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February 11, 2016 8:00 am

How I Was Harassed by UCLA’s Jewish Community for Being an IDF Veteran

avatar by Avi Dorfman

Email a copy of "How I Was Harassed by UCLA’s Jewish Community for Being an IDF Veteran" to a friend
The UCLA campus. Photo: Wikipedia.

The UCLA campus. Photo: Wikipedia.

In 2007,  I was severely wounded and nearly killed by a Hamas rocket while serving in the IDF. I eventually recovered (from near fatal brain damage), and enrolled at UCLA in 2009.

My troubles there started on Day One, when I visited UCLA Hillel. Hillel was well-known to be a pro-Israel organization. I was certain I would feel at home. As I got to Hillel, I saw a few students leaving. I heard one of them speak Arabic, and then I heard something horrible: these were the leaders of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Hillel’s student administration had agreed to work with Students for Justice in Palestine! SJP is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and actively works to defame and delegitimize Israel on every college campus where it has an active chapter.  

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Hillel was allying itself with a movement that supports and encourages the use of terror to remove all Jewish presence from Israel. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears.

On my second day at the UCLA Hillel, I met a Jewish girl to whom I told my story. She didn’t take my side, however. To her, I was an extremist baby-killer because I had served in the IDF. I soon found out that she was a member of J Street, then the rulers of the UCLA Jewish community: either you believed their lies or you supported oppressing and murdering the Palestinians.

I did well at UCLA that year — especially for a brain-injured man — and I got onto the Dean’s List. I wasn’t harassed by Christians or Muslims (though some Muslim groups held anti-Israel events), but I was constantly looked down upon by Jewish students. 

The next year, things got worse. I was kicked out of a pro-Israel group for no reason at all once it was taken over by J Street followers. I also felt an increased anti-IDF sentiment. Being anti-IDF is also being antisemitic; without an army, Israel would be instantly destroyed by the Palestinian leaders who want “peace.”  

The spring of 2011 was the most horrid spring in my life (worse than the rocket). There was a hostage crisis on Glenrock Avenue. A month later, at a Chabad dinner, two agents who claimed to be from the Israeli Ministry of Defense had been waiting for me. I checked — they weren’t. They demanded secret information. I lied. As soon as the summer came, I went on a “vacation” to Israel and never returned.

To my American friends: wake up to what is happening on your college campuses. As an Israeli student and IDF veteran, I was unsafe on campus. I felt extremely isolated, disheartened and betrayed.

We desperately need a movement that works towards making Israeli and Jewish students feel safe on campus. I will not send my children to a university outside Israel unless I can feel comfortable that major changes will be made to ensure their safety.

Avi Dorfman is an IDF Disabled Veteran who was critically wounded on September 11, 2007, by a Hamas artillery rocket that caused brain damage. See his story here. After his sophomore year, he had to run away, fearing for his life.

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  • Sharon

    My son was injured alongside Avi, although far less severely. We were amazed by Avi’s brave journey through recovery, and by his family’s strength during the dark first months. I was deeply impressed by his ambition to go to UCLA after recovery. I have lived in Israel for 34 years, but am a native of Los Angeles, born and bred, and a UC alumnus. So this story hurts on many levels. Thank you, Avi, for reporting it, and thank you Alexandra, for documenting it.

  • samklee

    much of thé blame falls on israël and thé FMA who seem to be corruption. while le palos are flooding thé world with propagande ans activities israël seems not to exist. thé mfa ans embassies do not even answer activiste like me. you van but thé titre of “israël consul” – this is thé sac truth

  • Lawrence Weinman

    I am a personal friend of Rabbi Seidler Feller the Hillel director at the time and the current director Rabbi Aaron Lerner. I also had extensive interaction with the Israel fellow/shaliach at the time and subsequently. I have no way to debunk the experiences described by the author but they most ceratinly do not represent the current environment at hillel or those at the time. I do find it currious that the events described apparently occurred 7 years ago yet the author chooses to write about them now and not in a publication such as the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, did not at the time (or any time in the last 7 years) raise them with Stand with US which is headquartered in Los Angeles and who sees their primary mission fighting events like those above. Nor it seems did he ever raise the issue with the Hillel director at the time, thr board of Hillel or anyone else in the LA Jewish or UCLA community…a strange story..somethng is amiss here. I lived in LA in 2011…there was no “hostage crisis on glenrock avenue” in Westwood if there were it would have been widely reported in the press at the time…maybe the author could provide a precise date so he can be fact checked.

