ZOA Disappointed In Hillel’s Decision To Drop Anti-Semitism Investigation At UC Irvine
October 22, 2007

But Hillel Campaign Seeks Funds
To Fight Anti-Semitism

New York — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is troubled to learn that the Hillel Foundation of Orange County (Hillel) has called off its investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). The investigation was being conducted by a Hillel-formed Task Force, consisting of academic, professional and religious leaders. According to an article published on October 16th in the Daily Pilot, a local California newspaper, Hillel’s “board of directors decided their resources could be better spent improving campus Jewish life” (italics in original). This is despite the fact that a recent Hillel fundraising letter is seeking funds to fight campus anti-Semitism.

When Hillel publicly announced the formation of its Task Force on February 13, 2007, it noted that the Task Force came “as the result of the growing number of reported anti-Semitic incidents occurring on campus in recent years.” In a Los Angeles Times article on February 15, 2007, concerning the Task Force’s creation, Hillel’s Executive Director was quoted as saying that “Jewish students have raised concerns about the hostile environment at UCI. They are legitimately afraid for their safety.”

Hillel committed its Task Force to conducting interviews of students, alumni, faculty members and administrators, as well as individual Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and community members, regarding their campus experiences. The Task Force’s goal was to “issue a thorough and objective report, with findings and recommendations made to the community and UCI administration by year’s end.”

When Hillel dropped the investigation, the Task Force itself was “surprised and shocked,” according to an October 20th editorial in the Daily Pilot. The editorial criticized Hillel’s actions, asking this: “So how it that the investigation could just fizzle without any sort of an announcement or an explanation? We haven’t even been given any results of the investigation. We expect more from such a well-established leader in the Jewish community.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein expressed his dismay about Hillel’s disbanding of the Task Force before its work was completed: “When Hillel created this Task Force, the ZOA expressed its satisfaction that Hillel had finally publicly recognized a longstanding problem at UCI, and had committed itself to doing something about it. It’s my understanding that the members of the Task Force have since spent hours upon hours gathering data, and preparing for and conducting interviews. Witnesses who’ve come forward to provide information to the Task Force have also devoted enormous time and effort to this Hillel endeavor.

“Now, apparently without disclosing what all these investigative efforts have turned up, Hillel has simply dropped the inquiry. Hillel has offered no explanation for why it’s abandoned the investigation. Hillel says that the reason is to promote Jewish life at UCI. But how can Jewish life flourish in a campus environment that promotes hatred and hostility toward Jews and Israel?

“What kind of message is Hillel sending by dropping the investigation? That there is no problem at UCI that needs to be investigated, which we know is false. Or, that Hillel is afraid to criticize the bullies who are hostile to Israel and Jews. Or, that Hillel is too intimidated to criticize the UCI administration. None of these possibilities is remotely acceptable. Though fortunately, the Task Force is continuing the investigation of UCI on its own, Hillel should certainly have continued to back it, until its work was completed.

“Hillel sent a fundraising letter just this past week, which pleads for funds by saying, ‘Any amount you contribute will help Hillel provide the strong Jewish presence our students need — particularly during this time when anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric is becoming frightfully common on college campuses.’ The letter is signed by Edgar M. Bronfman, Chairman. By Hillel alleging that it needs funds to fight campus anti-Semitism, and yet dropping a UCI investigation to do just that, Hillel is misleading its donors into thinking that it is taking an active role in fighting campus anti-Semitism.”

Susan Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, commented, “Hillel’s latest conduct underscores the importance of the ongoing government investigation into UCI’s conduct. This investigation, by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, was triggered by the complaint that the ZOA filed in October 2004, on behalf of Jewish students at UCI, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI requires that federal funding recipients like UCI ensure that their programs and activities are free from racial and ethnic harassment and intimidation, or risk losing their federal funding. We look forward to the Office for Civil Rights requiring UCI to finally address the pattern of anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on campus, and to comply with its obligations under the law.”

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