If we didn't know better we would think the year was not 5776 but 5683. Why? Because based on the Jewish calendar and the recent actions of the Judicial Board of UCLA's student council, the nearly century-old struggle against anti-Semitism continues on college campuses.
Just ask second-year econ major Rachel Beyda, 20, who, according to the New York Times, was denied a spot on the Board after one of the members of the Undergraduate Students Association Council asked the prospective lawyer a most unusual question.
"Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community," Council member Fabienne Roth asked Beyda, "how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?" What? This is 2015, right? Not 1922, when Jewish Americans were often denied jobs, membership in clubs and enrollment at universities such as Harvard, which considered a quota system for Jewish students.
The Times reported that after Beyda was excused from the room, the council debated about whether her faith and affiliation with Jewish organizations (including her sorority and on-campus Hillel student group) meant that she might be biased when dealing with sensitive issues that came before the board, the campus equivalent of a student Supreme Court. One member said Beyda -- who has "great" grades and two law internships under her belt -- was "a great candidate and literally knows everything and had a fair interview and she's fantastic."
The debate was captured in written minutes and on video and, in a meeting that took place on Feb. 10, the first ballot rejected Beyda's nomination, with four members voting against her. After a faculty advisor pointed out that membership in Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest a revote ended in a unanimous approval for the president-elect of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish sorority.
"We don’t like to wave the flag of anti-Semitism, but this is different," Rabbi Aaron Lerner, the incoming executive director of the Hillel chapter at U.C.L.A. said of the initial vote, which has caused ongoing tension on the 29,000-student campus. "This is bigotry. This is discriminating against someone because of their identity." The four students who originally opposed the nomination wrote a letter of apology in which they said their intentions were never to "attack, insult or delegitimize the identity of an individual or people."
The co-author of a recent study on anti-Semitism against college students called the U.C.L.A. incident "egregious and startling." Barry A. Kosmin, whose "National Demographic Survey
of American Jewish College Students 2014: Anti-Semitism Report" came out last month, said "If they had used this with any other group — sexual, racial, any kind of identity group — they would have realized it was illegal." Beyda declined to comment on the controversy due to her role not the Judicial Board, which includes hearing challenges to the constitutionality of council's actions.
Check out Look Different for resources about anti-Jewish bias.