    • Avi Dorfman

      At the time I was still thinking that Bruins For Israel (the pro-Israel group that one day decided to angrily kick me via a phone call for no reason) was with StandWithUs. I did not bring it up with anyone because I was afraid for my own safety – when you get ENEMY AGENTS sent against you at a foreign country, do the best to retreat back to your country and THEN start doing actions against them.

      I *DID* start performing actions in Israel’s sources (I called a IDF officer who must remain anonymous at summer 2011), but I did not bother to write about it in the newspapers anywhere. But, it does VERY WELL represent Hillel of 2010-2011, and it does VERY WELL represent J Street’s control at the time, and it does VERY WELL represent reality.

      Additionally, there was a hostage crisis when multiple assault-rifle-equipped invaders entered a student’s apartment right next to UCLA (I don’t remember what street it was on, but it was right next to Chabad, and from what I can remember it was Glenrock). They were killed by the police with no students hurt.

      Deny it all you want – I am speaking the honest truth, and I am not making this up, and I swear to God all of this happened.

  • Sam Harris

    Pull their spoiled asses out of college.

  • Dad of 3 college kids

    I wouldn’t rush to generalize all of the other campus Hillels as a result of the author’s experience at UCLA-Hillel . While I too am disturbed by his story, I have 2 kids presently active in the Hillel at their school in Central NY, and a 3rd at a NYC area university. Each of them are very pro-Israel and one is a delegate to AIPAC. Their chapters are warm, welcoming, decidedly pro-Israel -not in a faux J Street way- and work to combat SJP.
    I applaud their great work and great leaders and fully support their mission. It’s a shame that the UCLA branch, and possibly a few others in California are tarnishing the image and good name of Hillel, but as far as I know, they are the exception.

  • Vladislav Muravin

    Hi Avi: I am an IDF veteran too, served in the IAF 1994-1997. What is happening to you is a disgrace. This is the problem of the “progressive” Jews as well as progressive left in general. Wish Jews like these, who needs enemies? In 20 years our last and only resort will be JDL.
    Shabbat Shalom
    Vladi

  • Dave

    Thanks for sharing your story. We support you and sorry you went through that.

    Maybe it is time a movement to strengthen those you are standing up to lies needs to be established strongly on campus. BUT how about standing up to those Jewish students who need to be shown the lies they are falling for and show them what standing up for lies does.

    In fact knowing who these students are is very important.

  • HaDaR

    I am a UCLA Graduate, and all I can say is that UCLA Hillel has been ANTI-Israel FOR DECADES!
    Already in 1987 they had ADDED TO THEIR HAGGADAH at the Seder of Pesach an eleventh drop of wine to be spilled “for our palestinian brothers oppressed by Israel”.

  • HaDaR

    I am a UCLA Alumnus and all I can say is that UCLA Hillel has been ANTI-Israel FOR DECADES!
    It was lead FOR YEARS by Chaim Seidler Feller, founder of Americans for Peace Now, the same moser who punched a pro-Israel activist woman.
    Already in 1987 they had ADDED TO THEIR HAGGADAH at the Seder of Pesach an eleventh drop of wine to be spilled “for our palestinian brothers oppressed by Israel”.

  • Laura Burkhart

    Dear Aviv Dorfman, I have no doubt at all, what you have spoken is 100% true! The America I was born in, dies not exist now. We used Ti gave strong people, strong military, strong leaders. Now, Universities and Colleges push anti-God/anti-Israel propaganda…and our country currently is filled with pro-Muslim info… Mr. Netanyahu was in Congress speaking one year ago… who honored us with his and his wife’s presence. I have been warning Israel since 2009 of Obama, and no one believed me.. all thought he was great…until Obama called Netanyahu in the summer if your war with Gaza, instructing him to quit, and lose the war.
    Never lose any war with Hamas, Hezbollah, or anyone who starts a conflict with Israel! You are safe in Israel and blessed. You know who your friends are…those who bless you, and side with you. Gid bless the IDF! Be brave, have courage… continue possessing your land! Never feel guilty for defending it!!

