The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praised U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today for the inspiring speech he gave at the Hillel Student Leadership Gala 2012 at Rutgers University on April 15, 2012. Senator Menendez spoke knowledgeably and powerfully about the Jewish people’s historical connection to the Land of Israel, and about the importance to the United States of “a strong, unwavering alliance with the State of Israel.”
With approximately 100 people present, including 27 non-Jewish campus organizations, Senator Menendez also spoke about the continuing problem of anti-Semitism around the world, including at Rutgers University. He specifically referred to the most recent anti-Semitic attack on Rutgers student Aaron Marcus by a satirical student paper called The Medium. The Medium published an op-ed called “What About the Good Things Hitler Did?” The Medium falsely stated that Aaron Marcus — the grandson of Holocaust survivors — wrote the op-ed, and even posted his photo next to it.
Mr. Marcus has been the victim of anti-Semitic attacks at Rutgers before, including being physically threatened and subjected to anti-Semitic name-calling by a university employee, the Outreach Coordinator of the Middle East Studies Center who, according to the Rutgers’ Web site, remains in her position. In a student-supported complaint, the ZOA challenged Rutgers’ failure to respond adequately to these and other anti-Semitic incidents on campus. The incidents are currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as a possible violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
In his speech at Rutgers this week, Senator Menendez referred to the most recent attack on Aaron Marcus by The Medium as an example of “anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head.”
Senator Menendez emphasized, “The fact is that history teaches us that words matter. Words matter. They can be hurtful, thoughtless, but even beyond that, even when intended satirically, they can step over the line to anti-Semitism. When taken too far or too seriously, they can be dangerous and lead to anti-Semitic hate crimes and real violence.”
Urging that globally, “the hatred, the violence and the anti-Semitism must end,” Senator Menendez issued a special call to the Rutgers community:
” . . . [E]ach of you here at Rutgers, Jew and non-Jew alike, must take a leadership role in making sure that it does [end]. . . . We are all too often reminded that intolerance, ignorance and anti-Semitism have not yet been defeated in our world.”
Toward the end of his speech, Senator Menendez reiterated his call on the Rutgers community: “It is your task to understand the demonization of Israel and the Jewish people, no matter where it occurs, whether it is in East Rutherford [where, last January, an explosive was thrown through the window of a New Jersey synagogue that was also the rabbi’s residence] or on the Rutgers campus or on the West Bank. That demonization is the demonization of democracy and tolerance and runs contrary to our values as a nation.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA applauds Senator Menendez for speaking so eloquently about Israel and the Jewish people, emphasizing history, facts and truth, rather than relying on ‘certain flavor of the month beliefs’ about Israel, as the Senator called them.
“We thank Senator Menendez also for speaking out against The Medium’s attack on Aaron Marcus and recognizing it as an act of anti-Semitism at Rutgers. We urge Rutgers President Richard McCormick and the entire university leadership to heed the Senator’s call. It is their responsibility to understand that Israel and the Jewish people are being demonized on the Rutgers campus, that this is anti-Semitism, and that they have the obligation to remedy these problems.”