Bechol Lashon's blog was originally published on MyJewishLearning's Jewish& blog on May 3, 2018.
Jewish& is a blog by Be’chol Lashon, which gives voice to the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience. The original multicultural people, Jews have lived around the world for millennia. Today, with globalism and inclusion so key in making choices about engaging in Jewish life,Jewish& provides a forum for personal reflection, discussion, and debate.
Zip-lining, waterfall hikes and sunset on the beach—what more could one want from spring break? The opportunity to spend a week in Costa Rica is more than enough for most. But the chance to give back and to learn about Jewish life from the perspective of the communities in this small Central American country were additional draws for the students who participated in the recent alternative spring break (ASB) trip that Be’chol Lashon ran together with San Francisco State Hillel.
Latin America is an enticing destination for students who are looking for ways to have fun and give back during spring break. Landing in Costa Rica, the participants went off to hike through the lush rainforest, picked up trash along the way, and talked about identity, faith, philanthropy, and community. This is what happens when you bring adventurous, thoughtful young people with intention and purpose to an exceptional place.
On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs sent the following email to Jewish students in response to an email they sent to President Wong. For further context, see this article in the JWeekly, published Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Dear Sasha and students,
Thank you for reaching out to President Wong; because your concern focuses on an academic department, he has asked me to reply on his behalf.
I appreciate your concern about the link that appears on AMED's Facebook page and your efforts to engage in productive dialogue on the subject. The principle of academic freedom gives faculty the right to express themselves on controversial subjects—indeed, our very identity as a university depends on such free expression (by students as well as faculty), and SF State has historically protected this right vigorously and proudly. As a public university, however, we also recognize the importance of not endorsing particular political positions and doctrines or excluding individuals from participating in the educational process because of their beliefs. Finding the right balance between these principles is a critical and constant challenge, and it applies to the post that you identified; while its author has the right to express controversial political opinions, the appearance of those opinions on a departmental social media site raises justifiable alarm. We have therefore asked that the post be removed to ensure that there can be no implication that the views expressed are those of the University.
“That’s going on the ‘gram!” Variations of this phrase became a joke on our Birthright trip whenever we would stop for an extended period of time to take “Instagram worthy” photos in iconic locations in Israel. I can guarantee that everyone who has gone on Birthright has a photo of riding on a camel, standing atop Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and, of course, some artsy close up of the colorful stalls of goods being sold at the shuk (an Israeli open air market). One of my favorite things to do is go back in my phone or on my friends’ Facebook pages and look through pictures from our trip for the thousandth time. It’s easy to relive experiences through photographs and I’m lucky to have them as documentation of the life-changing journey I went on.
But rather than post posed photos of myself and my friends, I want to share a moment that did not get to be captured digitally because every one of us was so immersed in living it first hand. And despite what is represented on social media, it was this particular experience which solidified my connection to my fellow participants, the trip leaders, and the people, culture, and land of Israel.
Queen Esther aka Queen E: Basically Beyoncé before Bey was bae. You can follow her on the gram @ésther
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, 13 student leaders met with President Wong following his request to meet.
Dear President Wong,
As a diverse group of Jewish student leaders and allied students at SF State, we were optimistic when you reached out to restart dialogue that had stalled for nearly a year. We appreciate it took humility to offer a personal apology. But we left the meeting disappointed and frustrated about the lack of concrete action steps, and concerned about the way you plan to share your recent realizations with campus.
We believe your apology was sincere. Atonement is an appropriate first step in mending broken relationships. But we are not at the beginning of this process. As some students expressed, two years ago, they listened to you express similar upset about students’ fears of publicly identifying as Jewish on campus. They listened to you then promise action. Some are now close to graduation and are dismayed that things are worse, not better.
Ocean's blog was published in the J. Weekly's opinion section on February 9, 2018
On Saturday, October 14th, I was registered to run in a 5k. I had been training for a few weeks and I was excited to run it with my partner. As the date approached, and my anticipation increased, the sky changed colors. It was an alarming orange and there were bits of ash falling from above. The race was cancelled. That was what the fires in Northern California meant to me; they were an inconvenience.
In retrospect, that was truly a self-centered perspective.
We are so excited to introduce our first alumni spotlight! Each individual in our community has a unique story, and that certainly doesn’t end past their time in college. Ongoing connection matters to us, which is why this will be the first of many stories. We hope you enjoy, and Happy New Year!
Mira graduated from SF State in 2015. Originally from LA, Mira couldn’t wait to live in San Francisco and explore the city. She was nervous about entering a new world - mostly using public transportation for the first time - but more than anything she was excited to make new friends, grow as a person, and welcome new experiences.
We are aware of a lawsuit filed by several past and present students, and community members, against SF State University. It is San Francisco Hillel's policy not to comment on pending litigation, particularly when such litigation involves past or present members of the SFSU Jewish community. SF Hillel has previously made its positions publicly known here.
Dear President Wong,
I am writing in regards to the anti-Semitic placards that appeared on campus several weeks ago. I received a response from the deputy police chief about them, but have heard nothing from your office. On two different occasions, when Islamophobic posters appeared on campus, you sent out campus-wide emails denouncing the posters as "vandalizing our campus" an "attack" on our "our whole campus community" and "vandalism" by "an outside extremist group."
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Traditionalist Worker Party as an extremist organization that "blames Jews for many of the world’s problems" and espouses white supremacist views. In fact, the ADL has advised [information redacted for safety reasons].
We appreciate the letter you sent out recently to five Jewish students, acknowledging institutional anti-Semitism at SF State and clarifying your earlier comments about zionists being welcome at SF State. But we also seek actions that demonstrate equal treatment as all other groups on campus. We demand that you denounce in a campus-wide email these anti-semitic placards in the same way that you denounced the Islamophobic ones that appeared on campus, and acknowledge publicly the important things you have just stated privately.
San Francisco Hillel student president
President Wong sent the following letter to the Jewish students who emailed him earlier this month following a meeting between them.
The attachment referred to in the letter is here.