how students are feeling and how we can adapt programming as needs become known and evolve.
- Hosting a range of programs (at Hillel and on campus) to provide comfort, education, companionship and opportunities for activism. Highlights include “safe spaces” at Hillel for communal processing, Lunch and Learns with rabbis and professors, Shabbat prayer circle, and multiple vigils (including one that you can attend on Wednesday, October 11th at 7pm on Bruin Plaza).
- Referring students to resources to support mental health needs in a particularly stressful time (pastoral care, peer counsel and private therapy through the Ezra Network).
While we can't predict everything that will happen in the coming days/months, we are vigilant and prepared for a wide range of eventualities. At the time of writing this message, campus is relatively calm. Hillel will continue to work in tandem with organizational partners to monitor the possibility of security threats or anti-Israel campus activity, and support the students, come what may. Should campus climate become hostile for Jewish students, Hillel will be (and has always been) an unwavering source of support for Jewish Bruins, hosting educational programs, communal gatherings, leveraging community resources and guiding students as they engage campus administration and advocating for their right to education free of intimidation.
We know that some of you are eager to do something to help…and we are learning ways to get much needed support to the people of Israel (see below for links). At a local level, we invite you, our Hillel family, to join us in supporting the Jewish Bruin community as we face this emergency. Providing this extra level of communal care is Hillel’s honor…we are going beyond our budget to provide extra food, space and security. Your generous donation to the UCLA Hillel Bruins for Israel Fund will support programs and associated costs - please give today so that we can fully fund and support every effort they seek to strengthen our Jewish people and soothe our concern for Israel.
Last night, Chancellor Gene Block issued a message regarding recent violent attacks abroad and shared a statement from UC President Michael Drake and UC Board of Regents Chair Richard Leib. To read the statement, click here. (REVISED: click here to read an additional statement provided on Fri. Oct 13th.)
Thank you for aligning with our Jewish Bruin community every day and especially in our more challenging moments.
Am Israel Chai,
President, Board of Directors
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair, Executive Director
- The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Israel Crisis Fund
- The Los Angeles Jewish Community Foundation’s vetted nonprofits providing vital emergency services