  • a yid

    See Avi Dorfman’s full story on video in English here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj90rlfgQv0

  • Batmen

    Avi, I am sorry for your injury and thank you for bravely serving in the IDF. I am also sorry for the disappointment you experienced at UCLA, which I wonder if that is the source of the anger reflected in this article.

    I also wonder if your brain injury, combined with the all the time that has past, has caused you to mis-remember what happened. For example, I don’t think there were any J Street members at UCLA in 2009. According to their Facebook page, they were founded in 2010. The J Street national organization was founded barely a year before in 2008, so it is unlikely that they could have influenced so many students by 2009, let alone become “rulers of the UCLA Jewish community”.

    Furthermore, while it is possible you overheard students speaking Arabic leaving the Hillel, it was unlikely to be members of SJP meeting with the Hillel student board. That is because, as you are no doubt aware, SJP has a policy of anti-normalization. So SJP leaders would never have met with Hillel leaders, especially not at Hillel. Perhaps Muslims students had met with Jewish students, but more than likely it was in the spirit of dialogue and relationship building.

    Lastly, regarding your anecdote about Chabad: while I do not doubt you believe it happened, I again question whether your “mind’s eye” is deceiving you. Even though I never had a brain injury, I once believed that, as a child, I had tripped a purse snatcher running down the street. Then one day I asked my parents if that happened and they said “No, you tripped your older brother.”

    You sound like an intelligent young man who had a traumatic injury while defending the Jewish people. I hope you get the help you need to continue that fight, rather than attack your brothers and sisters.

    • Batmen

      In fact, I just read your harrowing story (http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/01/28/meet-a-true-israeli-hero-avi-dorfman-survived-hamas-attack-and-near-permanent-brain-damage-video/) and it says that the attack “badly damaged”. While this is solely the fault of the Hamas terrorists who hurt you, your injury likely caused you to mis-remember what happened at UCLA.

      • Avi Dorfman

        Your entire comment is wrong – you misread the whole article. Read it again, calmly. My first year was 2009-2010 (starting at the end of 2009). My second year – when this has happened – was 2010-2011 (starting at the end of 2011). Additionally, my memory is perfectly fine – this injury was in 2007 and was supposed to affect *past* memory (it is not a mental illness), I did additional army service, I remember everything very well, and I remember very well how the people at UCLA behaved, which was a perfectly good behavior *unless* politics or the IDF were brought up (at which point I was one of the only defenders of Israel because most people were quiet or against it).

        Unless, of course, you claim that my memory ONLY malfunctions for UCLA. Out of everything else that happened in my life, ONLY the UCLA part has been messed up. I’m sorry – this is impossible.

    • Alexandra

      I am currently writing his memoir, and trust me, he has no memory issues. He even remembers the events surrounding the moment of impact and his depictions of everything from high school to the army to UCLA corroborate with other accounts I’ve received from around the same time. I’m a graduate student at Columbia and know many fellow grad students who did their undergrad at UCLA (I was in Avi’s year) and not a single one denied that an official “peace agreement” or “memorandum of understanding” was made between UCLA Hillel and SJP. In fact many made reference to it when talking about their experiences.

      Anti-normalization means not engaging with Zionists. I and many of my classmates who went to UCLA would not consider the Hillel at the time “Zionist” (although in recent years it has made improvements, especially with the creation of a strong and active SSI). Therefore the normalization doesn’t apply here.

      Avi has made it clear in the long-form version of this article I proofread for him, that in 2009 J Street wasn’t a tour de force (although the vast majority of Jewish students had the same mentality as J Street), but in 2010 it had taken over the campus as one of J Street U’s first university campuses. It was a perfect fit for the student body and the UCLA Hillel executive, whom, as we can see above, were known to espouse extremely left-wing “anti war” views. Perhaps this message was eroded or inadvertently omitted in the shortening of this article to fit the strict 800-word limit for this publication.

      I find it extremely patronizing (not to mention downright ableist) that you would discount his firsthand experience and dismiss it as his “brain damage”, if he had any suspicion that it was his brain damage, he wouldn’t have published it here and neither would the Algemeiner, for which I am a contributor. The Algemeiner maintains high standards of journalistic integrity.

