Editorial cartoon underscores need for education on Jewish history, stereotypes

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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Anti-Semitism has been an ugly part of Jewish history. As a Jew growing up in the United States, a country that has embraced and given me the full opportunity to practice my religion unharmed, it has truly been a privilege and right that I sometimes take for granted. I wear my yarmulke around Berkeley and on the UC Berkeley campus without issue; my children attend Berkeley public schools wearing yarmulkes, embracing and taking pride in their Jewish expression. As a Jew living in this amazing country, with all of its faults, I feel blessed to have the freedom to live a vibrant Jewish life. I can sometimes become complacent and even want to ignore anti-Semitism when is right in front of me.

To see The Daily Californian’s anti-Semitic cartoon online depicting Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz was a reminder that as a Jew living in our open society, we are still plagued by undertones of historical anti-Semitism. There should be no excuse or rationalization for why this cartoon is “simply” a critique of Israeli policy or the speaker’s opinion. Like any bigoted cartoon, it should be called out, and the leadership of The Daily Californian needs to take responsibility for its actions. Jewish students on campus have every right to be included, practice their beliefs and express their passion for and love of Israel — their Jewish homeland — without experiencing anti-Semitism.

As a rabbi and educator on campus, I encourage members of The Daily Californian to take the time to learn about the history of anti-Semitism currently plaguing our society today. Berkeley Hillel and the entire Jewish community stand ready to work with The Daily Californian in offering training and education about the continuing reality of anti-Semitism. I look forward to hearing from The Daily Californian staff.

Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman is the executive director of Berkeley Hillel.