    • Aviva

      Really? You’re attempting to gaslight him? Have you no shame at all?

    • Reader

      And I have to wonder about your reading comprehension skills. For example, Avi does not talk about JStreet members at UCLA in 2009. He says he began his studies there in 2009 and where he talks about JStreet, he is already talking about his second year at UCLA — 2010 or 2011. Instead of using his brain injury to punch holes in his story, maybe you need to reconsider your own view of reality.

    • Val Golan

      Batmen- could it be that you have bats in your attic? Your insunuations are distasteful at best and would make you sound like a patronizing pompous judgmental bastard at worst. Additionally, you are the one who attacks his brothers as you freely admitted yourself.

  • dante

    “student from ucla” blithely dismisses the experiences reported by Avi Dorfman with broad denials and denunciations. but the “student from ucla” cannot dispute the events experienced by Avi and “student” doesn’t offer any factual rebuttal.

    for example: it’s a simple matter to determine if Hillel cooperates with the hateful anti-Israel fanatics of jvp. either Hillel cooperates with jvp and provides it a forum or it does not.

    Dorfman’s article is a stunning rebuke to Hillel. why would anyone who supports Israel support Hillel?

  • Student from UCLA

    This is a gross mischaracterization of Hillel at UCLA, and the relationship you discuss with SJP is blatantly false. It seems your experience at UCLA got the best of you, but there is no justification for blaming Hillel–and all of the amazing work it does–for your bad experience. Hillel is one of very few places at UCLA that ensures a safe place for Jewish students on campus. Your post is riddled with lies and unnecessarily divides Jewish students and muddies the progress we have made so far.

    • Rach

      I am a student on another campus. We tried to start another pro-Israel group on our campus that was more like Im Tirtzu than J Street, and Hillel’s Israel club demonized us as radical when we were decisively not. They made it shameful to be associated with us, all because we didn’t openly advocate for a two state solution or something like that. We ended up folding. Apparently Hillel does this for any opposing clubs related to Judaism and Israel that refuse to be under the Hillel umbrella.

      A friend of mine told me that the same thing happened at her east coast ivy league school. It’s not uncommon. Hillel is not afraid to play dirty against those who disagree. There are tons of other students who could back me on this.

      • Rach

        Forgot to mention that the pro Israel group we started was part of a consortium (or “movement”) and noticed Hillel tried to take down most of our chapters before we prevailed. It is a recurrent theme.

    • Avi Dorfman

      You maintain your anonymity while you claim all of this. For all I know, you could be the very agent that was sent at me. I also had myself checked carefully both at UCLA and inside Israel by psychologists and this is no lie.

      • HaDaR

        “Student from UCLA” is probably some Seidler-Feller type: extreme leftist pro-pal militant, who can stoop as low as adding INSULT to injury, by telling you that you are mentally damaged by your injuries.
        MOSERIM AND MUMARIM DO NOT STOP AT NOTHING!
        Remember Gens, Kastner, Ronkowsky, and S.S. Wise, שר״י

    • Jay Mac

      Dearest student, a young man is telling you his personal experience and you immediately discount it? If you were to be in a position of harm, say rape, would you be offended if someone told you “Well, you dressed provocatively so you deserved it.”

      If you’re not willing to listen to someone’s experience without judging, the world will continue to devolve as it has like the UCLA campus attitudes have towards Israel. You…are the problem.

    • Sasha Rachmilovna M.

      This is a typical Hillel damage control response.

      Every time my friends and I would disaparage Hillel we would get this same template response. It always included:

      1) …”all the amazing work they do” (the guilt trip)
      2) “gross mischaracterization” (funny I see the exact same phrase in every Hillel employee response, it’s almost as if you have a handbook or something)
      3) “only safe space for Jewish students (more guilt trip)
      4) “you’re being divisive instead of uniting the jewish community” (ie. “Hillel wants to be the only space for Jews, we want to keep our monopoly, you better not ruin that for us by jeopardizing our steady stream of donations”)

      It’s the standard response by Hillel employees.
      So I know this is a Hillel employee doing classic damage control as I’ve seen this so many times.

      Hillel needs to stop sabotaging everybody that doesn’t fit their narrow philosophy. They need to stop silencing the more “loud” pro-Israel activists as if we are an embarrassment and stop with the sha shtil attitude. I acknowledge BDS is big on US and Canadian campuses but also that not all Hillel’s are probably the same but all the bigger ones I’ve seen are.

      There is a reason people are starting to pick on Hillel. Because it does nothing to help Israel and collects donations by pretending it does. People are waking up.

      We need an alternative to Hillel.

    • Student from UCLA

      Stop advocating for the failed leadership of Hillel at UCLA , they knowingly work with terror-tied organizations such as SJP , they openly embrace J-street ‘Jews’ and worst of all they disrespected a veteran who has done more to help the Jewish people than all of hillel combined. Quit hiding behind your anonymous name and expose that you are not a student at UCLA at all- you are a paid anti-israel troll who spreads lies on the internet.

    • Student from UCLA: Do you stand by your statement
      ” Hillel is one of very few places at UCLA that ensures a safe place for Jewish students on campus.”?
      Avi Dorfman is not the only student that has noticed that NOT all Jewish students find current Hillel and its policy safe.
      Perhaps you would like to re-phrase it? Something along the lines of “Jewish students who support the BDS movement and have anti-Israel views find Hillel at UCLA a safe place to voice their opinions.”

    • John Train

      Unfortunately, I get many similar reports from good sources concerning Los Angeles and UCLA, including aspects of Hillel.

      Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is widely known for his temper and intolerance. His background as an original organizer of Americans for peace now should certainly indicate that he is decidedly to the left and out of the mainstream of concern for Israel survival.

      Prof. David Myers is a board member of the new Israeli fund. They fund every NGO that is dedicated to bashing Israel.

      Influential at UCLA is Rabbi John Rosove, cochair of the rabbinical Council of J Street.

      Also influential at UCLA is Robert Eshman, publisher of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles who was an organizer for peace now and is never veered even slightly from his left-wing orientation.

      My list of individuals is long. My documentation of them is extensive.

      The experience at Hillel has reported is not unusual. To call the author a liar is despicable. Answer to the facts do not demean the writer.

    • Eve

      You have no right to judge or attempt to invalidate another man’s true experience. How dare you.

    • A Jew with a View

      As you can imagine, this is a concerning article. Therefore, I am glad that Hillel at UCLA is still a safe place for Jewish students on campus as I used to be involved there while I was at school. Therefore, I would appreciate if you would elaborate on1) the claims that Avi lied about 2) the relationship between Hillel and SJP 3)is Hillel still a pro-Israel organization i.e. individuals may disagree with certain policies of the Israeli government but as an organization, recognizes that Jews do constitute a People who have the right to self-determination in Israel? Do they celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalim? 4) when was the last time Hillel had a member from the IDF speak at one of its events – it would seem that Avi would have made an interesting speaker 5) please elaborate of the “progress” that Hillel has made so far. “Progress” towards what? Thank you.

    • Robert

      define your “progress”

    • dennis Teifeld

      I wonder why you don’t identify yourself? we in the NOCAL have heard and seen many incidents of this behavior at UCLA. do you have proof that these comments are false?

    • dean weiss

      You accuse Avi of outright lying about Hillel, yet don’t even have the courage and honesty to use your real name, hiding behind “student from UCLA.”
      I’m not convinced in the slightest you actually attended UCLA, let alone have any concerns about the campus being a “safe place for Jewish students.”
      Maybe you missed the part where the student board stirred up controversy, almost kicking a female off the board because she’s Jewish and has pro-Israel sentiments. The rationale was that she couldn’t be a fair representative of student concerns because of her bias.
      At least Mr. Avi Dorfman is a real person, not hiding behind a pseudonym. For all we know, you’re on SJP, or even an Arabic/muslim troll.

  • Alexandra

    Avi, you continue to make me proud. Keep up the good work. We can’t stop until students everywhere feel safe on campus.

    • Angel

      And we should believe you, anonymous “Student from UCLA”, just because you say so? Who are you and what qualifications do you have to claim that Avi is lying? Hillel has a disastrous record on many campuses for refusing to fight against the pro-Palestinian students and faculty that have turned these campuses into physically unsafe places for Jewish students. I’ve seen how they operate, and it’s nothing to be proud of. You’ll have to come up with much more solid evidence to claim otherwise.

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